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Old 11-10-2012, 19:08   #1
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Doing the Dismal Swamp!

Just got back from a trip that included a trip through Dismal Swamp on the VA/NC border. OK, the name makes it sound like anything else but GREAT! Over the past year plus it's gotten a lot of love by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Last year they moved a lot of sand out of it and as we entered the lock weeks ago at the north end of the canal the Elizabeth (a work barge) was leaving. They were reported to have hauled out 1,000's of metric tons of wood from the canal over the southern 3/4 length. As my depth sounder noted I saw nothing under 6 feet the whole way and it's almost bank to bank.

It's a great alternative to the Virginia Cut down the ICW as you can stay at the Vistors Center (free) and 2 nights in Elizabeth City (free).

To get there a wood sign in the Elizabeth River after the Gilmerton Bridge directs you down Deep Creek. Lock times are such that the early bridge opening after rush hour is 9:30 AM about 5 nm up river from Portsmouth, VA. You then are 3 nm from the Gilmerton Bridge to the lock in Deep Creek for an 11 AM opening. At 5 knots you'll be at the welcome center at about 2 PM including lock/bridge time (45 minutes). You have a similar Bridge and lock at the other end too. The guys at the locks are really nice!

I know a lot of folks have had reservations about the canal but it is a pretty trip and the South Pasquotank is quite pretty with a few anchorages worth the trip alone. With the recent work done is it a worthwhile part of US history. George Washington was an investor on this deal and made some money on it. From Elizabeth City, NC it's about the same distance across the Albemarle as Coinjock, NC. Side trips to Edenton and Manteo are also well advised. We found the folks there MOST friendly.
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Old 11-10-2012, 19:48   #2
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

Nice info ! Thank you very much ! it's back on our list now !!
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Old 11-10-2012, 20:03   #3
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

It's been 15 years since I went through last, but +1 on it being worth while!
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Old 11-10-2012, 20:09   #4
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

Glad to know they have dredged it, it used to be too shallow for many sail boats. Isn't there some bridge height limitations?
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Old 11-10-2012, 20:27   #5
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

Doing it tomorrow morning.
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Old 11-10-2012, 21:02   #6
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

Our trip up the Dismal Swamp canal was a truly magical experience that I rank in the top 5 things I've done with about and might even put it as #1. It might have changed as our trip 40 years ago but kind of doubt it except xmaybe our adventure at the very end. It was dark by the time we got to the cut off that put us back on the ICW. we missed the turn and steamed ahead on the part of the dismal swamp that had Ben abandoned till we ran aground literally in a barnyard. we had cows and the wonderful scent of manure, chickens and at least one pesky rooster that couldn't tell time. when we woke up, we were an underhanded stones throw Farmer John's menagerie surrounded on three sides by land. Easily kedged out of the muck in the morning but had to dig the Danforth out it had so thoroughly buried itself. A short trip back the way came, a left turn and we were back in 20th century from the 18th. It felt like time travel. We did it in midsummer so it was hot but weren't bothered too much by bugs and traffic was a only couple of power boats and a large bobtail pusher tug.

We ran aground a bunch in the little time we spent inside coming up from Fla. but had no problems except the end with running aground in the Dismal Swamp cut. of course we only drew 4'. That was four decades ago and things sometimes change.
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Old 11-10-2012, 21:09   #7
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

The southern part was magical, with eagles circling overhead. A bit further north, the road runs along one side, so you don't get the feeling of being in the wilderness. Definitely not dismal.
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Old 11-10-2012, 21:17   #8
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

Quote:
Isn't there some bridge height limitations?
You need to pass the lift bridges at either end that are operated by the locks. They need to run back and forth so there can be a short delay. There is only one fixed bridge on the canal that is 65 ft.There is room to pass for two sail boats. Two grand banks trawlers might be entertaining but I think even that is possible even if it might be an adventure.

There is a state park at the visitors center so the stop is worth while. One interesting note is there is no power at the visitors center dock but the "non potable" water located on the face of the bulkhead really is the same water as in the building. It's some building code issue but the water is safe if you need to take on water. When many boats are there rafting off can go all the way across to the other side. Since the last lock is at 4:30 PM it's a safe thing to do. No one can get in or out after 4:30. You can anchor in the canal. It's very protected and I know people have weathered where the winds would have been 50 knots in the Virginia Cut.
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Old 11-10-2012, 21:18   #9
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

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Originally Posted by roverhi View Post
Our trip up the Dismal Swamp canal was a truly magical experience that I rank in the top 5 things I've done with about and might even put it as #1. It might have changed as our trip 40 years ago but kind of doubt it except xmaybe our adventure at the very end. It was dark by the time we got to the cut off that put us back on the ICW. we missed the turn and steamed ahead on the part of the dismal swamp that had Ben abandoned till we ran aground literally in a barnyard. we had cows and the wonderful scent of manure, chickens and at least one pesky rooster that couldn't tell time. when we woke up, we were an underhanded stones throw Farmer John's menagerie surrounded on three sides by land. Easily kedged out of the muck in the morning but had to dig the Danforth out it had so thoroughly buried itself. A short trip back the way came, a left turn and we were back in 20th century from the 18th. It felt like time travel. We did it in midsummer so it was hot but weren't bothered too much by bugs and traffic was a only couple of power boats and a large bobtail pusher tug.

We ran aground a bunch in the little time we spent inside coming up from Fla. but had no problems except the end with running aground in the Dismal Swamp cut. of course we only drew 4'. That was four decades ago and things sometimes change.
I went thru in 1984...
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Old 12-10-2012, 04:42   #10
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

For those who haven't gone through the swamp, just stare at this all day to live the experience. . .

Actually, it is far from boring. Lots of beautiful wildlife -- prehistoric-looking trees, turtles, herons, snakes, even gators.
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Old 12-10-2012, 04:57   #11
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

Are these canals existing waterways that have been dredged and widened or are they totally man made?

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Old 12-10-2012, 05:04   #12
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

My boat is 2.1 meters deep (say 7 feet) Is it dredged that deep?
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Old 12-10-2012, 05:09   #13
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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?

Pete

I think it was manmade -- during the Revolutionary War!

I have a friend whose fiance' accidentally sailed their schooner -- right through one of the wooden walls and into the swamp itself! Special talent, that ... that was some years ago.

Does it still even have any wooden walls?
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Old 12-10-2012, 05:24   #14
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

It was originally hand-dug (by slaves), and not very deep. Once in use, a hotel used to straddle the state line...when the VA authorities showed up, the gambling and/or drinking would shift to a room on the NC side, and so on. A fun trip is to dinghy up the feeder ditch to Lake Drummond and use the little tiny marine railway to pull your dinghy into the lake. I've also anchored in the middle of the canal after the last lock time...wonderful experience. Love the upper Pasquotank cruise and anchorages, and Eliz City with their friendly "wine" and "cheese" parties. If you draw less than 6' and air less than 65', and your not in a screaming big hurry (bad idea anyway), the Dismal Swamp is a must. Hint: If you're doing the Carolina Loop in the spring or fall, be sure to go with the flow: Dismal Swamp south if fall, north if spring. The VA cut part is wider with a lot more traffic in each direction.
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Old 12-10-2012, 07:33   #15
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Re: Doing the Dismal Swamp!

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Originally Posted by Waterway Guide View Post
It was originally hand-dug (by slaves), and not very deep. Once in use, a hotel used to straddle the state line...when the VA authorities showed up, the gambling and/or drinking would shift to a room on the NC side, and so on. A fun trip is to dinghy up the feeder ditch to Lake Drummond and use the little tiny marine railway to pull your dinghy into the lake. I've also anchored in the middle of the canal after the last lock time...wonderful experience. Love the upper Pasquotank cruise and anchorages, and Eliz City with their friendly "wine" and "cheese" parties. If you draw less than 6' and air less than 65', and your not in a screaming big hurry (bad idea anyway), the Dismal Swamp is a must. Hint: If you're doing the Carolina Loop in the spring or fall, be sure to go with the flow: Dismal Swamp south if fall, north if spring. The VA cut part is wider with a lot more traffic in each direction.
I belive someone has reopened or rebuilt a place on the waterway where they have a dinner theater and/or they have an old paddle boat that they use for tours ,or maybe it was a dream! cant remember !
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