Not too far from downtown Vergennes you'll find Lake Champlain. The Otter Creek has been a waterway linking the Little City to the big lake. Along with the waterway comes sightings of a strange denzien of the deep.
Champ the lake monster embodies the mysteries, wonders and importance of the Lake and the creatures that may or may not live within. The fact that we do not know whether Champ exists, means there is still an undiscovered and protected portion of the Lake left to discover. Perhaps most importantly, Champ helps educate the public about this beautiful place and gives us all a reason to sit quietly by the Lake and ponder what lies beneath.
What is Champ-a dinosaur, a plesiosaur, a whale?
Part of believing that Champ exists means you need to have a fairly good explanation for what he might be. Theories abound. One theory suggests that Champ is a dinosaur that managed to escape extinction and lives on in Lake Champlain. Another suggests that the creatures could be surviving zeuglodons, a primitive form of whale with a long snake like body. These creatures have been thought to be long extinct, however fossils of them have been found a few miles form Lake Champlain in Charlotte.
Champ might also be a Lake Sturgeon. There are sturgeon in Lake Champlain and they can grow to great lengths. They are a very old, almost prehistoric fish with a scale-less body that is supported by a partially cartilaginous skeleton along with rows of scutes. Its single dorsal fin, running along its spine, would match many descriptions of Champ, although its sharp, shark-like tail would not.
Another theory is that Champ could be related to a plesiosaur. A plesiosaur is a prehistoric water dwelling reptile (not a dinosaur) with a long snakelike head and four large flippers. Plesiosaurs loved fish and other aquatic animals. Scientists date the plesiosaur to the Triassic period, 200 million years ago, through the Cretaceous period, about 65 million years ago (when all dinosaurs are thought to have gone extinct).
It would take approximately 50 mature Champs, at the least, to have a breeding population of Champs in the Lake and 500 to keep the species alive in the long term. While the numbers are daunting, Lake Champlain does provide an ideal habitat for such a creature. The Lake is 120 miles long, 400 feet deep in places and home to a diverse population of birds and aquatic life which would be more than enough to sustain the belly of this great beast. Additionally, the lake, in its present form, has been around quite awhile -around 10,000 years.
There have been at least 300 reported unexplained sightings of Champ over the years' There is no certainty when the first sighting of Champ was; however, the creature was depicted by Native Americans. It was said that Samuel de Champlain saw Champ in 1609. This claim that he spotted a "strange monster" has been traced by historians to actually have occurred in the St. Lawrence estuary however.
In 1819 in Port Henry, N.Y., a railroad crew reported to have spotted a "head of an enormous serpent sticking out of the water and approaching them from the opposite shore." Around the time of this sighting, farmers nearby claimed to have missing livestock, with drag marks leading to the shore. There was also an an early Champ sighting reported in the New York Times in 1873.
There is now a website dedicated to recording Champ sightings. To learn more about specific sightings at Champ Quest.com.
Special thanks to the Lake Champlain Land Trust