Intracoastal Waterway

The Intracoastal Waterway 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.

The waterway runs the length of the Eastern Seaboard (Maine to Miami, Florida), from its unofficial northern terminus at the Manasquan River in New Jersey, where it connects with the Atlantic Ocean at the Manasquan Inlet, to Brownsville, Texas. The waterway is toll-free, but commercial users pay a fuel tax that is used to maintain and improve it. The ICW is a significant portion of the Great Loop, a circumnavigation route encircling the Eastern half of the North American continent.

The creation of the Intracoastal Waterway was authorized by the United States Congress in 1919. It is maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Federal law provides for the waterway to be maintained at a minimum depth of 12 ft (4 m) for most of its length, but inadequate funding has prevented that. Consequently, shoaling or shallow water are problems along several sections of the waterway; some parts have 7-ft (2.1-m) and 9-ft (2.7-m) minimum depths. The waterway consists of two non-contiguous segments: the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, extending from Brownsville, Texas to Carrabelle, Florida, and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, extending from Key West, Florida to Norfolk, Virginia (milepost 0.0). The two segments were originally intended to be connected via the Cross Florida Barge Canal across northern Florida, but this was never completed due to environmental concerns. Additional canals and bays extend a navigable waterway to Boston, Massachusetts.

The Intracoastal Waterway has a good deal of commercial activity; barges haul petroleum, petroleum products, foodstuffs, building materials, and manufactured goods. It is also used extensively by recreational boaters. On the east coast, some of the traffic in fall and spring is by snowbirds who regularly move south in winter and north in summer. The waterway is also used when the ocean is too rough to travel on. Numerous inlets connect the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico with the Intracoastal Waterway.

Natural bodies of water

The following natural bodies of water are included in the Intracoastal Waterway system:
*Albemarle Sound
*Apalachicola Bay
*Barnegat Bay
*Biscayne Bay
*Buzzards Bay
*Cape Cod Bay
*Casco Bay
*Charlotte Harbor
*Chesapeake Bay
*Delaware Bay
*East River
*Galveston Bay
*Gulf of Maine
*Halifax River
*Laguna Madre
*Mississippi Sound
*Mobile Bay
*Mosquito Lagoon
*Pensacola Bay
*Indian River Lagoon
*Long Island Sound
*Pamlico Sound
*Santa Rosa Sound
*Tampa Bay

Canals

Major freight canals

*Cape Cod Canal
*Chesapeake and Delaware Ship Canal

Other canals

*Chesapeake and Albemarle Canal
*Dismal Swamp Canal
*Cape May Canal
*Delaware and Raritan Canal-no longer operational or part of the Intracoastal Waterway
*Point Pleasant Canal

ee also

*Waterways along and crossings of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
*Waterways along and crossings of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway

External links

* [http://www.usace.army.mil/inet/usace-docs/misc/nws83-10/toc.htm US Army Corps of Engineers - Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway information site]
* [http://www.atlintracoastal.org/ Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association]
* [http://www.discoverec.org/ Elizabeth City Area Convention & Visitors Bureau]
* [http://www.gicaonline.com/ Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association]
* [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/GG/rrg4.html Gulf Intracoastal Waterway] at Handbook of Texas
* [http://www.tv.com/modern-marvels/atlantic-intracoastal-waterway/episode/881952/summary.html?tag=episodes;title;4&om_act=convert&om_clk=episodessh TV.com listing for Modern Marvels episode]
* [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9042641/Intracoastal-Waterway Intracoastal Waterway] , Encyclopædia Britannica


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