Below, you will see a recent discussion about navigating the AICW Alternate Dismal Swamp Canal Route, as of June, 2013, which appeared on another nautical mailing list. There’s some really GOOD cruising advice here, particularly concerning the free dock near the Deep Creek Lock.
As always, those who run the Dismal should plan on taking it slow, to avoid stirring up any underwater debris. If you are in a hurry, this is not the route for you, but, if you have the time, the Dismal Swamp Canal route is a fascinating ecological experience. And, the warm reception for cruisers at the free Elizabeth City, Mariner’s Wharf (City) Docks is a HUGE bonus!
We are heading southbound..yep, the wrong way. Never been through the Dismal Swamp. It appears to be 43 miles from Top Rack marina to Elizabeth City via the Dismal Swamp Route.
Has anyone ever done this in one day..all the way through?
Yes, but the way to make it easy on you coming south is to go thru the Deep Creek Lock last locking of the day and stop at the free dock(sometimes called Elizabeth’s or Robert’s Dock) just south of the lock chamber but before the bridge. Then pass thru the bridge at the first locking the next day to get to Elizabeth City thru before last locking at the south lock.
The canal has a speed limit and 5.4 knts perfect for lock timing) (wakes can severely damage the wooden canal banks.and is narrow enough you don’t want to do a lot of passing.
The free dock up by Deep Creek Lock has deep water and easy walks to the strip mall restaurants, CVS, Winn Dixie Supermarket, Advance Auto, etc. on the other side of the canal. All these resources make it a great waiting place beating out the crowded Visitors Center or even Elizabeth City. This along side dock is super protected, has deep water 8′, no power but has water and trash barrels and a par course.
We much prefer the gentile laid back Dismal to the faster but busier Virginia Cut with all it’s delivery Captain Yacht traffic, commercial traffic and restricted Bridges that must be timed correctly..
Good points all around.
In a full displacement deep draft boat like we had, we had to go slower than the speed limit on the southern end of the swamp. You know you’re going too fast when you pull all the water away from the shore and suck up logs off the bottom.
Yes, [you] can make the entire distance in one day. Just be at the first lock when they open and average around 6 mph. You can catch the last opening of the lock on the way out. You can go a bit faster in the first half of your trip going south because the water is deeper. The second half, you’ll need to go a tad slower because you’ll suck debris (dead logs and crap) off the bottom. Anyone following you should be aware.
We did it in one day going north. Got to the last lock with about thirty minutes to spare. They opened the bridge so we could stay on the long dock that evening.
It would be a shame to rush through the Dismal Swamp Canal without taking time to visit Lake Drummond in your dinghy. Look up Lake Drummond on Wikipedia and then ask the lockmaster at Deep Creek to tell you about the little dock you can hang on right by the feeder ditch that leads up to the lake. After your trip to the lake you can run down to the Visitors Center and tie up for the night. Well worth it!
Yes, it’s an easy day.
You can stay at Top Rack, or the free dock, at the Deep Creek Canal or anchor overnight in the channel above Deep Creek Lock, or go through and stay at Elizabeth’s Dock or go through the bridge and stay at the Mexican Restaurant dock at Deep Creek. Lots of options. In any case, it’s 22 miles from Deep Creek to South Mills. If you go through at 08h30, you’ll travel at 5 StM/hr or less to make the opening at 13h30 on the other end. That puts you into Elizaabeth City before the afternoon bridge restrictions, and probably early enuf to get a slip at this time of year.
First I would like to say, take your time in the Dismal. When going South I go through the first lock during the last lock of the day and when you pass under the open bridge, to your port side will be a concrete wall. Tie up there for the night. You can walk to the grocery store to provision and there is an automotive store, if you need anything of the sort. Then you can leave at daybreak, BEFORE anyone else! Your chances of seeing much more wildlife is spectacular. There is an option to spend the night on a small dock across from the feeder ditch. You can take your dink to the lake, over a rail system ( kind of like big shoot for a dink) and explore. Take a GPS, everything looks the same out on the lake. This will get you into the visitor center early and give you time to explore the area. Be sure to sign the boaters log at the visitors center and pick up your free gifts. Also free water here. Next morning follow the boats into E city. If there is five or more new boats arriving they will have roses for the lady’s and complimentary wine/beer and cheese. E City is a MUST stop….and it is free!
Whatever you choose, getting through the first lock in the evening for an early start will get you to E City the same day. It’s the journey, not the destination.
Knot Tide Down
The tram at Lake Drum is out of service. Just passed it today. Unfortunately, had to push through to last bridge and bridge tender could/would not open. Currently tied to South Mills Bridge. Scary trying to get dog off onto walking bridge. All part of the journey!