Monday, January 11, 2010

Dismal Swamp Canal

I had read about tea-colored water, but never seen it. Acidified by natural tannins in the surrounding cypress and juniper trees, it doesn’t support algae like the water of the Chesapeake, but the esthetics take some getting used to. Reportedly the water was prized for sailing ships in the old days because it could be kept sterile for a long time. They say it’s safe to drink ,though we didn’t try it. We tied up at the Welcome Center at the North Carolina state line along with many of the boats we’d locked through with. We’d been told that this is often the case, you’re all traveling the same direction and stopping in roughly the same places, so you’ll see the same boats again and again. The welcome center folks provided lots of info, and the dockmaster from Elizabeth City, the next logical stop for tomorrow and famed among cruisers for its hospitality, even came by to assure us he had lots of space for us all, and we were invited to a wine and cheese party. So the next morning early we were up, headed for the next lock and bridge. This lock was down: when we pulled in the depth sounder read 22 feet, by the time we exited the lock there were only 14 feet of water under us, and we came out onto the Pasquotank River. Narrow and winding at first, it gradually widened as we continued south. It looked more like what I thought of as “swamp,” too. We arrived at Elizabeth City in early afternoon and it was every bit as hospitable as it's reputation - more about that tomorrow.

(photo 1: Dawn on the Dismal Swamp Canal; photo 2: the canal water's color; photo 3: the Dismal Swamp)
(originally published 24 October 2009)

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