Burlington Bay Horse Ferry

The very fragile horse-powered ferry in Burlington Bay is the only archaeologically studied example of a turntable "team-boat," a once common North American vessel type. Animal powered vessels were introduced into North America in 1814. They became a popular form of transportation for short-distance river and lake crossing, until the middle of the 19th century, when they were surpassed by the increasing use of steam power.

Lake Champlain's long, narrow shape created the need for many ferry crossings between Vermont and New York, crossings that were ideally suited to horse ferries. The use of horse ferries on the Lake appears to have peaked in the 1830s and 1840s.

The Burlington Bay Horse Ferry was discovered in the fall of 1983 during a side-scan sonar survey. The identity and date of construction have not yet been determined. Continued study of this unique vessel may provide more clues to her name and date of sinking.

A working 1/2-size model of this vessel's horse-power system is located at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. More information about this wreck can be found in the 1998 publication When Horse Walked on Water, by Kevin Crisman. Read more about this fascinating wreck, (follow the links from the Virtual Museum of Nautical Archaeology, to Lake Champlain Projects), from the Institute of Nautical Archaeology.

Features of Interest

  • Size of wreck: 63' long, 23' wide.
  • The horizontal flywheel and gear shaft are visible amidships.
  • The two paddle wheels are perhaps her most spectacular feature. The iron hubs and oak spokes are deteriorated but intact; the paddle blades are missing. The paddle wheels are easily damaged - please avoid touching them.

Diving Information

  • Experience level: Intermediate
  • Depth of water: 50'
  • This vessel is weak and easily damaged. Control your buoyancy. Do not use any part of the vessel to support your weight.
  • Stay off the bottom to avoid low visibility conditions. Avoid contact with the fragile shipwreck.


  • 44° 29.12N, 73° 14.58W
  • Approximately 2/3 of the way northwest from the north end of the Burlington breakwater to Lone Rock Point.


Burlington Harbor Horse Ferry sidescan - Klein Assoc.
Sonar Image courtesy of Garry Kozak / Klein Asssociates

Image details: (from the Klein Associates website)

Sonar System 3000 Image High Frequency

Make note of the information in the shadow. These images were imaged at 37 meter range scale.