IntraCoastal Waterway



The IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW) is a 4,800-km (3,000-mile) waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. Some lengths consist of natural inlets, salt-water rivers, bays, and sounds; others are man-made canals. It provides a navigable route along its length without many of the hazards of travel on the open sea. Partly natural, partly artificial, it provides sheltered passage along the U.S. Atlantic coast from Boston, Massachusetts, to Key West, South Florida, and along the Gulf of Mexico coast from Apalachee Bay, North West Florida, to Brownsville, Texas, on the Rio Grande. 

The toll-free waterway, authorized by the United States Congress in 1919, is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers at a minimum depth of 12 ft (4 m) for most of its length; some parts have 7 ft (2.1 m) and 9 ft (2.7 m) minimum depths. Among some of the waterway's most often used canals along the Atlantic route are the Chesapeake & Delaware and the Chesapeake & Albemarle; along the Gulf route the most used are the New Orleans-Rigolets Cut, the Port Arthur-Corpus Christi Channel, and the Inner Harbor Navigational Canal at New Orleans. The separate Okeechobee Waterway, South Florida, crosses the Florida peninsula. Plans to build a canal across North Florida to link the Atlantic and Gulf sections were blocked in 1971 by a Presidential Order to prevent potential environmental damage. 

Many miles of navigable waterways connect with the coastal system, including the Hudson River-New York State Canal System, the Chesapeake Bay, the sounds of North Carolina, the Savannah River, the Apalachicola River, and the entire Mississippi River system. The ICW is a significant portion of the Great Loop, a circumnavigation route encircling the Eastern half of the North American continent.


To circumnavigate the Great Loop, or just cruise part of the Great Loop or the IntraCoastal Waterway, call Bob Taylor at 540.242.4885 or 800.671.7806.

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Last updated 20 May 2013
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