Trail History and Future Growth

The Past

In the summer of 1988, LCC co-sponsored an end-to-end paddle of the lake with the Green Mountain Club. That nine-day adventure involving eighteen paddlers – including three septuagenarians – reinforced LCC’s interest in providing low-impact access to the lake in a way that reinforced our water quality protection goals. 

The vision for the Lake Champlain Paddlers’ Trail began to take shape in the early 1990s. Kevin Rose, expert paddler and founder of the Champlain Kayak Club, formally conceived the idea of a water trail on Lake Champlain. The Lake Champlain Committee embraced the Trail concept as a way to provide a permanent corridor on the lake for low-impact recreational uses. Kevin’s generous spirit of collaboration and adventure fostered LCC’s involvement and laid the groundwork for the present-day Trail.

Photo by John Long.

Together, the two organizations secured funding for a feasibility study to create the Lake Champlain Paddlers’ Trail.  As part of this effort, LCC and CKC assessed existing public access sites, explored the lake’s shoreline and islands for Trail use, and held meetings around the lake to get citizen input and ideas. This work was aided by staff assistance from the National Park Service (NPS), and funding from the New York State Natural Heritage Trust and the Lake Champlain Basin Program.  Volunteers from the North American Water Trails Association and the Maine Island Trail Association also provided critical early support that enabled the seed of an idea to flourish and grow. 

After investigating several options for management, it was determined that LCC should serve as the Trail’s “home” organization. The Trail was officially opened in 1996 with the establishment of six sites on public land in the northern section of the lake. In 2000, longtime LCC members Carl Reidel and Jean Richardson stepped forward with our first private site. In 2004 the first site designated solely for paddlers was opened. Currently four private landowners share their shoreline with the Trail. 

Photo by Kevin Rose.

The Present and Future

Today, LCC works with public land managing agencies and private land owners to develop and maintain Trail sites, publishes an annual Trail guidebook for users available with an annual LCC membership of $45 or more, runs a stewardship program and advocates for clean water and public access. 

The Lake Champlain Paddlers’ Trail system now includes 41 locations on public and private lands providing access to over 600 campsites. Our long-term goal is to have Trail locations roughly a day’s paddle apart. We have nearly reached the capacity to expand the Trail on state-owned public lands. New sites will need to be located on municipal and private lands. Please contact us at lcc@ lakechamplaincommittee.org if you have land to share or would like to help expand and maintain the Trail.

The Trail’s future is inextricably linked to the careful stewardship of its users. To all the people and institutions who have helped to develop the Trail, and to all who use it wisely and with care, our sincere thanks.