Waterways of Chesapeake

The historic Dismal Swamp Canal connects southeastern Virginia to northeastern North Carolina and is recognized as the oldest, continuously operating waterway in the United States. Originally built in the early 1790s, the canal historically served as a trade route from Virginia to North Carolina. Today, the canal is part of the Intracoastal Waterway and hosts pleasure boaters navigating their way between the Chesapeake Bay and the Albemarle Sound.

Nearby Lake Drummond feeds the Dismal Swamp Canal and controls its overall depth. Minimum canal depths average 6 ½ feet with the canal, its locks and bridges accommodating watercraft up to 50 feet wide and 300 feet in length.

The 22-mile canal flows through the heart of the Great Dismal Swamp, offering explorers magnificent terrain views and glimpses of its diverse wildlife. Atlantic white cypress trees line the canal banks as deer, river otters, and the occasional black bear romp in this outdoor refuge. Travelers navigating the canal during spring and fall migration can spot migratory, neo-tropical birds passing through the region during their bi-annual pilgrimage.

The Dismal Swamp Canal's two locks and bridges operate 365 days a year, weather conditions permitting. The two locks that bookend the Dismal Swamp Canal operate four times a day at 8:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains the canal as part of the Intracoastal Waterway.

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