Underwater Historic Preserves
All underwater historic sites in Lake Champlain belong in public trust to the people of the respective states in whose water they lie. The States of Vermont and New York have established the Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserve to provide public access for divers to some of the Lake's historic shipwrecks. The system is designed to protect these irreplaceable historic resources both from anchor damage and artifact collecting. With the cooperation of the recreational diving community these wrecks will be available for generations of divers to enjoy.
Lake Champlain's Historic Preserve system works and succeeds only with your cooperation. The protection of historic shipwrecks and safety of other divers is your responsibility.
Divers who witness violations of the preserve diving guidelines are asked to voluntarily report them to the Vermont State Police Marine Division (802) 655-3435 and the New York State Police (518) 962-8235.
Access to the sites in the Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserve is free of charge, but divers must register annually prior to using the Preserve System. Divers are no longer required to register for sensitive shipwreck sites; one annual registration is adequate. Now Register Online! or contact the locations listed below.
- Standard Canal Boat A.R.Noyes
- Steamboat Champlain II
- Diamond Island Canal Boat "Stone Boat"
- Sailing Canal Boat General Butler
- Horse Ferry
- Sailing Canal Boat O.J.Walker
- Steamboat Phoenix
- Sloop Island Canal Boat (Wreck Z)
- Lake Schooner Water Witch
Removal of Artifacts is Forbidden By Law
Artifact removal or damage to the site is a violation of trust as well as law, and violators will be prosecuted. Violators also jeopardize the continuing existence of the Preserve system. Take nothing but photos and memories.
Penetration of Wrecks is Not Permitted
Penetration greatly increases the risk of a diving accident and also damages the fragile wooden vessels. Soft silt in the hull can quickly turn the visibility from clear to zero. Exhausted air bubbles can lift and damage fragile deck planking.
Practice good buoyancy control. Even casual contact, such as brushes with fin tips, leaves scrape marks on these wooden shipwrecks. Give fragile elements generous clearance. Secure all dangling equipment, such as gauges.
How To Dive A Site
- Descend down the mooring system to the concrete mooring pad.
- Follow the guideline to the wreck.
- Keep the wreck in sight at all times to avoid becoming disoriented.
- Maintain good buoyancy control, avoiding any contact with the wreck.
- With wrecks that have multiple mooring systems always return to the same mooring system from which you descended.
- Always descend and ascend on the mooring system. Avoid free ascents from the bottom.
- All persons using the Underwater Historic Preserve System must be certified divers and register annually. Make sure your experience and skills will allow you to make the dive safely. When in doubt, do not make the dive.
- All dives should be no-decompression dives. Monitor your depth and bottom time. Include a safety stop as part of your dive.
- Lake Champlain contains cold fresh water. Divers need to be familiar with the challenging environmental conditions of the Lake including cold temperatures and dark conditions. Watch your thermal comfort.
- Monitor your air. It is recommended that you exit the water with a minimum of 500 psi.
- Always build in a safety margin. Caution and good diving practices should prevail at all times.
- Only certified divers with appropriate experience should consider diving the Underwater Preserves.
Each diver recognizes that diving is an inherently dangerous activity, and each diver must assess all conditions and use their best judgment in planning and executing the dive. Divers assume responsibility for their actions while diving on the UHP sites and assume the risk of injury.
Diving Activity Can Spread Zebra Mussels
The small, non-native zebra mussel was discovered in Lake Champlain in 1993. These prolific sharp shelled mollusks can cover and damage historic shipwrecks and cause severe ecological damage.
Transporting Zebra Mussels is Illegal. Between dives in different water bodies submerge all equipment in hot tap water (110°F or hotter) for at least 10 minutes. For more information contact the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation at (802) 241-3777 or the Lake Champlain Basin Program at 1-800-468-5227.
Seasonal registration is required for every diver prior to using the Preserve System. Registration and information can be obtained from the locations listed below or through most local dive facilities and charter operators. Registration need only be done once during the season. We ask for your cooperation in this effort.
Now Register Online!
Burlington Community Boat House, Burlington, Vermont (802) 865-3377
Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vergennes, Vermont (802) 475-2022
In addition, sensitive site registration is required for the O.J. Walker and Water Witch. Due to the fragile nature and archaeological sensitivity of these sites, registration is required for every dive. The first time you register to dive the O.J. Walker or Water Witch, you will fill out a separate “Sensitive Site” registration form. That form will assign you a number that can be used to register throughout the season for any additional dives on the O.J. Walker or Water Witch. You can register directly at either of the above facilities, but can only reserve a time slot by directly contacting the Burlington Community Boat House at (802) 865-3777, or on Marine Band Radio on channel 74 or 79.
- Yellow buoys marked "Underwater Historic Preserve" identify the preserve sites.
- By law, no anchoring is permitted within 200 feet of a buoy.
- Anyone diving at these sites must tie his boat to a buoy. Only one boat at a time can be tied to a buoy and should remain only for the duration of the dive. Please show courtesy and cooperation in rotating use of the mooring system.
- The buoy systems are designed for use in fair weather and moderate wind conditions only and for vessels less than 35 feet long.
- Divers must fly a "Divers Down" flag from their boat for the duration of the dive.
All information on this web site is available in the form of a booklet. For more information about Lake Champlain's Underwater Historic Preserves, or to make comments or suggestions you can contact the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum at (802) 475-2022, firstname.lastname@example.org OR:
VT Division for Historic Preservation
National Life Building, Drawer 20
Montpelier, VT 05620-0501