The Intracoastal Waterway



The Intracoastal Waterway was a continuous canal that started out connecting Jacksonville with Miami, Florida. The Coast Line and Canal Transportation Company dug out the areas around the lagoons and islands that blocked boats from passing through. This opening of the canal happened between 1883 and 1912. The Army Corp of Engineers now maintains the clearing of the manmade canals. The waterway takes the danger out of travel by providing a safer inland route.

Two sections of the Waterway exist: the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. Until 1947, many different projects proposed to connect the coastlines around the US together. The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway stretches from Boston, Massachusetts to the St. John River in FL over 2000 miles. This main waterway was an idea of Secretary Albert Gallatin. Though the project began in 1808, it never reached completion until 1930. As its use changed, from commerce to recreation, the dredging of the original depth ceased. The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway stretches 1050 miles from Florida to Texas. Large ships can use this waterway easily. The canal is 12 feet deep and 125 wide complete in 1949. The canal faced lots of opposition as the years passed.  The idea began in the early 1820s. No tolls existed for canal use.

Before the planners built the waterway, colonialists knew of the hazards to their ships and boats from sand bars and other debris that locked the islands making passage impossible. Until the development of communities and the need to trade existed, this form of transportation was not necessary.

Often the canals fill with sand and rocks. Clearing must take place. Two organizations work in conjunction to keep the canals open: the Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) and the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND). With the buildup of sand and rocks, transportation along the canals becomes dangerous. Damage to boats and ships can occur.

The work of clearing the canal in Florida takes place in four areas. Some of the areas only need clearing twice a year while others may see as many as eleven. In 1882, the canal was three feet deep. In 1889, the depth requirement dropped to five feet and the width dimension was fifty feet. This includes the entire canal, between the St. Johns River and Biscayne Bay. In 1927, the canal became eight feet deep and 75 feet across. The Act was called the River and Harbor Act.

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