Comments and Descriptions of Great Dismal Swamp Canal, AICW Alternate Route, NC
Our thanks to AGLCA members for this nice thread regarding their recent experiences navigating the Great Dismal Swamp Canal and visiting Elizabeth City, both CRUISERS’ NET SPONSORS! The Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center Docks and information are provided at the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center, a NC DOT Rest Area facility, located adjacent to the Dismal Swamp State Park, offering trails, exhibits and ongoing programs in Camden County, NC. Elizabeth City and Mariners Wharf is located on the Pasquotank River off the northeast corner of Albemarle Sound and at the southern end of the Dismal Swamp Canal Route.
We came thru Dismal 10 days ago…water was less beautiful as lots of pollen on water then. Also additional risk to prop hitting submerged snags, but you are seeing history on rivers & canal trip. You also get to soend a couple minutes with Bob at the North Lock! BOB is a HERO to boaters. At North end of locks if you are there early you can tie up to landing before draw bridge before lock and do a quick shop in the Supermarket a block east or run over to Pizza + for an exceptional lunch.
The dismal swamp is used by slow boats with no schedule. The is a six Stm per Hour speed limit, and the dockmaster will enforce that. It is shallow, but a 6′ draft boat without exposed running gear can easily do it without issues. I recommend that boats not follow another boat at less than 1/2 to 3/4 mile. That way, if the first boat does pick up debris off the bottom, that debris will have time too settle back down before the following boat arrives.
We came through the Dismal Swamp a month ago. It’s our preferred route for the reasons cited by Ben and Brenda. We had no issues.
There are locks at Deep Creek (the lockmaster at Deep Creek is ROBERT Peek, not Bob.) and South Mills. The locks operate four times per day, at 08h30, 11h00, 13h30 and 15h30. The distance between the locks is 22 miles. There is no good place to hold station at either end, so the strategy is to travel at 5 StM per Hour to avoid getting there early. There are no wakes. The Dismal Swamp canal is narrow, and in general, passing is probably inappropriate. Fast boats do not use the Dismal Swamp.
The Albemarle and Chesapeake route is used by go-fast boat with no courtesy for slower vessels. Two of the drawbridges have been replaced, but there are still several bridges that operate on 1/2 hour or 1 hour schedules. The is one lock, at Great Beidge. It operates on an hourly schedule. You will get waked by go fast boats. Secure for that stretch as if you are going offshore in nasty weather conditions.
Hope this is useful,
Hands down, Dismal Swamp Canal. Only recrational boats, and not many, in Our experience. Beautiful, serene, lots of birds, turtles, deer. Don’t miss it! The Virginia Cut (which includes Coinjock) is fine, but lots of commercial traffic and sports fisherman.
To add to our original post, if you are opting for the swamp canal and plan to stay at the city’s free Mariner’s Wharf, I think it has a 48 or 72 hour limit. That in mind, the 4th of July and Independence Day festivities are approaching so you might want to scurry in. There are a couple of marinas but have never used them. We happened to be in Elizabeth City on the 4th several years ago and the fireworks were launched off a barge a 100 yards or so behind the docks towards the sound so pull bow in. There will also be festivities on the lawn adjoining to waterfront. Haven’t been there for two years and the only concern was the old crooked mooring pilings but they may have replaced them by now when the new bridge was built.
I Stand corrected… I think the Rose Buddy welcome crew was re-birthed. The lady of the boat was welcomed with a fresh cut rose grown on sight.
Went through 3 days ago. Beautiful narrow and shallow. Bumped something 8 to 10 times. Have 3 ft draf and protected props. Stayed overnight at welcome center. Have plenty bug spray and fly swatter the green flies are terrible and hurt. We enjoyed the slow beautiful trip.
Elwyn & Carol Segres
We came through yesterday and today and overnighted at the visitors centre. Lowest water we saw was 6.5 ft but we smacked a couple of large logs, the worst of which was 1.5 miles north of the visitors Center. We sat on idle for most of the trip so we don’t think we stirred them up but we do draw 5ft.
Great trip but we will go the Virginia Cut on the way south.
We came through in April and anchored off Goat Island because the southern lock was down for the day. Then rafted with 5 other boats at the Visitor Center and waited out a severe storm for two nights. Dodged a bit of flotsam along the way. But would not have missed this part of the journey for all the steak in the world – the trip through the swamp is simply magical.
AND Lockmaster Bob is a skilled musician with a conch shell – if you have one on board, pass it up and ask for a tune or two.
Breandon and Kathleen
When traveling down the Dismal Swamp, stay to the center of the channel OR drop your VHF antenna if it has an air draft of >=22ft. We wandered to the side and tore ours off 3 years ago. Forgot about the overhead clearance of the tree branches! Otherwise, it was a very nice trip.