Boating/Paddling 2017-09-15T13:41:00+00:00

Boating Information

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 ~

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Norfolk District Public Affairs

September 15, 2017

NORFOLK, Va. – Officials at the Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have delayed reopening the Dismal Swamp Canal until late October.

“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.

In August, the Norfolk District announced the canal would re-open at the end of September.

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.

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.

Lake Drummond Reservation Information

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:

Pasquotank River & Sawyers Creek

Dismal Swamp Canal

Indiantown Creek

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.

The North Carolina Albemarle Loop (AL) offers the boating public with an exciting opportunity to cruise and explore  the protected waters of the historic Albemarle Sound.  

If you have any other questions, please contact us

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