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The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway is the great "ditch" that provides protected passage from its beginning — Mile 0 — at Norfolk, Virginia, through the beautiful Carolinas and our next door neighbor, lovely historic Georgia and into Florida. Our state line is in the St. Mary’s entrance at about Mile 712. In our fair state that passage continues from Fernandina to land’s end at Key West. The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway provides similar passage up the Gulf Coast and across the Panhandle with gaps only past the western Everglades and up the Big Bend Coast.
It’s not really a ditch, but a series of natural rivers, bays, lakes, sounds and lagoons connected by canals, dredged to commercial depths and marked with red markers on the right from Jax to Panama City. ICW nav aids feature a yellow mark to distinguish them from harbor, private channel and river markers. The ICW is unique among the world’s recreational waterways, yet recreation was the farthest thing from its builders’ motives. In roadless pre-rail Florida, the ICW was the main — and often ONLY — artery, plied by sail and steam boats carrying everything from southbound settlers to northbound pineapples.
The waterway was conceived in the mid—1500s by Spanish Colonial Governor Manuel de Montiado to move troops to defend his colony at St. Augustine. Construction did not begin, however, for about 300 years. In 1853 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) dug through the Indian haulover between the Mosquito Lagoon and the Indian River to open the stretch between New Smyrna Beach and Cocoa. The 1855 Florida Legislature offered land grants to developers to complete the waterway. In the post-hurricane bust of 1927 the legislature created the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND) to take over the project, and in 1935 the COE opened the last cut to complete the 525-mile (in Florida) Atlantic ICW as we know it. (Continue...)
To visit any of our delightful “Coasts,” simply click on a section title on this map, which willl take you to the first page of its cruising guide narrative text. For other pertinent info, mouse over the “FCD Interactive” button on the navigation bar to the left and choose from the options that fly out.
Cruising Florida's Waterways
Nowhere on earth have geology and technology combined to present boatpeople with a finer cruising environment than the Intracoastal Waterways that circle the state of Florida... waterways that welcome cruising boats from kayaks to megayachts with equanimity and hospitality.
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