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The Land Tortoise Underwater Preserve Site

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  • Open for Recreation: From the second Saturday of June through Labor Day
  • Fee: Free
  • Contact Information:
    • DEC Region 5 Ray Brook Office (M-F, 8:30 AM - 4:45 PM), 518-897-1200; Info.R5@dec.ny.gov
    • Registration to dive at this site: 518-668-3352
    • Enforcement Matters: 518-408-5850 (24/7) or 911
  • Location: Town of Lake George, Warren County
  • Map: Google Earth || State Lands Interactive Mapper

The autumn of 1758 saw Britain and France locked in a struggle for empire. Following the loss of Fort William Henry in 1757, the allied British, Iroquois and American provincials suffered a devastating defeat in their assault on Fort Carillon (later named Fort Ticonderoga) in July 1758. Undeterred, the British and their allies constructed new fortifications and warships, including two radeaux to serve as floating gun batteries to dislodge the French from Lake George and Lake Champlain. One of these was the Land Tortoise.

bow of the Land Tortoise
The bow of the Land Tortoise
Radeau (Russell Bellico/Bateaux Below)

The Land Tortoise appears to be the sole survivor of a class of military vessels unique to Lake George and Lake Champlain in the eighteenth century. Constructed in 1758 by provincial troops under the supervision of Captain Samuel Cobb, the radeau (French for raft) was just over 50 feet long and 16 to 18 feet wide. The flat-bottomed vessel was propelled by 26 oars. The Land Tortoise has seven cannon ports in her sides and her angular lines and sloping bulwarks protected her crew from enemy fire. Never fully rigged out, the radeau lacks masts, artillery and other hardware.

The construction of the Land Tortoise and its deliberate sinking to store it underwater are described in soldiers' journals. The soldiers worked hard into the night of October 22, 1758 to sink the Land Tortoise. It settled in much deeper water than intended and was not recovered the following spring. Another radeau, the Invincible, had to be built by the British for the 1759 campaign.

Picture of underwater diving guidelines.
Guidelines help divers along the
underwater trail.
(Bob Benway/Bateaux Below, Inc.)

The fate of the Land Tortoise was unknown until 1990, when its peculiar seven-sided shape appeared during a side-scan sonar survey of the lake by members of a group that later became known as Bateaux Below, Inc. Archaeological and historical research identified the vessel as an eighteenth century radeau. From 1991 to 1994, the Land Tortoise was studied by a team of volunteer divers under the direction of a professional archaeologist. In 1995, the Land Tortoise shipwreck was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1998, the Land Tortoise was listed as a National Historic Landmark, only the sixth shipwreck in the nation with that designation. It also has been designated by the Smithsonian Institution as "the oldest intact war vessel in North America."

Featured Activities

Scuba Diving

scuba diving

See diving guidelines for using New York's Submerged Heritage Preserve sites.

This is an advanced level dive in water depths of 105 to 107 feet with water temperatures ranging from 35° to 45°F.

You must sign in and be assigned a time slot to dive the radeau. Each member of the dive team must register and present their dive certification card. Registration is at the DEC office at Lake George Beach (518-668-3352). A maximum of eight divers in a single party is permitted on site at any one time.

There is a two-hour time slot allowed per dive followed by a one-hour site rest. This allows bottom silt to settle. Time slots available for diving:

  • 9:00-11:00 AM - Access to Site
  • 11:00-12:00 noon - Site Closed
  • 12:00-2:00 PM - Access to Site
  • 2:00-3:00 PM - Site closed
  • 3:00-5:00 PM - Access to Site
  • 5:00 PM - Site Closed

Special Diving Conditions and Guidelines for the Land Tortoise Preserve

  • WARNING: This is a deep, cold-water dive. A safety/decompression stop is recommended. The nearest recompression chamber is more than 50 miles away. Keep this in mind!
  • Be sure all the members of your party understand the dangers of such a dive and have the skills and gear necessary to undertake it safely.
  • Carry a dive light and a timepiece.
  • Fly the red-and-white dive flag. Divers are required to surface within 100 feet of the dive flag.
  • Maintain proper buoyancy control.
  • Monitor your air supply and bottom time carefully.
  • Do not attempt to enter the Land Tortoise.
  • Do not touch any part of the vessel or dig or remove sediment or rocks inside it. Removing sediment exposes wood and increases the deterioration rate of the vessel. Do not touch the mooring rings.
  • Removing artifacts or other objects or damaging the radeau is forbidden by law.

Directions

This site is located in the south basin of Lake George, nearly two miles north of Lake George Beach at 43.4402°N, 73.6927°W - Google Maps (leaves DEC website).

Coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD83/WGS84 datum.

Rules and Regulations for Submerged Heritage Preserves Sites

New York State and federal laws make these resources the shared cultural and historic legacy and property of the people of New York. These laws help preserve this heritage so that future generations can enjoy and learn it.

Please take nothing but photographs. Removing artifacts or damaging resources is forbidden by law and deprives others of the opportunity to view and study them. Removing artifacts or damaging shipwrecks, trail lines, signage or buoys in the preserve system may also jeopardize continuation of the Submerged Heritage Preserve sites. These shipwrecks are fragile; please do not touch them.

If you observe a violation, please report it to authorities by dialing 911 (*911 from a cellular phone). All violations will be investigated and violators prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

State Lands and Facilities

Gas can be found in the nearby communities of Bolton, Lake George and Queensbury.
Food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Bolton, Lake George and Queensbury.
Dining opportunities can be found in the nearby communities of Bolton, Lake George and Queensbury.
Lodging can be found in the nearby communities of Bolton, Lake George and Queensbury.
Public Boat Launches can be found at Bolton and Lake George.
Marinas can be found at Bolton, Lake George and Queensbury.

Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (leaves DEC website) and Warren County Tourism Department (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.


More about The Land Tortoise Underwater Preserve Site :

  • Important Links
  • Links Leaving DEC's Website
  • PDF Help
  • For help with PDFs on this page, please call 518-623-1200.
  • Contact for this Page
  • NYSDEC
    Submerged Heritage Preserves
    Region 5
    Route 86, Box 296
    Ray Brook, NY 12977-0296
    518-897-1276
    Send us an email
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