On the way to Whitehall, NY, we went thought the last series of locks on the Champlain Canal which connects the Hudson River with Lake Champlain. The last town on the canal is Whitehall, NY. When we arrived on the afternoon of June 26 after a seven hour cruise, we tied up to the free floating dock which is maintained by the town. It was located next to a display of the actual wreckage of the Ticonderoga. This seemed like a nice quiet place to spend the night and the price was right!
Whitehall has seen much better days. As with many of these towns on the river, it used to thrive when the waterway was a major transportation route. But it is now quite depressed with many closed businesses and a declining population. Even amidst this trend, the people we met were proud of their town’s history and wanted to make a good impression on visitors.
Whitehall has definitely had a place in American history. In addition to housing the Ticonderoga that fought in nearby Lake Champlain, it considers itself to be the home of the American Navy. Our first naval fleet was built here in preparation for the Battle of Valcour which took place on Lake Champlain. Benedict Arnold build this fleet and led the battle against the British. Although the Americans lost this battle, it caused the British to be delayed from moving south until the following spring. It’s interesting to learn of Benedict Arnold’s heroism and fame in so many references in this part of the country. We often remember him as a traitor but he was a very successful and respected patriot before he became disillusioned with the American cause and turned to “the dark side.”
So we thought we had found a good dockage until we woke up the next morning to find ourselves hard aground. The floating docks were no longer floating and neither were we! (See the before and after pictures below). Jonathan called the lockmaster to find out what happened as there are no tides and only minimal currents in this area. It turned out that the regular lockmaster had the previous day off and when he went to adjust the river height in anticipation of predicted rains, he lowered the water levels two feet instead of four inches! The “real” lockmaster apologized profusely and proceeded to raise the water levels. But of course, it took another five hours before we were floating and able to leave Whitehall. In the meantime, we had breakfast at a real nice restaurant in a converted bank and walked the town which extends on both sides of the river.
Instead of leaving at 9 as planned, we finally were able to leave by 1:00 and headed north to our first stop on Lake Champlain, Chipman Point Marina.