Roadside Attraction: Champ The Lake Monster

Prior to my trip to Vermont, the only ever “lake” monster I’d heard of was the Loch Ness Monster. But after learning about Champ. I started to see not only this serpent who lives in Lake Champlain pop up in a variety of places, but I also learned about other lake and sea monsters. It’s kind of wild how when you learn about something you start seeing it everywhere.

I digress, back to looking for Champ, the Lake Champlain sea monster or at least his likeness. When I was looking up things to do in Burlington, the World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet came up… along with a statue of Champ, the mascot for the local minor league team.

Even though I’d been to Burlington before, and spent two days ferrying back and forth across the lake, I’d somehow missed out on learning about Champ. But since I’d seen this statue listed on Roadside America, it got quickly added to my “you need to see this” side quest list.

When I’m traveling on my own, I will pretty much drive an hour or more out of my way to see a bizarre statue, roadside attraction or just plain unusual or notable thing. But on this trip I had my daughter, dad and mom, who have varying degrees of interest in my odd side quests. I’m super glad I had my dad with me because a) the man loves a quest as much as I do, and b) he is COMPLETELY unafraid to talk to anyone and ask questions.

I plugged in the address into my GPS, and after arriving at the pier, I walked around and couldn’t find him at all. Then I dug in further and saw in the comments and someone said that he had moved but no real address was available. Lake monsters… they’re just so unpredictable, right? Never where you expect them to be. I tried to find his new location, but the internet was being decidedly unhelpful. So I was about ready to call it a day (he was literally our last stop for the evening), and settle for not seeing Champ. But my dad heard me say I wanted to see this, and he’s just really determined when he sets his mind to something.

He approached several strangers that were walking on the pier and asked them if they knew where Champ was. And after a few quizzical “I don’t knows,” we found one young guy who was like, oh that sea monster statute? Yeah, that got moved to the location of the minor league store’s shop. It was just a few piers over, but tucked in a spot I couldn’t see from where we were walking.

We headed to the new destination, thankful to this kind stranger, and lo and behold, the smiling sea monster was there and ready to take a picture. He’s looking a little worse for wear, but he’s survived some flooding and kids (and adults) climbing all over him, so his scales aren’t quite as fresh and sparkly as one would hope. My mom had had enough monster hunting for the day. I guess the thrill of seeing the World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet really did her in (see that story here) so she stayed in the car. But I offered to take pics of the family that was there when we arrived, and in trade they took some cute pics of my dad, daughter and I.

Then the next day when we were at the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory taking a tour, they had recently released a Champ stuffed animal. They bill it as the fluffy fantasies dinosaur, but the guide on our tour was like, yeah, that’s Champ! And there was only one left in the store. Obviously this Champ now sits on my bed because I’m totally a grown up.

Later that same week I was in Portland, ME with my family and we had a rainy day and went to visit the International Cryptozoology Museum, and what do I see? Lots of stuff about Champ, who has been spotted around Lake Champlain since the early 1800s, including the stuffed Vermont Teddy Bear. There I learned about Cassie, Maine’s own sea serpent who reportedly haunts Casco Bay. I kind of wanted to write a cryptid love story where these two find a tributary or something and meet up by chance, but you know, the pesky day job keeps me from fully indulging my cryptid obsession.

If you want to see the stone version of Champ, head to the Vermont Lake Monsters team shop at  1 King Street Burlington, VT. Or at least that’s where I last spotted him. Those serpentine sea monsters can be mysterious.

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