Officials Warn About Safe Boating

Officials Warn About Safe Boating

Officials Warn About Safe Boating

Lake Champlain Water Temperatures are Deceptively Cold

Two recent deaths in cold waters have prompted safe boating warnings from officials. As temperatures increase this week, officials are concerned about increased recreational use on Lake Champlain, and are cautioning the public to take precautions.

When a canoe overturned on Malletts Bay last week, only two of the three boaters were able to swim to shore. The third man died. None of the three were wearing personal flotation devices (PFD’s).

“People get lulled into a false sense of security when it may be 70 or 75 degrees out, the water temperature is still 44 degrees currently right now,” said Corporal Michael Akerlind, Colchester Police Department. “And it takes a matter of minutes to be exposed to that water before you start losing your fine motor control and gross motor control, your ability to swim, your ablity to stay on the surface goes away just in a matter of minute.” 

Cold water is usually regarded as any water with a temperature below 77-75 degrees, so Lake Champlain is considered cold water year-round,



Deceptively Cold Water in Lake Champlain

Although the National Weather Service in Burlington monitors the water level and temperature in Lake Champlain and they make that information available to the public on their website,  those numbers can be deceiving.

“Even though we say the water temperature today was 47, there is a lot of upwelling going on where cold water refreshes into the warmer climates and that upwelling temperatures of the lake is only in the mid 30s so there may be one location that is 47 degrees and you just move 5 feet away and the water temperature is 39, so really it is just extremely dangerous this time of year.” said Scott Whittier, National Weather Service.

According to the National Weather Service, the lake temperature won’t hit the 50’s until the beginning of June. Temperatures will hit the 60’s by the end of June, but won’t get into the 70’s until late July or early August. Again officials say make sure you have a PFD with you, preferably on you.

The water temperature of Lake Champlain is still in the low to mid 40’s, which can send someone into hypothermia very quickly. According to the Coast Guard, the water was just 46 degrees when the man died Saturday morning.


Cold Water Safe Boating Safety Precautions

The U.S. Coast Guard has seen a rise in incidents out on the water, especially with paddle crafts and is urging boating safety.

“Being overturned is probably the most common one you see,” said Petty Officer Chris Bowman. “Things can get rough out there pretty quickly and if you’re not aware of what the weather is, what the forecast is, as things turn they can obviously become very precarious for you as well,” 

According to  Bowman there are precautions you can take to prevent tragedy, including checking conditions before you head out.

Officials Warn About Safe Boating with PFD“No matter what the situation is, whether it’s bright and sunny out, no winds, whatever it is, wear a life jacket, That extra bit of flotation, even if you go unconscious and into hypothermia, it will help you float. It will keep you alive and maybe long enough for someone to come out and save you,” Petty Officer Chris Bowman said. “The second-best thing you can do is know the conditions around you. Know the water temperature.”

Bowman added that you should always have a float plan in place, letting someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back.


If the above isn’t reason enough to wear your PFD, you should also be aware that it’s the law.

Wear Your PFD – It’s The Law

Vermont boating laws require that all vessels carry one U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, III or V PFD for each person on board. Vessels 16 feet in length or longer must also have one U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type IV PFD on board. Also, children under 12 years of age must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type I, II or III PFD at all times while any vessel is underway.


The Narrows Wildlife Management Area

The Narrows Wildlife Management Area



The Narrows Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is a 429-acre tract of land owned by the State of Vermont and managed by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. It is located in the “Dresden Narrows” section of Lake Champlain, west of Cold Spring Road in the town of West Haven.

The Narrows WMA is next to about 350 acres of conserved farmland and in the vicinity of two large natural areas owned by The Nature Conservancy.


The Narrows Wildlife Management Area calcereous cliff

Calcereous cliff community

The Narrows WMA has 81 acres of wetlands that are part of a series of large wetlands in this region of Lake Champlain. They are known collectively as The Narrows Marshes. The Narrows WMA has many interesting features including 5,456 feet of Lake Champlain shoreline, hosts several rare plant species, and offers examples of natural communities such as a calcareous cliff community. Calcereous cliffs are typically composed of limestone or dolomite and have a higher ph.


Keep in mind that plants should not be picked or dug up regardless of their abundance.


Twenty acres of the WMA are on an island, which is accessible most of the year by a narrow land bridge; however, during times of high water it is a true island. The island is composed mainly of upland hardwood forest with a small clearing. It also hosts an abandoned  two-story house in the clearing that is estimated to be about 150 years old.

The Narrows Wildlife Management Area shagbark hickory

Shagbark hickory

The WMA has 348 acres of upland hardwood forest, including 15 acres of old fields and several old orchards providing excellent habitat for birds and mammals.

The hardwood forests are mostly red and sugar maple, yellow birch, beech, red, chestnut and chinkapin oaks, shagbark hickory, hophornbeam, apple and scattered white pine. The ledges and cliffs have softwoods such as white and red cedar, hemlocks, and red and white

Two of Vermont’s largest trees are found on this WMA. One is a shagbark hickory that is 88 feet tall and has a diameter of 48 inches. The other, a chinkapin oak, is a New England Champion Tree. It is 60 feet tall and is 40 inches around.


Fish and Wildlife

The Narrows Wildlife Management Area - fisher


The Narrows WMA is a rich habitat supporting a variety of animals: beavers and muskrats in the wetlands, white-tailed deer taking advantage of the abundant food in the old orchards, gray squirrels gathering nuts in the forest. Predators such as coyotes, red foxes, bobcats and fishers can be found throughout the WMA. At dusk and dawn in the summer, brown bats are found devouring insects.

The Narrows Wildlife Management Area - Hooded merganser

Hooded Merganser

The wetlands are home to several species of birds including wood ducks, mallards, black ducks, hooded mergansers, red-winged blackbirds and common snipes. Osprey platforms have been placed off shore to give offer nesting sites. Ruffed grouse and woodcock prefer habitat like the old fields that are slowing transitioning into forestland. Turkey will also use the old fields and orchards for their food.

The Narrows Wildlife Management Area - Five lined skink

Five-lined skink

The Narrows WMA also hosts a variety of reptiles and amphibians. Most notable is the five-lined skink. This is an endangered species in Vermont, and is the only species of lizard found in Vermont. The WMA has several species of snakes including eastern rat and common garter snakes.



The wetlands and moist woodlands support a host of amphibians species such as spotted and red-backed salamanders, eastern newt, leopard, green, pickerel, bull and gray tree frogs, spring peeper and American toad. Painted and map turtles may also be found.


The Narrows Wildlife Management Area -Freshwater drum or Sheepshead

Freshwater drum or Sheepshead

Adjacent Lake Champlain offers large and small-mouth bass, walleye, brown bullhead, catfish, northern pike, chain pickerel, white and yellow perch, black and white crappie, pumpkinseed, bluegill and unusual species , such as sheepshead, gar and bowfin,


The Narrows Wildlife Management Area is open to regulated hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing.


The Narrows Wildlife Management Area map

The Narrows WMA Map
Click Image to Enlarge

George Spiegel conveyed the 716-acre Spiegel Sanctuary in West Haven to the Vermont Land Trust in 1995 in memory of his parents, Charles and Lena Spiegel. In 1997 the Vermont Land Trust conveyed 429 acres of the 716-acre property to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to become The Narrows WMA.

There is a  bronze plaque inlaid in a large boulder in the parking lot pays tribute to Charles and Lena Spiegel, stating that “they found freedom and happiness in New England”.


Access The Narrows Wildlife Management Area by boat on Lake Champlain. A parking area is located near the sharp turn on Cold Spring Road



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Cole Island – Lake Champlain Islands

Cole Island – Lake Champlain Islands

Cole Island - Lake Champlain Islands


Cole Island is part of the Lake Champlain Islands Management Complex (LCIMC). At less than 1 acre in size, it is one of Lake Champlain’s smallest islands. Cole Island is located in the Town of Westport, NY – about 5 miles south of the Westport Boat Launch. Cole Island is used for picnicking and other day use activities, but is too small to sustain overnight use.


Cole Island west view

View from Cole Island looking west toward Vermont’s Green Mountains



Legend has it that Father Isaac Jogues was brought to this island by his Mohawk captors and tortured. Isaac Jogues was a French Jesuit priest who was captured by the Iroquois in 1642 while travelling from from Trois-Rivières to Quebec City. Jogues was tortured and held captive for almost ten months before being released.

He returned to the Mohawks four years later to continue his mission, but was put to death near Auriesville, NY in 1646.

Cole Island - Lake Champlain Islands

Cole Island

Other notes:

Because it’s tucked into a well-sheltered harbor, the island offers protection from the strong south winds, making it a popular anchorage for recreational boaters.  The island does receive a considerable amount of day use from the nearby Camp Dudley summer camp.

Other Articles About Lake Champlain Islands:   List of Lake Champlain's Islands

Fort Ticonderoga Captured by Ethan Allen & Benedict Arnold

Fort Ticonderoga Captured by Ethan Allen & Benedict Arnold: May 10, 1775


Fort Ticonderoga Captured by Ethan Allen & Benedict Arnold

Because of its location on Lake Champlain, Fort Ticonderoga was the key to access of both Canada and the Hudson River Valley. During the French and Indian War, thousands of soldiers had died fighting to gain or maintain control of the water highway between Canada and New York. Fort Ticonderoga, the Gibraltar of North America, was the key to Lake Champlain and, in turn, Lake George and the Hudson River.

It was May of 1775; just three weeks after Lexington and Concord. The American Revolution was just beginning. Both Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold realized that not only would Fort Ticonderoga be a relatively easy target for the patriots, but that it would prevent British control of the waterways and the access they provided.

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Independently, both Allen and Arnold set out to capture Ticonderoga. Arnold, of Connecticut, led small force of Massachusetts militiamen, while Allen, also originally from Connecticut, led the Green Mountain Boys of Vermont. After some heated negotiations (both leaders had big egos), the two agreed to a joint command.

On May 10, 1775  Arnold  and Allen led 168 Green Mountain Boys and New England militia in a dawn attack on the fort, surprising and capturing the sleeping British garrison. The rebels sneaked into the fort and demanded its surrender. Captain William DeLaPlace, the garrison commander, surrendered his sword and the fort; no-one was killed in the daring dawn raid.


Fort Ticonderoga Captured by Ethan Allen & Benedict Arnold

Fort Ticonderoga 

Although this was a small-scale conflict, the Battle of Fort Ticonderoga was the first American victory of the Revolution, and later supplied the Continental Army with needed artillery to force the British from Boston and to use in future battles.

Following the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, Colonel Henry Knox transported more than 60 tons of military supplies including 59 artillery pieces from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. Ticonderoga’s cannon were placed on Dorchester Heights which had a commanding view of Boston. The threat of the cannon forced the British to evacuate Boston on March 17, 1776 and the Continental Army entered Boston the next day.

The Importance of the Capture of Fort Ticonderoga

The significance of the battle was the captured cannons, munitions and other armaments from Fort Ticonderoga which were transported to Boston and used to fortify Dorchester Heights and break the standoff at the Siege of Boston. The location of the fort itself was also very important as it protected New York and New England from British invasion from Canada.

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The Champlain Valley is one of the most historically rich regions of the country. Fort Ticonderoga, Saratoga, Fort William Henry, Crown Point, Plattsburgh, Bennington and Valcour Island all lie along the ancient warpath that is the Champlain Corridor.
In this lively and informative new travel guide to historic places and events, the author leads you to each venue, describing the events and their long-lasting impact.  Adventure awaits you with Guns over the Champlain Valley.
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More About Lake Champlain History:

Bird-watching Opportunities at Vermont WMA’s

Bird-watching Opportunities at Vermont WMA’s

Bird-watching Opportunities at Vermont WMA’s

Spring is finally here and wildlife enthusiasts are dusting off their binoculars and heading out looking for birds as they migrate into the Lake Champlain Basin from the south. Some of the best bird-watching opportunities are on the area’s wildlife management areas, or WMAs. 

Wildlife management areas are owned by the States of Vermont or New York and managed for wildlife habitat and for wildlife-based recreation such as hunting, fishing and bird-watching. 

Paul Hamelin, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department biologist who coordinates habitat management and access on Vermont’s WMAs, believes that while there are opportunities for birding at every WMA, a few stick out to him as particularly good places to spot birds. 

“Dead Creek WMA in Addison is perhaps the crown jewel of birding in Vermont,” said Hamelin. “An incredible two hundred bird species can be found there, particularly ducks, shorebirds, and hawks. And each spring and fall, thousands of snow geese touch down at Dead Creek on their annual migration.” 


Dead Creek has trails and a lookout platform, but Hamelin suggests a canoe or kayak for best access. A new Dead Creek Visitor Center is scheduled to open this October. 

On the other side of the state, Hamelin recommends Wenlock WMA in Ferdinand, which has the endless bogs and boreal forests that the Northeast Kingdom is known for in a tidy, 2,000-acre package. He recommends people check out the new boardwalk and viewing platform at Moose Bog. 

“Wenlock is a great place for birders to check off four of Vermont’s premiere boreal bird species; the Canada jay, boreal chickadee, black-backed woodpecker, and state-endangered spruce grouse,” said Hamelin. “You might also get lucky and see another state endangered bird, the rusty blackbird, which is sadly becoming increasingly rare in the northeastern U.S.” 

For a rare bird sighting in southern Vermont, Hamelin recommends Birdseye Wildlife Management Area in the towns of Ira, Castleton, and Poultney.Wildlife management areasThis WMA, formerly known as Bird Mountain, recently increased by nearly 3,000 acres. At the center of the WMA is Birdseye Mountain, a large hunk of rocky cliffs that are home to the world’s fastest bird, the peregrine falcon, which can dive to over 200 mph. 

“Peregrine falcons are the star of the show at the Birdseye, but there are also fantastic opportunities to see and hear warblers, thrushes, and sparrows,” said Hamelin. “After the peregrine nesting season is complete in mid-August, there is a well-worn goat path that takes brave souls up the rocky slopes of the cliff face for fantastic views of the newly conserved ridgelines.” 

Vermont’s wildlife management areas are found in every corner of the state and there are birding opportunities at every one of them this time of year. Birding is inexpensive and is an easy activity to get started in. Hamelin recommends people check out their nearest wildlife management area this spring.

Access to Vermont’s wildlife management areas is free, but birders can help the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department in its effort to conserve habitat for birds and other species by purchasing an annual Vermont Habitat Stamp, available for $15 on the department’s website at There is also more information on birding opportunities on wildlife management areas on the Fish & Wildlife Department’s website. 


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