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Are There Dolphins in Lake Champlain?

Twenty years ago, Lake Champlain’s reputation for mysterious wildlife grew to include dolphins. This home to critters shrouded in mist may hold the key to history. 

Since 1609, the “fifth Great Lake” has captivated explorers and locals alike. the fossil record supports local claims of dolphins in this critical waterway and border. 

Once part of an ancient sea, the body of water still connects to the Atlantic Ocean. But what exactly swims in these waters is a mystery we’ve decided to explore today.

Let’s dive in!

About Lake Champlain

Bordered by New York and Vermont, Lake Champlain also stretches north into Quebec, Canada. Fed by a tributary of the St. Lawrence River, the Richelieu River in Canada, the water ends up in the Atlantic Ocean. 

In ancient times, the area was part of the Champlain Sea. It covered some of what’s now New York, Vermont, and Quebec. Once it receded, melting glaciers refilled the spot around 9,000 years ago. 

French explorer Samuel de Champlain encountered the lake in 1609 and recognized its importance. Before that, several Indigenous groups lived along the borders. The Abenaki and Mohawk tribes used the water to separate them for centuries. When French settlers arrived, they surrounded the water with forts and dug in. 

Samuel de Champlain, in his journals, reported a mysterious creature swimming. Since then, folks have kept seeing a monster throughout the centuries. Drawings, photos, and videos all support the idea that something strange is living under the chilly surface. 

Pro Tip: Take a dip in one of these 10 Unpolluted Lakes in the USA (for now).

Kayaking on Lake Champlain
Enjoy kayaking on Lake Champlain to search for wildlife.

Do Dolphins Live in Lake Champlain?

It’s not uncommon for dolphins to travel upriver from their ocean homes. These friendly creatures usually stay in salty seas and brackish rivers. And, when the Champlain Sea filled the area, the fossil record shows marine mammals living in the region. That said, there’s no evidence that they live in this freshwater lake today. 

A study in 2003 put this to the test. Researchers looking for evidence of the strange creature frequently noted by locals discovered something different. Their recordings revealed echolocation in the waters. Used by dolphins and whales to communicate, scholars were shocked to find it in Lake Champlain. 

Is a Dolphin the Lake Champlain Monster?

Several times throughout history, Champ, the Lake Champlain Monster, poked his head above the still waters. Like his Loch Ness cousin, Champ’s origins and species are up for debate. Since the Champlain Sea brought oceanic creatures to the area, we can’t rule them out.

A tourist in 1970 thought he’d discovered something unique with a photo of Champ. However, he’s far from the first to see the sea monster. In 1883, a sheriff reported seeing a 20-foot-long creature swimming. His report convinced locals and P.T. Barnum that something was lurking underwater. 

From 1609 to the early 2000s, folks looking for proof have come up empty-handed. Instead, theories of a pod of breeding plesiosaurs, dolphins, sea serpents, and monster eels prevailed. Reality is less exciting; sadly, dolphins don’t live in Lake Champlain. 

Lighthouse on Lake Champlain
While you might not find dolphins in Lake Champlain, you are sure to find several types of fish species swimming about.

No Dolphins, So What Does Live in Lake Champlain?

Even with the evidence of echolocation, it’s pretty clear that dolphins don’t live in Lake Champlain. If they did, they’d have plenty of fish to keep them well-fed. Over 70 species of fish live in the water, around 20 of which are actively fished. Unique to the area, landlocked Atlantic salmon are a prized catch. 

Beyond that are bass, trout, pike, and catfish, among others. Several species were reduced by a massive spike in lamprey in the area. Land managers reduced that population with pesticides. Other wildlife includes cormorants which are non-native. Their population grew so much that they consumed large amounts of native fish. 

Where Can I Look for Champ in Lake Champlain?

If you’re convinced that Champ exists, there are several ways to go on your own expedition. Perhaps the most exciting and scenic is a cruise on the Spirit of Ethan Allen. Responsible for the most significant mass sighting of Champ in 1984, this triple-decker cruise ship is on our list. 

The ship runs seven days a week with brunch, lunch, dinner, and scenic cruises available. Voyagers see the beauty of the Vermont mountains from any of the three decks. An executive chef on board ensures high-quality cuisine while you hunt for sea monsters. The best time to catch a glimpse is on the two-hour dusk cruises beginning in September. 

Prices vary from $22 for a scenic cruise to $50 for a dinner cruise in peak season. 

Another fantastic way to hunt for Champ is by renting a boat from a local marina. Lake Champlain accommodates all sizes of vessels, so feel free to bring your own. Bring a fishing pole and catch a few fish on the way! Most sightings occur near the shoreline, so rent a kayak or canoe and make your own memories.

Pro Tip: Avoid swimming in the Deadliest Lake in America.

Uncover the Mysteries on Your Next Trip

For hundreds of years, folks searched for the mythical creature lurking in these waters. Even though there are no dolphins in Lake Champlain, there’s still a mystery to solve.

And it’s definitely worth a visit. This picturesque region provides options for every vacation, from skiing to fishing. Make this freshwater spot a destination on your New England tour this year. And tell Champ we said bonjour while you’re there!

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