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Old 08-12-2019, 06:56 AM   #1
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Dismal Swamp ICW route...WTF!

So, after using the VA cut to make the trip south and back north for almost 40 years, I’ve wanted to take the Dismal Swamp route to see what it was all about. Well, we finally have a boat that is setup for cruising and this was one of the first things we wanted to do.
I’ve heard and read positive and negative things about it, anywhere from “we take the Dismal Swamp route every time” to “ Never again”.
I’m pretty sure we fall into the latter category.
Headed South, the lock tender Harry at Deep Creek was very friendly and had lots of information and trivia. We locked through on Sunday morning at the first opening ,8:30,and had an enjoyable and trouble free experience most of the way. We seemed to be the only boat on the canal which was ok with us.
After crossing the state line, we started noticing some duckweed. Farther south at the NC welcome center there had obviously been a recent storm since there was debris in the canal and some small vegetation stuff recently toppled into the canal. The duckweed was thick but no worries. We got to the lock where Frank the tender informed us to watch out for trees in the waterway. Well Frank, how correct you were! Click image for larger version

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We were off to a fun start!Click image for larger version

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“Wow , look at the duckweed , honey!”Click image for larger version

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“Woah, look at those trees in the channel!”
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“Wow that one was close”
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“Damn , what in the hell am I supposed to do here???”
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“That wasn’t worth a shit...we drug branches on both sides of the boat! I hope we can get the hell out of this canal!”Click image for larger version

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“F this! Ok Liz. We’ve seen the Dismal Swamp now. Never again!”
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Old 08-12-2019, 07:45 AM   #2
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Tough time of year....


October through April it has always been easy with a boat like yours.


Many of the trees that fall across you can glide over in neutral as the branches are not much more than twigs....but I can see how worrying about guessing can sour someone.


I just dislike the ignorant and large wake making traffic on the other route...and lack of good anchorages if your arrival times are a little off.
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Old 08-12-2019, 08:04 AM   #3
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I knew this wouldn’t be a good time of year regarding vegetation and I wasn’t too concerned about the majority of it... hell I told my wife we might need to tie a line to some of the fallen stuff to clear a path, but if it’s going to be designated a navigable waterway, there should be an effort to keep the waterway clear. There was no notice to mariners , no indication of anything to cause concern by anyone but the lock master mentioning to lookout for trees in the waterway!
To me, a small amount of persistent worry at all times makes me a more prudent boater. That’s just me though.
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Old 08-12-2019, 08:17 AM   #4
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If you think of it as the Virgnia Cut as the "highway" that supports commercial traffic, and the Dismal Swamp as a country lane for sightseeing.... you get both the flavor and understanding of maintenance.
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Old 08-12-2019, 08:33 AM   #5
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Old 08-12-2019, 08:54 AM   #6
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That first pic is beautiful. I've never seen Dismal Swap Canal is such a sad shape.
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Old 08-12-2019, 09:27 AM   #7
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Speaking of notices to mariners, just remember it takes a sighting report by SOMEBODY to the USCG to get one generated.
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Old 08-12-2019, 09:53 AM   #8
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Shawn, WOW! Thanks for the post. My wife and I were planning on taking the Dismal Swamp in a couple weeks but after your post we'll take the Virginia route.
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Old 08-12-2019, 02:49 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by David Kimmel View Post
Shawn, WOW! Thanks for the post. My wife and I were planning on taking the Dismal Swamp in a couple weeks but after your post we'll take the Virginia route.


David, that is exactly why I made the post. Had I been forewarned we probably would've thought long and hard about taking the Dismal Swamp route at this time. Hindsight , I'm glad we did it BUT ... I'm glad it's done.
Probably I will post my thoughts on the city dock in Elizabeth City but right now, we're in Manteo enjoying a couple of days!
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Old 08-12-2019, 03:08 PM   #10
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David, that is exactly why I made the post. Had I been forewarned we probably would've thought long and hard about taking the Dismal Swamp route at this time. Hindsight , I'm glad we did it BUT ... I'm glad it's done.
Probably I will post my thoughts on the city dock in Elizabeth City but right now, we're in Manteo enjoying a couple of days!
Did the Swamp end of last April. It was idyllic. Virtually no duckweed and no debris in the waterway. Is duckweed more prevalent in the summer? We wiil be taking the Swamp route again next trip south.
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Old 08-12-2019, 03:10 PM   #11
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Was that just recently? When is the "tough time of year" in the Dismal Swamp?
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Old 08-12-2019, 03:41 PM   #12
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Greetings,
Mr. b. We've done the Dismal several times and never without a few phantom "bumps". No idea what we hit but no damage done. In spite of your experience, I still much prefer that route over the Coinjock section.


Mr. cj. I would guess the duckweed grows better in the warmer summer water.
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Old 08-12-2019, 04:08 PM   #13
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I go through with the trawler in April and October. Have taken the charter boat through in June. Never any duckweed. They were doing more clean up and tree trimming when I went through in April. That's more tree parts than I've seen in maybe 8 trips through the Dismal.

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Old 08-12-2019, 04:42 PM   #14
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Haven't done it and no desire in it's current condition. It seems to me the cautionary information given you by the lock tender was quite understated and I wouldn't consider it a navigable waterway based on your photos. I would think one has a difficult time appreciating the scenery when worrying about debris, weeds, and trees the entire time.

I would recommend diving or having a diver check all intakes after that trip and making sure your water flow to A/C and other is still good. Plus check props and drives for any possible damage.
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Old 08-12-2019, 05:24 PM   #15
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Interestingly this popped up this morning

https://www.passagemaker.com/destina...l-closed-storm
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Old 08-12-2019, 05:28 PM   #16
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Quote:
and lack of good anchorages if your arrival times are a little off.
I don't understand this comment; there are a variety of free docks and places to anchor on that route.

Having seen almost all of the Dismal by car, bike and hiking path and canoe, never had the desire to take the big boat. Most of it is just a tree-lined ditch next to 17 though I did enjoy the bike path. Everyone with appropriate draft should do it once, I suppose; I guess i just did it a little differently.
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Old 08-12-2019, 05:41 PM   #17
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Greetings,
Mr. c. "...just a tree-lined ditch...". Indeed it is but I consider the Visitor's Center (VC) a destination, of sorts. We quite enjoy the interpretive center and the boardwalk that is across the floating bridge from the VC. You might even spot the 'gator(s).





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Old 08-12-2019, 08:12 PM   #18
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Greetings,
Mr. c. "...just a tree-lined ditch...". Indeed it is but I consider the Visitor's Center (VC) a destination, of sorts. We quite enjoy the interpretive center and the boardwalk that is across the floating bridge from the VC. You might even spot the 'gator(s).





Don't try this at home kids!
We stop there often as its primary function is a highway rest area. We do like the park across the way as well.
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Old 08-12-2019, 08:13 PM   #19
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During the optimal time of year (spring and fall), it's usually a very nice trip for boats under 50'. It also has an interesting history. If your goal is to travel dock to dock as fast as you can, those of us who enjoy the leisurely pace, greater selection of wildlife, and a nice stop at Lamb's or Elizabeth city, would encourage you to take the Albemarle and Chesapeake canal.

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Old 08-13-2019, 06:28 AM   #20
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This might explain the UNUSUAL fallen tree situation.....


TEMPORARY CLOSURE
DISMAL SWAMP CANAL
ATLANTIC INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY

The Dismal Swamp Canal of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway is temporarily closed due to storm damage in South Mills, North Carolina, on August 9, 2019. The locks at Deep Creek, Virginia, and South Mills, North Carolina, and the drawbridges on US Route 17 will return to their normal operating schedule when trees blocking the waterway are removed.


The Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal, through the Great Bridge Lock in Chesapeake, Virginia, will be open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Operators monitor Channel 13. Those planning to use the Dismal Swamp Canal are advised to refer to Coast Guard Notice to Mariners, contact our lock operators at 757-547-3311, or call the Norfolk District office at 757-201-7642.

Keith B. Lockwood
Chief, Operations Branch
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