Boat tours add another avenue of history at Fort Ticonderoga
Visitors to Fort Ticonderoga overlooking Lake Champlain can expand their historical experience by cruising the waters between New York and Vermont. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard recently climbed aboard.
“So we just embarked from the Ticonderoga peninsula, over there in New York. Of course, this way is Vermont…”
On a calm day in Lake Champlain, Fort Ticonderoga interpreter Ethan Knick is talking to a couple-dozen guests aboard a wooden vessel.
Each year, the Fort Ticonderoga Association shapes programming around a year from the Fort’s history.
At an important structure in both the French and Indian War and American Revolution, this year’s programming is focused on 1759.
Four years after the French built Fort Carillon, the English forced their retreat and renamed the strategic fort Ticonderoga.
Knick is dressed for that historical era.
“So right now I’m dressed in the uniform of the French Troupe de Terre. These were regular infantry sent over from France beginning in 1755 that formed the bulk of the various French armies here at Ticonderoga. Particularly, I’m dressed in the uniform of a soldier of the Regiment de la Rein, the Queen’s Regiment. They had these nice blue vests and the bright red facings and silver buttons that you see on my uniform,” said Knick.
Today’s 75-minute tour offers a view and stories of the fort, landmarks on the shores of New York and Vermont, and – with the help of sonar equipment – underwater relics.
“Not only do you get the perspective from the very waterways that this fort defended, but it allows to zoom out and look at the whole history of Ticonderoga,” said Knick.
Beth Hill, Fort Ticonderoga’s President and CEO, said the boat tours offer a unique experience.
“You know, here we are between all these lakes in this region and there are very few opportunities for people to get out onto the water, so the combination of natural beauty and epic history with the narrated boat tours is just such a win, and our visitors absolutely love it,” said Hill.
In addition to daytime tours, in July and August guests can book a 90-minute sunset cruise aboard this same craft, the 1920’s style “Carillon.” This year, the Fort is partnering with AirBnB to promote the evening boat tours.
Hill says 30,000 visitors have taken a tour on Lake Champlain since the program began in 2015, and it’s been a hit – with the exception of summer 2020.
“The first year of the pandemic, the locks were closed on Lake Champlain. So we were not able to bring the boat from its winter quarters in Albany north on Lake Champlain. It returned last year and the Carillon boat is one of our most popular features here on Fort Ticonderoga. In fact, our surveys show that people that take the boat tour enjoy everything more,” said Hill.
“I thought it was very cool. It was very interesting to see the Fort from a distance. Just the lake in general is very beautiful.”
Andrew Wright of North Carolina is here with five of his siblings. His family is making a stop in Ticonderoga as part of a multi-state history tour of the Northeast.
“We hit the highlights. About a two-week tour. We started in Washington D.C. and saw some of the sights there. Went to Philadelphia and then to New York City, Boston, Maine, and we’re going to wrap up today with Fort Ticonderoga today and Niagara Falls tomorrow,” said Jay Wright.
Andrew’s parents, Jay and Janet, also enjoyed the boat tour.
“I thought it was great, exactly what we had in mind. Just a good afternoon outing on the lake with family,” said Jay Wright.
“And our tour guide was just so knowledgeable. I think this was a real benefit to our kids. We homeschool our kids. So this was a great learning experience for them,” said Janet Wright.
Visitors to Fort Ticonderoga this summer will also see the newly renovated 1826 Pavilion.
The $9 million restoration of the white Greek revival Pavilion Hotel is part of a $70 million-plus planned series of upgrades at the Fort.
With 75,000 visitors annually, officials say Fort Ticonderoga has a $12 million annual economic impact on the region.
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