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Lake Champlain Islands Complex

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Lake Champlains Islands Complex locator map

The Lake Champlain Islands Complex encompasses approximately 1,162 acres of Adirondack Forest Preserve lands between six islands and three boat launches on the western shore of Lake Champlain. The islands are rich in history ranging from before European settlement through recent times, including the periods of exploration and settlement, the French-Indian War, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

The Lake Champlain islands can be accessed by boat from one of the many public and private marinas or boat launch sites on either the New York or Vermont side of the lake. The six islands are located in Lake Champlain starting just east of Plattsburgh in Clinton County and run south almost to Ticonderoga in Essex County. Valcour Island and Schuyler Island are classified as Primitive while the remaining islands are classified as Wild Forest.

Valcour Island, the largest of the six islands at 968 acres, is located southeast of the City of Plattsburgh in the Town of Peru. This island and the waters around it contain some of the richest history of all the islands. Bluff Point Lighthouse is located on the island's western shore and the Seton House is located on its southwestern shore. Valcour Bay was the site of the Battle of Valcour Island - an important Revolutionary War naval battle. The island has hiking trails, designated primitive tent sites, picnic areas and beaches.

Garden Island, less than 1 acre in size, is located just south of Valcour Island in the Town of Peru. The island juts sharply out of the water with 15 to 20 foot bare limestone cliffs and has no recreational facilities.

Schuyler Island, the second largest island at 161 acres, is located 12 miles south of Garden Island in the Town of Chesterfield, approximately 1 mile from the Port Douglas Boat Launch. The Colonial Naval Fleet spent the night on Schuyler Island after escaping the British blockade under the cover of darkness during the Battle of Valcour Island.

Cole Island, less than 1 acre in size, is located in the Town of Westport, 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. Tucked into a well-sheltered harbor, the island offers protection from the strong south winds, making it a popular anchorage for recreational boaters. Legend has it that Father Isaac Jogues was brought to this island by his Mohawk captors and tortured. The island does receive a considerable amount of day use from the nearby summer camp.

Sheepshead Island, less than 1 acre in size, is located 14 miles south of Cole Island, past Port Henry and Crown Point, and has no recreational facilities.

Signal Buoy Island, less than 1 acre in size, is the southernmost island located 2.5 miles south of Sheepshead Island in the Town of Ticonderoga. The small island has a Coast Guard signal buoy set in the water and no recreational facilities.

Backcountry Information for the Northeastern Adirondacks provides general information regarding backcountry and seasonal conditions; specific notices regarding closures and conditions of trails, roads, bridges and other infrastructure; and links to weather, state land use regulations, low impact recreation and more.

Featured Activities

Boating

boating

General information on boating includes safety tips with links to rules & regulations and lists of DEC boat launches by county.

The islands can be accessed by boat from one of four DEC boat launches or from any of the numerous municipal and private boat launches and marinas.

Peru Dock Boat Launch has a macadam surface approach which is large enough to accommodate large car and trailer units. The ramp extends 50 feet and is outfitted with aluminum floating docks with accessibility features. The two parking areas include accessible parking and can hold a total of 50 cars and trailers. An accessible flush toilet facility is located on the site. Additionally, there is a boat pump out for boats equipped with sanitary facilities.

Port Douglas Boat Launch has a modern two-lane concrete launch ramp with aluminum floating docks with accessibility features. The parking area includes accessible parking and will hold 20 cars and trailers. An accessible portable toilet facility is located on the site.

Willsboro Bay Boat Launch has a launch apron wide enough for large boats and vehicles to turn around. The concrete ramp is a twin, two-lane launch with aluminum floating docks with accessibility features. This spacious site has parking space for 100 cars and trailers including accessible parking. There is an accessible vault toilet facility. Additionally, there is a boat pump out for boats equipped with sanitary facilities.

Westport Boat Launch has a modern two-lane concrete ramp with aluminum floating docks with accessibility features. The parking area can accommodate 30 cars with trailers and has 6 car-only lanes. Accessible parking and accessible toilet facilities are also present.

Docks are removed from DEC boat launches each year in late October.

Valcour Island has only one usable dock at this time which is located at the Seton House near the southern end of the island. Most campsites and picnic areas can be directly accessed by small boats. Do not tie off to trees.

Small boats can access Valcour Island on the shores of Bulhead Bay, North Bay, Butterfly Bay (including the "picnic area"), and in the vicinity of campsites 21 and 22 on the eastern shore.

Valcour Island, Schuyler Island and Cole Island are popular anchorages for cabin cruisers and other large boats.

Paddling

paddling

General information on paddling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.

The islands can be accessed by boat from one of four DEC boat launches or from any of the numerous municipal and private boat launches and marinas. The DEC boat launches are Peru Dock, across from the Valcour Island Lighthouse; Port Douglas, southwest of Schuyler Island; Willsboro Bay, seven miles south of Port Douglas; and Westport, 5 miles north of Cole Island.

Valcour Island has only one usable dock at this time which is located at the Seton House near the southern end of the island. Paddlers can access Valcour Island on the shores of Bulhead Bay, North Bay, Butterfly Bay (including the "picnic area"), and in the vicinity of campsites 21 and 22 on the eastern shore.

Valcour Island and Schuyler Island are part of the Lake Champlain Paddlers Trail (leaves DEC website).

Lake Champlain is part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (leaves DEC website).

Lake Champlain is used by motor boats of all sizes. Waves can be extremely big when it is windy especially if the wind is out of the north or the south. Paddlers should use caution - paddle during the morning when winds are low and stick close to shore as much as possible.

Fishing

fishing

General information on fishing includes fishing tips with links to seasons, rules & regulations.

Anglers may use the same hand launches as paddlers, the same boat launches as boaters and the same campsites as campers to access and fish Lake Champlain.

Lake Champlain is a popular fishing location for a number of gamefish species. The populations of landlocked Atlantic salmon and lake trout continue to improve as does the size of the fish being caught thanks to the efforts to control sea lamprey populations in the lake.

The lake is also popular with bass anglers - a number of tournaments are held on the lake annually. Both largemouth and smallmouth bass can be found in bays, on shoals and along the shorelines, particularly around the islands.

Lake Champlain also contains northern pike, pickerel, carp, bullhead, sucker, and panfish such as yellow perch, black crappie, white crappie, white perch, rock bass, bluegill, pumpkinseed sunfish and smelt.

Exotic species such as bowfin, burbot (ling), sheepshead (freshwater drum), and longnose gar also are found in the lake.

Guides and charters are available for fishing in Lake Champlain and can be found through The Adirondack Coast (leaves DEC website) or Lake Champlain Region (leaves DEC website).

Special fishing regulations (leaving DEC website to official Fishing Regulations Guide vendor website) apply and ice fishing is allowed. Willsboro Bay Boat Launch is commonly used to access the ice on Willsboro Bay in the winter and the municipal boat launch in Port Henry provides access to Bulwagga Bay for ice anglers.

A reciprocal licensing agreement allows anglers with either a New York or Vermont fishing license in much of the Lake. Check to be sure which part of the lake is included or excluded from the reciprocal license agreement.

General information on Adirondack/Lake Champlain Fishing provides information on fishing in the Adirondacks and links to top fishing waters, stocking lists, public fishing access and waters open to ice fishing listed by county.

Hiking

hiking

General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.

The 12 miles of hiking trails on Valcour Island are the only designated trails on any of the islands. The trail system extends from the southern end, looping around the circumference, and includes two bisector trails that cut through the center of the island. The trails around the island provide for an excellent natural experience and offer great scenic vistas.

Valcour Island has only one usable dock at this time which is located at the Seton House near the southern end of the island. Paddlers and small boats can access the island on the shores of Bulhead Bay, North Bay, Butterfly Bay (including the "picnic area"), and in the vicinity of campsites 21 and 22 on the eastern shore.

Valcour Island Lighthouse Loop Trail is a 0.6-mile trail that circles around Bluff Point Lighthouse.

Valcour Island Perimeter Trail is a 9.2-mile trail around the perimeter of the island, mostly in sight of the water. There are three scenic overlooks from the top of the cliffs on the eastern shore of the island. The trail connects with the Valcour Island Lighthouse Loop and passes the Seton House where it can be accessed from the docks. All of the campsites and picnic areas connect to the trail either directly or via spur trails.

Royal Savage Trail extends 1.4 miles in an arc between the eastern and western sections of the Valcour Island Perimeter Trail in the northern portion of the island.

Nomad Trail extends 1.2 miles between the eastern and western sections of the Valcour Island Perimeter Trail near the center of the island.

Campsite Connector Trail extends 0.2 mile from the perimeter trails to Campsites 13 and 14 on the eastern shore of the island.

Camping

primitive camping

General information on backcountry camping includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.

Valcour Island has 29 designated primitive tent sites on its shores. Campsites are available on a first come - first served basis and are marked with a yellow "Camp Here" disc and a number. A free permit must be obtained from the DEC caretaker during the summer. Most campsites contain pit privies, picnic tables and fireplaces.

Most but not all tents sites can be accessed directly from the water. Paddlers and small boats can access the island on the shores of Bulhead Bay, North Bay, Butterfly Bay (including the "picnic area"), and in the vicinity of tent sites 21 and 22 on the eastern shore and use the Valcour Island Perimeter Trail and other trails to access the tent sites.

The tent sites are some of the most sought after camping locations on the lake. During any warm sunny summer day, the campsites around Valcour Island fill quickly. Most weekdays one can find a campsite, but the most desired sites are often occupied.

Schuyler Island has three campsites on its western shore which are connected by a 0.3-mile trail. Paddlers and small boats can access the island near the campsites.

Campers who prefer more amenities may camp at the nearby Ausable Point Campground and Crown Point Campground and boat or paddle to the islands.

Picnicking

picnicking

Picnicking is allowed on all of the islands.

Butterfly Bay on the western shore of Valcour Island has a day use area with picnic tables.

The designated tent sites on Schuyler Island can be used for picnicking when they are not occupied by campers, as can other locations on the island.

Cole Island is a popular location for picnickers.

Historical Features

lighthouse

Bluff Point Lighthouse on Valcour Island is on both the National Register of Historic Places and New York State's Register of Historic Places. Construction of the lighthouse was completed in 1874. The lighthouse was part of a series of beacons constructed by the Federal government along Lake Champlain. It is located 95 feet above the western shore of the island and is 36 feet high. The lighthouse protected the busy channel between Valcour Island and the New York shore for 57 years before falling into disrepair.

While in service, the structure was a home for the lighthouse keeper and his family. The light keeper recorded weather conditions and fuel consumption on a daily basis. In 1929, a steel framework tower was built about 100 feet from the old lighthouse. The original lighthouse was decommissioned in 1931 and sold.

In 1986, New York State began negotiating with the lighthouse's owner to purchase the lighthouse and the land that it sat upon. The structure was sound, but had fallen into disrepair due in part to vandalism. Worried that the State would destroy the structure or let it continue to decline, the owner included a clause in the sale contract that gave the Clinton County Historical Association (leaves DEC website) a conservation easement for the lighthouse.

In 1987, the Clinton County Historical Association established an endowment for the restoration and maintenance of the lighthouse. The repairs involved a mixture of paid labor and volunteer work, while several local businesses donated services or goods to the project. In November of 2004, the United States Coast Guard, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and Clinton County Historical Association completed the relighting of the historic Bluff Point Lighthouse, returning the lighthouse to its original duties as a true aid to navigation. While the lighthouse is currently closed for repairs, when the work is completed the Clinton County Historical Association will once again provide volunteers to staff the lighthouse on weekends. The volunteers will provide tours and information about the lighthouse to visitors.

Seton House is a historic camp located on the southwest side of the island, constructed in 1929 and formerly owned by the Seton family. The stone house displays the way the island was historically used and is eligible for listing on the State and National Historic registers.

The dock that once provided access to the home now provides access for DEC to perform island maintenance, search and rescue operations, fire-fighting activities, and other functions.

The Seton House is not currently open to the public.

Wildlife Viewing

General information on animals includes links to information about birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects that inhabit or migrate through the state.

White-tailed deer and many small mammals are found on Valcour Island and Schuyler Island.

Valcour Island is a designated Bird Conservation Area. Bald eagles have been observed in the vicinity of Valcour and Schuyler Islands. The cliffs on the south end of Valcour Island are a historic peregrine falcon eyrie, although there has been no nesting there for several decades.

The privately-owned Four Brothers Islands contain the largest waterbird breeding colony in northeastern New York. The islands are located east of Willsboro Point. The public is prohibited from trespassing on the islands.

Hunting and Trapping

hunting
trapping

General Information on hunting and general information on trapping includes how-to and safety tips with links to seasons, rules & regulations.

Hunting and trapping are allowed on all of the islands. Hunters and trappers may use the parking areas and trails used by hikers; the hand launches used by paddlers and the boat launches used by boaters to access the lands and waters.

Valcour Island and Schuyler Island both have resident white-tailed deer populations. Deer hunting is encouraged on the islands to protect native vegetation from over browsing.

Waterfowl hunting is popular on and around the islands.

Accessible Recreation

accessible

General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.

Peru Dock Boat Launch has aluminum floating docks with accessibility features, accessible parking spaces and an accessible flush toilet facility.

Port Douglas Boat Launch has aluminum floating docks with accessibility features, accessible parking spaces and an accessible portable toilet facility.

Willsboro Bay Boat Launch has aluminum floating docks with accessibility features, accessible parking space, and an accessible vault toilet facility.

Westport Boat Launch has accessible parking spaces, floating metal docks and accessible restrooms.

Docks are removed from DEC boat launches each year in late October.

Directions

All coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD83/WGS84 datum.

Boat Launches

  • Peru Dock Boat Launch is located on State Route 9. (44.61870°N, 73.4457°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Port Douglas Boat Launch is located at the end of the Port Douglas Road (County Route 16). (44.4847°N, 73.4172°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Willsboro Bay Boat Launch is located off the Willsboro Point Road (County Route 27). (44.4008°N, 73.3902°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

  • Westport Boat Launch is located on State Route 22. (44.1888°N, 73.4342°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Seton House Dock is located on the southern end of the western shore of Valcour Island. (44.6092°N, 73.4230°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety

Practice Leave No Trace principles (leaves DEC website) when recreating in the Adirondacks to enjoy the outdoors responsibly, minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts other backcountry users.

All users of the Lake Champlain Islands must follow all State Land Use Regulations and should follow all Outdoor Safety Practices for the safety of the user and protection of the resource.

Do not tie off boats on shoreline trees.

How We Manage Lake Champlain Islands Complex

DEC has developed a Draft Unit Management Plan which describes the proposed management activities for the Lake Champlain Islands. In addition to management objectives, the UMP contains detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural and human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

State Lands & Facilities

Gas can be obtained in the nearby communities of Peru, Keeseville, Willsboro, Westport, Port Henry and Crown Point.

Food and supplies can be obtained in the nearby communities of Peru, Keeseville, Willsboro, Westport, Port Henry and Crown Point.

Dining is available in the nearby communities of Peru, Keeseville, Willsboro, Essex, Westport, Port Henry and Crown Point.

Lodging is available in the nearby communities of Keeseville, Willsboro, Essex, Westport and Port Henry.

Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (leaves DEC website), Adirondack Coast Regional Tourism (leaves DEC website), and Lake Champlain Region (leaves DEC website) can provide information about other recreation, attractions, and amenities in this area.

Numerous guide books and maps are available with information on the lands, waters, trails and other recreational facilities in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.

Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions and guided or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chambers of commerce, telephone directories or search the internet for listings.

Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have little experience or woodland skills. See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association (leaves DEC Website) for information on outdoor guides.