Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Great Dismal Swamp Canal

[Maryanne]The ICW from Norfolk, South, has two routes. We chose the less direct route through the Dismal Swamp Canal.... Now I know that doesn't sound attractive, but it really is on several fronts. The Swamp is pretty (remember also we just passed through industrial river frontage - to travel through dense woodland is a huge lift to the senses (for the positive)). Also, because of wake restrictions and limited lock opening times, the large power boaters don't go this way - so the whole experience is much more civil than the alternative. This was our first time here on the boat, but we had been here a couple of times before (by car) to explore the trails (Kyle even saw a black bear here once so we kept our eyes open on this trip!).

Deep Creek Lock Tender plays the Conch Shell

We were at the first lock (Deep Creek lock) ready for the morning opening along with 7 or 8 other boats. The lock raises 8-12", and the lock keeper (Robert) was really helpful and friendly - complete with a Conch trumpet farewell as we left the lock and entered the canal (Robert collects Conch shells, if you are passing through he'll be pleased to accept them). The locks have been on restricted opening times due to a large (over 2400 acre) underground fire that raged for months, and subsequent low water levels due to firefighting efforts. As of tomorrow (22nd October) they are back to normal, 4 times a day.

One very straight Canal

To look at the canal on a map, you would be struck by the VERY STRAIGHT lines of it. 32 miles long, with just one slight bend around mile 23; at least it is hard to get lost! On route there is a visitor/welcome center with all the history of the canal (surveyed and supervised by Washington - 25 miles. Initially we had planned to stop there for half and hour or so, but the morning locking was delayed, and then took a lot longer than we had anticipated (over an hour) - so we skipped the welcome center and forged ahead. We were one of only two boats to make the 1:30 opening at the next lock.

On exiting the 2nd lock, we entered Pasquotank River. Here, the width of the channel opened up and the channel begins to bend and wind with the river. We enjoyed stunning scenery, bright sunshine and the place to ourselves. This stretch was our favorite of the day. We made Elizabeth City for the 5:30 bridge opening, and were tied up at the Town docks in time to meet up with our good friend Ron, who we met at Ocean Marine, and who now lives in this area.

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