The Dismal Swamp Canal is an alternate route along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW), connecting the Chesapeake Bay with the Albemarle Sound. The AIWW provides pleasure boats with a protected inland channel between Norfolk, Virginia, all the way to Miami, Florida. The Canal is on the National Register of Historic Places as a Historic Landmark, noted as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, and has received the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Designation. The Welcome Center is home to a 150’ face dock that provides a rest stop to nearly 2,000 boaters yearly.
~ Dismal Swamp Canal Update ~
Dismal Swamp Canal Restricted Reopening
Effective at 8:30 AM on October 31, 2017, the locks at Deep Creek, Virginia and South Mills,
North Carolina 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 AM, 11:00 AM, 1:30 PM, and 3:30 PM seven days per 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 channel 13.
The latest surveys of AIWW-Deep Creek, AIWW-Dismal Swamp Canal, and AIWW-Turners Cut
are available at: http://www.nao.usace.army.mil/HydroSurveys/. Boaters are advised to review these
surveys and of the following conditions:
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 and red 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. A remaining shoal south of Joyce Creek has been marked with
green and red stakes to show the channel where the canal narrows to approximately 40 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 still open 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 November removing shoals along the toe of the canal. 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 refer to the Coast Guard Local Notice to Mariners,
contact the lock operator, or call the Norfolk District office at 757-201-7642.
Keith B. Lockwood
Chief, Operations Branch
The historic Dismal Swamp Canal was closed last October, due to massive damage from Hurricane Matthew. The Canal will finally reopen on Tuesday. Unfortunately, due to a perfect storm of conditions, we have never seen the Canal this thick with Duckweed. As boater’s have complained of this weed causing an issue, in the past, for their passage through the canal, we are attaching photographs of the current conditions at our location near the center (10/27/17). Conditions appear to change daily.
This has been a challenging year for the Dismal Swamp Canal, but we look forward to better days ahead.
FAQ & Additional Information
- South Mills Lock | 252-771-5906 | 8:30 am • 11:00 am • 1:30 pm • 3:30 pm
- Dismal Swamp State Park Bridge Schedule | The pedestrian bridge at the state park will open as your vessel approaches or by sounding your horn. The bridge is left in the open position when the park is closed.
- Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center | Provides a 150′ face dock and allows tie-up on a first-come, first-served basis. Boats are allowed to stay overnight and restrooms are open 24 hrs a day.
- Arbuckle’s Landing | USACE maintains this small face dock near the entrance of the Feeder Ditch for overnight tie ups.
- Deep Creek Lock | 757-487-0831 | 8:30 am • 11:00 am • 1:30 pm • 3:30 pm
- Elizabeth City Bridge Schedule | 252-331-4772 | 7:30 am • 8:30 am • 4:30 pm • 5:30 pm
*Between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm, and after 5:30 pm this bridge opens on demand.
- 18 miles between Elizabeth City and South Mills
- 17 miles between Deep Creek Lock and Welcome Center
- 5 miles between Welcome Center and South Mills lock
- 22 miles between South Mills and Deep Creek
- 40.5 miles from Elizabeth City to Deep Creek
The canal is a no-wake zone
- 3 hours to reach the Welcome Center from Deep Creek
- 1 hour to reach South Mills
- Total transit time of the Canal is 4 hours
The canal has a controlled depth of 6 feet. For the latest updates on water levels click HERE.
The Dismal Swamp State Park offers canoe/ kayak rentals for your enjoyment of the canal in NC waters, with access/launch beside the State Park bridge. (Car-top vessels only). Call 252-771-6593 for availability and more information.
Lake Drummond is a beautiful 3,000 acre natural fresh water lake in Virginia in the heart of the Dismal Swamp. Lake Drummond Reservation is located in the heart of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and accessible from the Feeder Ditch approximately 7 miles north of the Welcome Center and 3 miles west from the Canal. This one acre site offers primitive camping, restrooms (seasonal non-potable water) and picnic shelters. This site is managed by the USACE.
The Feeder Ditch is approximately a quarter mile to the south of the Ballahack Road Boat Ramp in Chesapeake, VA. (Chesapeake Parks, Recreation and Tourism maintains and manages this boat ramp and parking lot). The distance from the Canal to the Reservation (campground and spillway) is approximately three miles, and another half mile to the entrance of Lake Drummond. Paddlers/small boats must portage across this small one acre site to pass the spillway.
To explore other paddle sites in Northeastern NC, the Albemarle Resource Conservation and Development Council offers paddle trail maps to assist with trails and access points. Visit Albemarle Regional Paddle Trails for additional trail maps and information.
Camden County’s Paddle Trails:
Click here to view North Carolina’s Boating Access Area-Guide: Access Areas Provide a Free Launch.
- Sawyer’s Creek Ramp: US Highway 343 North in Camden County
- Camden Point: US Highway 343 South in Camden County
- Lambs Marina: US Highway 158 in Camden County
- Dog Corner Park and Waterfront Park Ramps: Elizabeth City Waterfront – There are height restrictions at Dog Corner Park
- The Sawmill Park Ramp: Weeksville
To view the multiple page and latest version of the NC Coastal Boating Guide Map click here.
To view the large map version of the NC Coastal Boating Guide Map click here.
Visit NC Wildlife Resources Commission tor additional information.
Fishing is allowed in the Canal, but not on the Welcome Center/Rest Area property managed by NC DOT. Seek permission for sites located in the Dismal Swamp State Park before casting lines. Fishing along the Canal on the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail (in Camden) where public access is available is permissible. A current NC fishing license is required. The Canal is a federal waterway with boating traffic and managed by the USACE.