Dismal Swamp Canal Reopens Just in Time - PassageMaker
Snowbird Boaters Once Again Docking at NC Welcome Center

After more than a year of being closed, the Dismal Swamp Canal on the Intracoastal Waterway has reopened, and just in time for the fall snowbird migration. The canal reopened on Tuesday and the first boats docked at the canal's Welcome Center, shown above.

The Canal connects Norfolk, Virginia and Elizabeth City, North Carolina. It is a popular alternative to the Virginia Cut route.

“Recent weather events have delayed progress, and the latest condition survey of Turners Cut showed that additional dredging was needed,” said Keith Lockwood, Norfolk District Operations Branch chief.

Officials closed the canal in October 2016 after Hurricane Matthew toppled more than 350 trees into the waterway, and sediment – washed into the canal from rain and flooding – created extensive shoaling along the 22 miles of the canal, the Deep Creek Channel and Turners Cut Channel. Since then, crews have cleared trees and dredged the canal, which, in places, was at a depth of 1 foot.

"In the history of the canal, we've never had this issue, and we're using every available resource to make the canal safe again for vessels," said Joel Scussel, Norfolk District Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway project manager.

Donna Stewart, director of the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center in South Mills, said about 1,800 boats usually navigate the canal annually. She said that while the canal is open, the surface is coated with green duckweed.

Duckweed floats on or just beneath the surface of still or slow moving bodies of fresh water and wetlands. It spreads easily and can become abundant on the surface of the water. Stagnant water and heat are needed for this plant to grow.

Duckweed floats on or just beneath the surface of still or slow moving bodies of fresh water and wetlands. It spreads easily and can become abundant on the surface of the water. Stagnant water and heat are needed for this plant to grow.

“No boats have been moving, so the duckweed kind of took off and grew quite heavily this year,” Scussel said. “There's so much we can do about that. Hopefully some of the cold weather and rain will wash some of the duckweed down.”

Only a 25-foot-wide section of the canal is completely passable, but Scussel says he expects dredging to restore it to 50-feet by spring.

The locks at Deep Creek, VA and South Mills, NC will return to their normal operating schedule to accommodate vessels desiring to use the Dismal Swamp Canal (Route 2) of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. The locks will be operated at 8:30 a.m., 11 a.m, 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. seven days a week. The drawbridges adjacent to these locations will operate as normal and in conjunction with the lock openings. 

Vessels are allowed to moor overnight in the canal. There will only be one operator at Deep Creek and one at South Mills, so the bridge will not be manned when the lock is being operated, and vice versa. Locks and bridges monitor VHF-FM channel 13. The latest surveys of AIWW-Deep Creek, AIWW-Dismal Swamp  

This is information about the canal from the Army Corps of Engineers:

a) AIWW-Deep Creek Channel north of the Deep Creek Lock currently has a controlling depth of 5.5 MLLW at centerline.b) AIWW-Dismal Swamp Canal currently has a controlling depth of 6 feet at centerline and 50 feet wide except at the Big Entry Ditch (MM #13)and the Feeder Ditch (MM #22) where the width narrows to approximately 25 feet wide. These shoaled areas have been marked with green andred stakes to show the channel. Due to the narrow channel, only one vessel can pass in these two areas of the canal at a time.c) AIWW-Turners Cut Channel just south of the South Mills Lock currently has a controlling depth of 5.9 feet at center line and 80 feet wide. Aremaining shoal south of Joyce Creek has been marked with green and red stakes to show the channel where the canal narrows to approximately40 feet wide. Due to the narrow channel, only one vessel can pass in this area of the Turners Cut at a time.d) Duckweed is currently heavy in the Dismal Swamp Canal. Boaters should clean their strainers as needed. The Lake Drummond Reservation is stillopen to visitors using canoes and kayaks; the boat tram is still inoperative.e) Norfolk District Corps of Engineers crane barge will continue working in the canal until the first week in Nov removing shoals along the toe of thecanal. Additional dredging is being scheduled for this winter in the Deep Creek Channel and early next spring in the Dismal Swamp Canal.

Those planning to use this route are advised to contact the lock operator or call the Norfolk District office at 757-201-7642.  

Related