Today’s trip was really interesting. We headed up the Dismal Swamp Canal towards the Chesapeake Bay. This place is both beautiful and eerie. As you can see from the pictures, the canal is narrow, with trees much taller than our mast. It is the first major canal project ever undertaken in the U.S.
The purpose for the canal was to harvest all the great lumber in the swamp. Can you believe this 19-mile canal was originally dug by hand. It was done by the Dismal Swamp Canal Company between 1793 and 1805. George Washington was one of the original investors. Slaves, hired from surrounding plantations, were hired for the digging. There was no such thing as a steam shovel yet.
The canal was narrower and shallower than today. Just enough to float rafts of logs and small boats. During the dry season it would dry up and be shut down. With the invention of the steam shovel, the canal was dug deeper and wider by 1829.
In 1929 the canal is purchased by the U.S. Government, and then dug to today’s 50-foot width.
For tonight we are tied up at a rest area which has the canal on one side, and highway US-17 on the other. We were the novelty today. Many people had to come down and look at the sail boat docked at the rest area.