BURLINGTON, Vt. -- as Lake Champlain completes its first week as the newest member the the an excellent Lakes, world who live alongside America"s sixth-largest human body of new water are taking care of a gentle winter and a greater profile.

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Vigorously, but politely, they safeguard the 14-mile wide, 125-mile-long lake -- that extends from Whitehall, N.Y., to Winooski, Vt. -- from doubters who watch its new-found Greatness as undeserved.

Happily and humorously, lake dwellers contemplate brand-new road signs, new T-shirts ("I visited the great Lakes but ended up in Vermont v this lousy T-shirt") -- and also a new mnemonic device.

H-O-M-E-S was the way geography students used to psychic the five good Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior. Add Champlain and also scramble. Yes, kids and teachers: S-C-H-M-O-E.

Champlain is as important here as moose sightings and maple walnut ice cream cream.

"We were constantly told in institution that Champlain have to be the sixth great Lake," states Andrew Robinson, 22, a vermont Teddy Bear factory worker whom everyone calls Rooster top top account the what the resembled ~ a grade-school snowball fight. "I don"t ,, recognize if we"re truly Great, yet I love life on the lake. It"s angry good."

Nevertheless, polls present that a bulk of americans can"t place Champlain ~ above a map. Its existing celebrity stems from a nifty congressional relocate by Democrat Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont"s an elderly senator, to make marine-biology researchers right here eligible because that $56 million in commonwealth Sea grant funds. The money is restricted to 29 colleges in says bordering the an excellent Lakes, the Gulf that Mexico or the oceans. For this reason Leahy stuck some words into a bill: "The hatchet "Great Lakes" contains Lake %o Champlain."

President Clinton signed it. Presto, a good Lake.

The "real" great Lakes came to be eligible for Sea give funds in 1970 through comparable legislative sleight-of-hand -- a federal law that declared the five lakes "America"s fourth seacoast."

Midwesterners nevertheless bitterly denounce Champlain"s new designation. They say the lake is just one-fifteenth the size of Lake Ontario, the smallest an excellent Lake, and also that it resembles nothing so much as a river together it flows north to the St. Lawrence Seaway.

"We have actually some 1,000-foot-long iron carriers out here in dock," says Davis Helberg, harbor director because that Duluth, Minn., ~ above Lake Superior. "Maybe if us donated among them come those nice people in Vermont, they can take it and also make a bridge throughout the little lake they have actually there."

Adds Republican Rep. Fred Upton the Michigan: Champlain is a mere "pencil heat on the map."

Lost in this uproar were some important facts. Regardless of the size difference, Champlain has long been considered a very first cousin, if not a full-blooded brother, that the 5 lakes to the west.

Like the other Greats, Champlain is a cold, deep, freshwater lake, developed by glaciers at the end of the Pleistocene ice age. It additionally suffers from surprisingly fierce storms and high waves, and borders lot of U.S. States and Canada.

And in American history, the lake, which was named for Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer who uncovered it in 1609, is there is no peer. Well-known in colonial times together "the an essential to the continent," Lake Champlain saw significant sea battles during the French and also Indian War; the catch of fort Ticonderoga through Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold throughout the Revolution, and the fight of Plattsburg during the war of 1812, when Capt. Cutting board Macdonough trounced the brother in among the decisive naval battles of the conflict.

During the 19th century, Burlington, the largest city follow me the lake (40,000 as of 1995), to be America"s third-busiest hardwood port. Situated in between the Adirondacks of new York and the environment-friendly Mountains that Vermont, the 400-foot-deep lake to be filled at very first by seawater native the Atlantic. That still consists of a 500-million-year-old coral reef, the world"s oldest.

"It"s not as big as the other an excellent Lakes," states Jason Bushey, that is studying the lake"s geology and ecology in his fifth-grade course at Edmunds elementary school in Burlington. "But look in ~ me. Smaller can be better."

Informal links in between researchers in Vermont and also the great Lakes claims are numerous. College of Wisconsin scientists have actually studied Champlain"s fish population. A vermont researcher works through the university of Michigan in his studies of mercury contamination. Professors in both locations take a ribbing from ocean researchers, who acquire the mass of the research money and prestige.

"I love the good Lakes, so this conflict is a little uncomfortable come me," says Al McIntosh, a college of vermouth professor who spent summers on Lake Michigan together a teen-ager and also now research studies chemical pollutants in Lake Champlain. "We are currently a good Lake in a research sense, because the lakes are so comparable in your environments."

Those similarities become evident during a visit come the Lake Champlain naval Museum in basin Harbor, Vt. Art Cohn, a expert diver that directs the museum, has searched because that shipwrecks in the good Lakes, participated in an historical study that Lake Ontario and worked v a historical society in Wisconsin.

Now the he is conducting a inspection of shipwrecks ~ above Champlain"s bottom, Cohn says he is recognize a farming infestation the zebra mussels, a striped, thumbnail-sized mollusk native Europe that appeared in the an excellent Lakes in 1988 and also spread come Champlain in 1993, clogging pipes and disrupting ecosystems.

Phosphorus from farm yard runoff, i m sorry produces birds blooms, is a major concern in Champlain and also the other great Lakes. Officials in ~ all 6 lakes worry about pollution"s effect on their similar fish stocks, which encompass trout, bass, walleye and northern pike.

Even Vermont"s favourite summer treat, served at roadside stands, has actually a acquainted name: the Michigan -- a warm dog smothered in mustard and also meat sauce.

Lake Champlain has one feature the various other Greats lack: Champ, the local answer to the Loch Ness monster. When scientists think Champ is a myth, the old stole mine town of port Henry, N.Y., calls itself "the house of Champ," and the vermont Legislature has passed a legislation protecting the giant, hump-backed serpent from fishermen.

"Champ"s a friendly monster," claims Donna Holt, a restaurant owner who claims she experienced the monster swim previous her ago yard 15 year ago. "I would certainly love to have actually him come up next to my boat and play."

Champlain"s new status has actually also noted Vermonters, from maple tree tappers come Ben & Jerry"s scoopers, an chance to display off your sharp, but sweet, wit.

The Burlington cost-free Press -- noting that Vermont has actually been dubbed the "West shore of new England" and also that that is Quechee canyon is a really cool canyon -- suggests that travel officials push for an ext legislation.

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Tom Bove II, assistant manager that Champ auto Wash, says with a wink the his state "has a number of other lakes that are pretty great."

Out top top a frozen ar of Lake Champlain, ice fisherman Mike Alarie choose up his five-gallon bucket and also admires the sunset end the Adirondacks.