Tuesday, March 6, 2012

the canal

I will never tire of visiting the Dismal Swamp Canal.  I have driven often along the path of the canal for the last twenty some years and almost without fail I will pull off of the highway and walk to edge of the ditch dug by hand over 200 years ago.  Maybe I'll be there for just for a few minutes, maybe sometimes more.  Spring, summer, fall and winter, I find it to be a beautiful place.

I have gone up and down the full length of the canal just one over the years, it was with my friend Paul on his 34' sailboat.  I have canoed stretches of the old waterway.  And I have even hitch-hiked the canal, catching brief rides with people I did not know until they kindly invited me aboard.

The canal starts in Deep Creek in Chesapeake, the town where I live.  It head south along the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp to a set of locks in South Mills and then to Turners Cut where it spills into the Pasquotank River a few miles north of Elizabeth City.

Along the waterfront of Elizabeth City the Pasquotank widens and turns southeast towards Albemarle Sound.  Twenty years ago I kept my old boat, the original Spartina at a dock in Elizabeth City.  That dock was over near the metal buildings at the right in the photograph above.

Someday I should take Spartina down the Old Dismal Swamp Canal.  Maybe late in fall when the leaves are turning and the last of the snowbirds are passing through on their way south to warm weather.  A couple of days on the canal, calm water reflecting the deep blue sky.

I will never tire of the Dismal Swamp Canal.



Baydog said...

Winter, spring, summer or fall
There's a swamp, they it call dismal
And she'll be there, yes she will...
You've got a friend

Steve said...

Good to know I'm not the only one stuck in the 70's. But let's face it, music was better back then. steve

Bill said...

Wow, seems like a neat thing - but it also looks surprisingly narrow.

How big a boat could one take down the full length of the canal? Are the charts to be trusted as far as stated depths?

Bill said...

Oops - I just noticed you said you did it in a 34' sailboat.

Steve said...

Bill, large boats - big sailboats and trawler style powerboats traverse the canal routinely when it is open. Right now it is closed because of routine maintenance on the South Mills locks. And there are times, typically late summer in drought years, when the canal closes due to low water. The rule is to check with the Army Corps of Engineers heading to Deep Creek where the canal begins. If I have a choice between the Dismal Swamp Canal and the Chesapeake-Albemarle Canal, I take the Dismal Swamp every time.


Shawn Stanley said...

Bill, my family did it in our Catalina 30 (5' 3" draft) in the early 80's from Solomons and back in 17 days with 4 other boats. I'd like to do it again as an adult and captain of my own ship (even if it is the same ship!) I seem to remember lots of windless motoring in the canal itself with the awning up, and an early morning or two to get thru the Norfolk bridges before rush hour when they would cease to open for us.

I didn't realize it then, but I sure am glad we did it with an Atomic4 and not a noisy diesel!

Great trip..I'd really like to do it again and take my wife with me some day.