Carleton’s Prize is a small rock island in Lake Champlain’s Vermont waters. Carleton’s Prize was conserved in 1978, and it was the first property that was donated to the Lake Champlain Land Trust.
It is a plateau that rises 30 feet from the water in Crescent Bay off the southwest tip of South Hero. Located between Stave Island and Providence Island, it has been called Carleton’s Prize since the American Revolutionary War when it was named after Sir Guy Carleton actions following the Battle of Valcour Island on October 11, 1776,
Legend has it that it was very foggy on Lake Champlain as Benedict Arnold escaped from behind Valcour Island with the remnants of his small fleet. The British didn’t think that the Americans could have slipped by in the dark and so they searched to the north and east of Valcour Island. In the heavy fog they spotted what appeared to be a ship and opened fire, unleashing a fierce bombardment on what was believed to be a ship. No doubt the smoke from the black powder added to the poor visibility.
After an hour or so and no returning fire, either a breeze came up or the fog burned off, and the British realized they had not been firing on a ship after all. This misdirection let Arnold escape up the lake to Addison, Vermont, where he scuttled and burned the remnants of his battered fleet to prevent capture.
Some say that the locals had erected logs on the island to resemble a ship’s masts, but this is unlikely. Rust marks are visible on the rock to this day. Whether the rust streaks on the sheer cliffs of the islet are from oxidizing iron ore within the rock outcroppings or the cannonballs showered down by the British gunners is part of the mystery of Carleton’s Prize.
Vermont’s earliest inhabitants, the Abenaki, knew Carleton’s Prize as odzihózoiskwá, or “Odzihozo’s wife”. Odzihozo, “the transformer”, was the supernatural being who created Lake Champlain, the mountains and all the lands that made up their homeland.
According to the legend, Odzihozo was an impatient deity, and before he was even completely formed with a head, legs and arms, he set out to change the earth. His last creation was Lake Champlain, which he considered his masterpiece. He was so pleased with his work that he climbed onto a rock in Burlington Bay and turned himself to stone so he could watch and be near the lake for the rest of eternity. The rock in Burlington Bay, and is known to boaters as Rock Dunder – several miles away from his wife.
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