Family Fun: Adirondack Historic Champlain Memorial LIghthouse
There is something special about having alone time with my daughter. It gets even better now that she branches out beyond the princess-themed play to climb, fish, or catch something. This time we explore searchingfor new lands. We may not discover uncharted territory in our Adirondack Coast tour but we will tread on the lands discovered over 400 years ago by Samuel de Champlain.
The Champlain Memorial Lighthouse sits on the edge of what is now the Crown Point Public Campground. It overlooks Vermont and sits surrounded by land that witnessed battles and forts. Originally constructed in 1858, the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse is a statement to the States of New York, Vermont and the Province of Quebec who worked together to reconstruct this monument as a testament to explorer Samuel de Champlain.
I wish to see the bronze bust "LaFrance" by Auguste Rodin (best know for sculptures "The Thinker" and "The Kiss") that is part of the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse and my daughter is an explorer in search of treasure. She is really searching for ice cream but she is pretty much game for anything.
In 2009, the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial celebrated the 400th anniversary of Champlain's 1609 sighting of the surrounding waters that host his name. According to the New York Department of Conservation (DEC,) Champlain is the first European to have recorded his exploration of Lake Champlain and the surrounding region.
The campground is easily found as we follow cars on the way to take the ferry to Vermont. (The current ferry site is also the site of the old Lake Champlain Bridge, also know as the Crown Point Bridge which was demolished in 2009. The new bridge being constructed is scheduled to be dedicated October 15-16, 2011) There is a day use fee to enter the campground but it is not applicable after Labor Day. Another option is to park outside the grounds at the Lake Champlain Visitor's Center near the ferry entrance and just walk.
The ranger at the gate points us to the lighthouse. We bypass the structure to walk around toward the water and down the steps to the Crown Point pier. A family is fishing. I have my daughter's pole but she is moreinterested in seeing what the other kids get than catching her own.
I nudge her attention back to the lighthouse that looms behind us. The Rodin is a small bas-relief profile of a woman believed to be Camille Claudel (sculptress in her own right). It is dwarfed by the Carl Heber sculpture of Samuel de Champlain with a crouching Huron guide and a French Voyageur on either side. During the "Fur Trade" era the Voyageurs were hired to paddle canoes and carry bundles of pelts weighing as much as 90 lbs. This may be why these three men are situated just above a stone sculpture of the bow of a canoe filled with furs.
We decide to count the stairs as we climb to the top of the lighthouse. We each get a different number on the ascent and descent. My daughter wants a recount but we settle on a compromise of 62 steps. The day is clear and we can truly see Vermont from here.
My child is a born politician and tells me she needs noother treat than to be with me though chocolate ice cream wouldn't be so badeither. It is time to find her treasure.
From Westport take Route 22/9N through Port Henry. Continue toward Crown Point for about four miles. Turn east onto Bridge Road. The campground is just over four miles on the right. www.lakechamplainregion.com
all photos and content © Diane Chase, author of the guidebook Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes & High Peaks: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activiities (with GPS Coordinates), covering the towns of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene/Keene Valley, Jay/Upper Jay and Wilmington. This content is an excerpt from Diane 2nd guidebook of Adirondack Family Activities in this four-book series.