In the Adirondacks, Our Lake Monster is a Champ!

Lake-Champlain-MonsterNestled between the Adirondack Mountains of New York and the Green Mountains of Vermont is Lake Champlain, a large lake that runs 120 miles north to south and features nearly 600 miles of beautiful shoreline. Lake Champlain is a natural, freshwater lake named for the French explorer, Samuel de Champlain. Known for its serenity and gorgeous views, Lake Champlain is a favorite destination among vacationers to the Adirondacks because of its excellent bass fishing, sailing and paddling, as well as its historic lighthouses and even shipwrecks! But for some visitors to Lake Champlain, their main point of interest is something far beneath the serene, glassy surface – it’s the possibility of a lake monster that has purportedly existed in the lake since before the days of de Champlain.

The Lake Champlain Monster, commonly known as Champ, has been the stuff of legends since a member of the de Champlain expedition wrote about a monster he witnessed from the shores of Lake Champlain. In his account, he said that he saw a lake monster “five feet long, as thick as a man’s thigh, with silver-grey scales a dagger could not penetrate.” Well before this account, Native American tribes living in the region had legends about the monster, and the Abenaki tribe even had a name for it – “Tatoskok.” Then, throughout the 1800s, numerous reports were given on sightings of the water serpent, and by the late 1800s P.T. Barnum was prepared to offer $50,000 for the carcass of Champ – a fortune in those days.

But Champ, much like his European cousin Nessie, remained elusive. A photograph taken in 1977 shows something that resembles a creature sticking out of the water, but forensic analysis, while indicating that the photo has not been doctored, is inconclusive otherwise, and suggests that the image could easily be a log or tree trunk. Video taken in 2006 by two well-known and respected fishermen is also inconclusive, but has been examined by a retired FBI forensic image analyst who does not believe the video footage has been tampered with in any way.

If the Lake Champlain Monster does exist, it means that there cannot possibly be just one “Champ” residing below the deep in Lake Champlain. There would have to be enough to maintain a population. And what type of animal would Champ be? Some who believe strongly in Champ’s existence feel that the monster could be an evolved plesiosaur, an aquatic dinosaur, or a basilosaurus, which was a primitive whale-like creature. Some maintain that Champ is simply a large lake sturgeon, while others have noted that the swimming patterns of lake otters mimic the undulations some have described in their reports of the monster.

No matter what your take is on this legendary Adirondack monster, the stories are fun and it’s always exciting to hope for a glimpse of Champ when visiting the Lake Champlain region of the Adirondack park. If you happen upon Champ, though, leave him to his aquatic pleasure – a law passed by both the Vermont House of Representatives and the New York State Legislature protects Champ from “any willful act resulting in death, injury or harassment.” Whether it’s driftwood, otters, sturgeons or honest-to-goodness lake monster, Champ is an important part of Adirondack lore that seems unlikely to disappear anytime soon.

To learn more about Champ, visit the Wikipedia article at

If you’d like to read all about Champ and other Adirondack legends and myths, be sure to visit the book section at Charlie Johns. There, you’ll find a complete bookstore-within-the-store, including a section devoted to Adirondack myths, legends, cryptozoology and purported hauntings.

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