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Steamboats in Commerce

A Brief History

For more than 200 years, boats were the economic mainstay of the Champlain Basin.  The region had much to export – timber, pulpwood, iron ore, granite, marble, coal – and the lake was a natural "highway.".

The opening of the Champlain Canal, as well as the end of hostilities during the War of 1812 created great opportunities for those living in the Champlain Valley.  Not only could they send goods southward to cities of the United States, but they were now able to efficiently sail north into Canada via Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River.

Burlington & Whitehall

Before 1796, for example, nearly all the tobacco being brought into Canada entered from British ships.  Within ten years, 100 percent was coming from Lake Champlain trade routes.


Goods from Boston, New York City and other manufacturing regions of the United States also benefited from the steamboat routes of the Champlain Valley.

The Champlain Valley also received hard-to-find goods such as salt via the

Ticonderoga Baldwin Docks.  The Champlain Valley produced goods for export from five iron works on the New York side, and a variety of mills and manufacturers on the Vermont side.  Other products included apples, paper, hosiery and cloth.

Whitehall and Saratoga Railroad, Lake Champlain,

from the Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views

Moving goods on to and off the steamboats usually required a steamboat landing and a railroad cut.  Wagons and stagecoaches
frequently collected and delivered goods to and from the steamboat landings.

Baldwin Dock, Ticonderoga

In Ticonderoga, Baldwin Dock was a transfer point for many passengers and goods moving from steamboat to train.  Small rail spurs were common in the area, although all are gone today.

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