A History of Movement

The Champlain Canalway Trail weaves through a long and beautiful valley from Lake Champlain to the Hudson River Valley. It picks up stories along the way, and ties them together. To Native Americans, the river and carry route between the Hudson River and Lake Champlain was a pathway for trade, settlement and conflict for centuries before Europeans arrived.

As the main travel corridor between New York and Canada, the long valley also proved to be of pivotal importance during the French and Indian War, the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Over time these travel routes were supplemented by wagon roads. The Champlain Canal opened in 1822, establishing the first all-water route through the valley and a direct link between New York and Montreal.
New York’s canal system was enlarged several times to accommodate larger vessels and increased traffic. The latest version of the Champlain Canal, constructed between 1905 and 1915, had far larger locks and channels than its predecessors. It was built for self-propelled vessels and followed a slightly different route utilizing a modified channel in the Hudson River from Waterford to Fort Edward and a parallel land-cut from there north to Whitehall.
Railroads and trolleys sprang up alongside and began operating year-round, competing with the seasonal canal. The invention of the automobile and truck spurred road improvements, and eventually highways gained dominance over both the canal and railroads.
The Champlain Canalway Trail builds upon all of these stories, and many others that are still written in the landscapes and communities of the Champlain Canal corridor. It follows their footsteps and wheel tracks.