Part I – Has Champ Been Axed?
It seems the legend of Champ, the famed lake monster of Lake Champlain, VT has been dealt a mortal blow. None other than famed angler and biologist Jeremy Wade dropped the coup de gras in his book River Monsters True Stories of the Ones That Didn’t Get Away. (By the way this is an interesting read even if you don’t care about fishing. The man seems to find every fish of lore, myth, and legend that he sets his mind to find. It’s amazing. I wish we could get him to search for Bigfoot, but anyway …)
So I’m reading the book and start the chapter on Alligator Gar and by the second page he inserts a little parenthetical statement that was like the proverbial knife slicing through my crypto-loving little heart. It read,
“(A gar is clearly behind the legend of “Champ,” the Lake Champlain monster.)”
And that was it. I just couldn’t believe how he had dismissed Champ so out of hand, and without defending his premise. I was crushed. As a child, we spent many happy times camping at Lake Champlain, dutifully trying to swim in the arctic cold water and keeping a look-out for Champ. All this in between stuffing our fat little faces with that lovely maple candy that glistens and sparkles like diamonds in the sun. What an idyllic place!
Or has it? Being the intrepid pain in the neck that I am, I just couldn’t let this go. So let’s review what we had known about Champ prior to this shocking statement, and see what we can discern.
If you’re unfamiliar with Lake Champlain, it lies mostly in the region between the states of Vermont and New York, with a small part extending up into Quebec, Canada. It’s a freshwater lake that at one time, in the ancient past, connected to the Atlantic ocean.
Maximum Length: (According to Wiki) 125 miles (201 km)
Maximum Width: 14 miles (23 km)
Average depth: 64 feet (19.5 m)
Maximum depth: 400 feet (122 m)
Shore length: 587 miles (945 km)
Lake Champlain features approximately 80 islands and perhaps a dozen lighthouses (almost all privately owned).
Important to Note
For me, the two major points are there is deep water in that lake that could hide a large animal, and that this lake once connected to the ocean. There are even, I guess you would say, “fossilized reefs” on the lake floor that date back 450 million years.
The lake emerged around 20,000 years ago, but was still connected to the ocean and even now it’s still the home to some very ancient species of fish: sea lamprey, something called bowfin, and of course the alligator gar. There may have been another one that Jeremy caught while there – watch the episode of his show, River Monsters on Animal Planet, on the sea lamprey if you’re interested. (And no, I don’t own stock in Animal Planet’s company! LOL!)
The salient point is, if there are very old and ancient species of fish already living there, could there be others?
In the next part of this blog, we’ll cover what we know of this legend, past sightings, and any photographic evidence.