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Old 12-10-2012, 07:50   #16
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

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Are these canals existing waterways that have been dredged and widened or are they totally man made?
Totally man made back in the late 1700's. It was the water link between the Albemarle and the James River (think Richmond). It was a "toll waterway" as was common back then and it was a private enterprise. The Virginia cut was built later to compete and was taken over by the government and expanded in the 1900's with the enhanced Great Bridge lock and the ICW. Later on the Dismal was purchased as well and it is considered a part of the ICW link and is now really maintained to 6 ft. In prior years the 6 feet became really only about something under 5 ft but at 5 ft you could bump along.

The recent dredging to a nominal 9 ft and recent cleanup now makes it much smoother and I feel is a solid 6 ft as planned. The northen 5 miles was not "raked" last month because they ran out of time but the worst of the wood was the southern end. I did not see much wood in the north end but there must be some still. They dragged a giant "rake" 2 feet below the maintained 6 ft depth. If you saw the barge that did the work you would wonder how it got through the canal. It was a big rig for sure! It's like a barge married to a tug so it has power to do a lot of what the Army Corps of Engineers need to do on the waterways.

You still need to be mindful in Turners Cut that connects the upper Pasquotank to the dismal swamp canal below the southern lock. It is generally 9 ft plus and wider but has more wood and snakes around a fair bit after the cut. I found I could do 6 knots and watch for logs but it is something to watch out for. The entire ICW has the same problem too. Lots of crap in the water! As mike notes the lake maintains the water level and the 35 depth of the "bog" keeps the the whole place wet. The ends each have a dam so the swamp is really higher than either water level. The restrict the lock times so the place will maintain the water level.

Mike, I thought I saw indications that the RR to Lake Drummond was out of action. There has been no work on the feeder system.

We came north up the Virgina Cut on Thursday and for the next few days it will have high winds. It's not a fun time between Great Bridge and Coinjock, NC when the wind kicks up. It does not look that big on the map but the Albemarle can kick your behind when it decides to do so.
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Old 12-10-2012, 08:35   #17
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

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Originally Posted by carstenb View Post
My boat is 2.1 meters deep (say 7 feet) Is it dredged that deep?
I took 5'8" through in May and bumped in soft stuff twice.
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Old 12-10-2012, 08:59   #18
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

Made me want to rename the boat African Queen.
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Old 12-10-2012, 13:18   #19
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

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Made me want to rename the boat African Queen.
Some rapids would be nice.
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Old 12-10-2012, 15:25   #20
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

Well, I'm almost through. I'm anchored in the Canal just north of the South Mills bridge. One of my guides says you can tie up to the fenders just north of the bridge, but new signs say no mooring to fenders. In another great display of government wisdom they put the docks between the lock and the bridge. Of course the bridge only opens when you're locking through. So if you miss the last lock though for the day you cannot reach the dock to tie up and wait for the lock through the next morning, you have to anchor in a 75 foot wide canal. The docks at the welcome center were already rafted a couple deep. I guess I could have tried to raft one more but my cat would have blocked the canal. I guess it wouldn't have mattered since there's no place to go.

This was my first time through the dismal canal and I really didn't see any shallow (<6) water, though I did hit one snag. There were a few floating logs, but none were very big. The problem was you couldn't tell how big they really were until you were right on top of them. While dodging one of these small pieces, I negelected to pay attention to the other hazard in the canal, the air draft. Trees often hang out 15-20 feet from the sides of the canals and some of their branches aren't all that high and stick out much further. I managed to clean my windex off of the top of my mast with one such branch. In a sailboat watch the sky as well as the depth sounder.

As I said this was my first time throgh the canal and frankly I've not been all that impressed. I was hoping to see some wildlife, but what we saw was 1 snake, 6 turtles, 1 green heron, 2 vultures and 1 bald eagle. Oh yea, 1 dead opossum floating. The other thing we saw or should I say didn't see was swamp. The dredge material from the canal has been piled in a berm on the west side of the canal and completely blocks any view of the swamp itself. This may seem like wild and woolies to people who don't get out of the suburbs much but it's not much for real nature lovers. I found the Coinjock route much nicer from a wildlife point of view. I'm hoping that the Pasquatank south of the lock will be better than what we've seen so far with regards to wildlife.

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Old 12-10-2012, 15:29   #21
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

Some other things I forgot. There was a sign at the feeder ditch that said the railroad was closed. Also there was no hotel at the NC-VA state line, at least there was not one that was visible from the Canal.
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Old 12-10-2012, 16:08   #22
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

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Actually, it is far from boring. Lots of beautiful wildlife -- prehistoric-looking trees, turtles, herons, snakes, even gators.
I have lived in eastern Virginia my whole life and have never heard of any gators being here. I have only heard them only as far north in the New River in NC. What makes you say they are in the Dismal swamp?
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Old 12-10-2012, 16:25   #23
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

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Some other things I forgot. There was a sign at the feeder ditch that said the railroad was closed. Also there was no hotel at the NC-VA state line, at least there was not one that was visible from the Canal.
We were anchored next to you last night and in the lock with you this morning!
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Old 12-10-2012, 16:29   #24
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

I talked to one of the rangers at the visitor center when we passed through in May. I was a bit incredulous that there was an Alligator River so far north, and I asked if gators actually lived up this far. She was very knowledgeable about them -- and said, yes; and they do exist in the Great Dismal Swamp. She mentioned that they can only grow when the temps are above 70F, so Great Dismal alligators are smaller than Florida ones.

I confess I didn't sight any myself, but she seemed to know what she was talking about.
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Old 12-10-2012, 16:34   #25
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

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We were anchored next to you last night and in the lock with you this morning!
Yes you were. I believe I saw you at the welcome station dock as we went by. I guess we'll see you in the morning going out. I'll be sure to introduce myself and the admiral.
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Old 12-10-2012, 19:07   #26
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

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Originally Posted by CCBullseye View Post
I have lived in eastern Virginia my whole life and have never heard of any gators being here. I have only heard them only as far north in the New River in NC. What makes you say they are in the Dismal swamp?
I have seen them at Alligator River Wildlife refuge..I have seen the reintroduced Red Wolfs in Manns Harbor also...Saw a black bear too...
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Old 12-10-2012, 21:56   #27
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

The museum in Elizabeth city has the remains of a civil war boat that was scutteled in the canal to avoid capture, a "Coast Guard wing" and is better than most first class cruiser entertainment. Stay at the free dock, have free wine and cheese and see the free museum...a boaters paradise free free free...the Coinjock route is great too.
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