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Dismal Swamp Canal

Location: Chesapeake, VA, USA
Date: 1805
Creator(s): Dismal Swamp Canal Co., U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The Dismal Swamp Canal was created as a 22-mile waterway, extending from Deep Creek, Virginia to South Mills, North Carolina. The canal enabled North Carolina producers of building and agricultural products to deliver goods to the Port of Norfolk where they were transferred to ocean-going vessels.   

The system included seven locks and was excavated completely by hand labor. It is 50 feet wide and up to 9-feet deep. Virtually all original structures related to the canal are now gone, yet this oldest surviving artificial U.S. waterway is an example of post-Revolutionary enterprise and engineering. Today, the canal serves as a scenic landmark along the Intercoastal waterway.   


  • Enabled the produce of eastern North Carolina to be transported to Norfolk and shipped on ocean-going vessels.
  • Availability of the canal for transport of lumber and materials contributed to the government's decision to build America's first dry dock in Norfolk. 
  • Passenger and freight vessels used the canal extensively up until the early 20th century.  
Tags: Era: 1800-1829
Innovation designated by:
Dismal Swamp Canal
Photo by Edwin S. Grosvenor (CC BY 2.0)
Dismal Swamp Canal
Chesapeake, VA, USA

36.556667, -76.380556

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