June 3 – Sun
Today we traveled 51 miles from Elizabeth City North Carolina to Portsmouth Virginia.
In addition to crossing the state line into Virginia, it was a special day that we had anticipated for quite some time – It was The Dismal Swamp Day !
The Dismal Swamp is a 22 mile long man-made canal which connects Elizabeth City & the Albemarle area of North Carolina to Virginia & all of the ports in the Chesapeake Bay.
The history of the canal is as follows ;
> It is the oldest man-made canal in the United States, opened in 1805 !
> In the Colonial period, water transportation was the lifeblood of North Carolina & Virginia.
> The landlocked sounds were entirely dependent upon poor overland tracks or shipment along the treacherous Carolina coast to reach markets through Norfolk, Virginia.
> In May 1763, George Washington made his first visit to the Great Dismal Swamp and suggested draining it and digging a north-south canal through it to connect the waters of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and Albemarle Sound in North Carolina.
> As the first president, Washington agreed with Virginia Governor Patrick Henry that canals were the easiest answer for an efficient means of internal transportation and urged their creation and improvement.
> In 1784, the Dismal Swamp Canal Company was created.
> Work was started in 1793.
> The canal was dug completely by hand; most of the labor was done by slaves hired from nearby landowners.
> It took approximately 12 years of back-breaking construction to complete the 22-mile long waterway.
> The Dismal Swamp Canal opened in 1805.
> The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers currently operates and maintains the canal.
> The Dismal Swamp Canal is one of two inland routes connecting the Chesapeake Bay and the Albemarle Sound (the other being the Virginia Cut).
> About 2,000 recreational boaters transit the canal each year as they pass through the Intracoastal Waterway (this year including Gettin’ Looped).
> The canal is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated a National Civil Engineering Landmark.
> The historic canal is now recognized as part of the Underground Railroad and along with the Great Dismal Swamp, is noted as a former sanctuary for runaway slaves seeking freedom.
> The canal was closed October 2016 to boating traffic after Hurricane Matthew caused a flash flood in Chesapeake VA. The runoff from this storm filled the canal with silt and sand, making it impassable.
> The necessary dredging for navigation on the canal was completed November 2017 to a depth of approximately five feet, and reopened for a short time before closing again, due to being inundated with duckweed (note , Loopers could not travel this route last year)
> The duckweed clogs the intakes on power boats, quickly causing them to overheat. The Elizabeth River runs almost parallel to the canal, and was not affected by the 2016 flash flood, being much wider and much deeper than the canal. The ICW has remained open during all of this via the Elizabeth River and the North Landing River.
Ok, enough of the history lesson, here is our Dismal Swamp Story.
The day started nice, with No Rain and light winds for take off.
As soon as we left Pelican Marina, we had the Elizabeth City Swing Bridge to pass thru.
It was important that we get thru the bridge by 8am, to make an 11:00am lock opening at the South Mills Lock.
The 2 locks we would go thru today (South Mills & Deep Creek) only open at 8:30am, 11:00am, 1:30pm, & 3:30pm.
The start of the ride approaching the Dismal Swamp Canal was great – with deep water (9-12ft), speeds of 8-10mph, and pretty views.
We arrived at the South Mills Lock & Bridge about 10:15am (45 minutes early) , and had to tie up to the mooring post while waiting for the bridge tender & lock master (the same guy operates both the lock and bridge, driving 5 minutes from one to the other).
After the South Mills Lock & Bridge, we entered The Dismal Swamp Canal 22 mile strait-away (man-made by slaves in the late 1700s / early 1800s) !
About half way into the canal, we passed The Dismal Swamp Canal Visitors Center.
We had planned to visit the center, but the canal water depths went down to 5-6ft, with LOTS of debris, and we had to slow our speed to only 5-6 mph (from previous 8-10mph).
At 5-6mph, we were at risk to meet the 3:30pm last lock opening for the day.
After passing the Visitors Center, the Canal got a whole lot tighter on width, shallower on depth, and had a LOT more debris. We heard/felt at least 4 heavy knocks on the underbody of the boat. So far, no lingering abnormal vibrations.
There was also a somewhat pretty water flower display attempting to block the path.
We saw an old house labeled as ” The ICW superintendents House”
Now I understand why the ICW is not maintained so well.
We passed the state line from North Carolina into Virginia.
There were several road side parks, the Dismal Swamp Canal runs right along highway-17.
Prior to reaching lock #2, the Deep Creek Lock & Bridge, we encountered yet another major rain storm, with very hard rain. = https://youtu.be/hGN7SzjANDQ
Luckily, the rain storm lessened to a sprinkle as we reached the Deep Creek Lock.
At least one of us stayed dry in the flybridge !
After the Deep Creek Lock & Bridge, we saw an interesting ICW sign. We had not seen anything like this , anywhere else on the ICW.
Finally we arrived in Portsmouth.
We did not research much about Portsmouth, we will be here only 1 night.
But from the photos, it appears to be like many port towns, heavy into commercial water traffic & Naval Ships.
It has been a long day !
As Porky Pig said ” a that, a that, a that’s all folks”
Next Stop = The Salt Ponds Marina in Hampton Virginia.
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