Several years ago, I participated in the making of a documentary shown on the History Channel called, appropriately, “The Intracoastal Waterway.” The writer/assistant producer and I discussed the accuracy of some of the information in the documentary. Before filming in Miami, he sent me the script and questions he was going to ask me via Email on PowerPoint. Our major point of contention was the length of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).
My historical research indicated that a continuous inland waterway had first been conceived as stretching from Maine to Key West. For political reasons, the longest reach seemed to attract the greatest number of supporters and the least number of opponents. The problem with that approach is the large number gaps in continuity. For example, after the stretch from the tip of the Florida peninsula to Norfolk, Va., the waterway runs into open water without protective barrier islands. And indisputably, there is mostly open water south from Miami to Key West, dotted with “keys” along the way.
The History Channel billed the program as the Intracoastal Waterway from Cape Cod to Miami. While the Cape Cod Canal is still a project of the Corps of Engineers as it was when Congress authorized its purchase in 1927, it is for all practical purposes not a continuous waterway from Miami, Florida.
The map above is helpful because it divides the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway into sections under the supervision and control of various districts of the Corps of Engineers for all federal purposes from Miami, Fla., to Norfolk, Va.