The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is a 3,000-mile (4,800 km) inland waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States, running from Boston, Massachusetts, southward along the Atlantic Seaboard and around the southern tip of Florida, then following the Gulf Coast to Brownsville, Texas. Some sections of the waterway consist of natural inlets, saltwater rivers, bays, and sounds, while others are artificial canals. It provides a navigable route along its length without many of the hazards of travel on the open sea. Many species of plants and animals can be seen along the path of the ICW.
In 1808, the first federal government report on existing, possible, and likely avenues of transportation improvement was presented; it included much of the distance where the ICW now traverses the Atlantic coast. In 1802, at the request of the Senate, Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin presented an overall plan for future transportation developments of national importance and scope.
Along with inland east–west improvements, Gallatin’s north–south improvements included the following:
The map of the United States will show that they possess a tide water inland navigation, secure from storms and enemies, and which, from Massachusetts to the southern extremity of Georgia, is principally, if not solely, interrupted by four necks of land. These are the Isthmus of Barnstable, that part of New Jersey which extends from the Raritan to the Delaware, the peninsula between the Delaware and the Chesapeake, and that low and marshy tract which divides the Chesapeake from Albemarle Sound. … Should this great work, the expense of which, as will hereafter be shown, is estimated at about three millions of dollars, be accomplished, a sea vessel entering the first canal in the harbor of Boston would, through the bay of Rhode Island, Long Island Sound, and the harbor of New York, reach Brunswick on the Raritan; thence pass through the second canal to Trenton on the Delaware, down that river to Christiana or Newcastle, and through the third canal to Elk River and the Chesapeake, whence, sailing down that bay and up Elizabeth River, it would, through the fourth canal, enter the Albemarle Sound, and by Pamlico, Core, and Bogue sounds, reach Beaufort and Swansborough in North Carolina. From the last-mentioned place, the inland navigation, through Stumpy and Toomer’s sounds, is continued until a diminished draught of water, and by cutting two low and narrow necks, not exceeding three miles together, to Cape Fear River, and thence by an open but short and direct run along the coast is reached that chain of islands between which and the main the inland navigation is continued, to St. Marys along the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. It is unnecessary to add any comments on the utility of the work, in peace or war, for the transportation of merchandise or the conveyance of persons.
Chesapeake’s history goes far back into Virginia’s colonial roots. The Intracoastal Waterway passes through Chesapeake. On the waterway, at Great Bridge where the locks transition from the Southern Branch Elizabeth River to the Chesapeake and Albemarle Canal lies the site of the Battle of Great Bridge. This American Revolutionary War battle was responsible for removing Lord Dunmore and any other vestige of English Government for the Colony of Virginia during the early days of the American Revolution on December 9, 1775.