Category Archives: Chesapeake and Delaware Canal

Author leads tour on the Intracoastal (without leaving the hotel)

Last year, I led my first tour on the Intracoastal Waterway about this time of year while aboard the ubiquitous WaterTaxi in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The participants were Road Scholars, a program devised by the Cambridge, Mass., non-profit organization that launched ElderHostel some years ago, today a worldwide lifetime learning program.A Road Scholar trip on the Intracoastal

Participants ranged in age from 50 to 75 who want something out of travel ,than just travel, a destination, and maybe the city bus tour with some history but mostly humor and tales my grandmother would never tell me.  The groups are comprised of highly intelligent former or current teachers, engineers, doctors and other professionals. The Road Scholar people think of everything to make the trip comfortable, interesting, and educational.  On the Intracoastal Waterway boat tour last year, I had a headphone and each Scholar had his or her own set of wireless, adjustable, channelized ear buds that masked out undesirable waterway noise, so that each Scholar could hear me–or not.

This year we were without our WaterTaxi, but we decided to use the ear buds anyway for comfort.  I gave a seventy-five minute talk on the history of the Intracoastal using PowerPoint slides that tell the story of how Florida got its section of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, a privately owned tollway before the Army Corps of Engineers assumed control and removed the six toll chains in 1929.  No one went to sleep during my talk.  Not one.  The venue for my lecture, The Riverside Hotel, could not have been more accommodating.  I’ll give four more lectures there in the coming weeks to more Road Scholars spending a week here.

The rest of the lineup is spectacular.  Patsy West, a leading expert on the Seminoles, will lecture on our Native American history and provide lunch in her charming turn-of-the-last-century Dade County pine, vernacular-style home on the New River.  Elliot Kleinberg, writer for the Palm Beach Post and author of numerous books on Florida history, including his award-winning book on the 1928 hurricane that devastated Palm Beach County and the Everglades, will also lecture in his energetic, humorous style. The Road Scholar people definitely have their act together.  Their online brochure even identifies activities by physical exertion level so you know ahead of time whether a particular tour is something within your capabilities.  If you’re looking for entertaining and educational travel plans, this program is for you. Look at their website near the time you’d like to travel. They have hundreds of listings throughout the country and the world.  Listings are subject to cancellation depending upon interest.

Website: http://www.roadscholar.org. The author has no financial interest in these travel programs. The author is paid an honorarium for each lecture just as he has been paid by other organizations for lectures at other times and places.

Steamer “Saint Lucie,” early 1900’s

Steamer "Saint Lucie" on the Indian River (passengers only), early 1900's. Courtesy, Florida Photographic Collection, State Archives, Tallahassee, Fla.

Steamer “Saint Lucie” on the Indian River (passengers only), early 1900’s. Courtesy, Florida
Photographic Collection, State Archives, Tallahassee, Fla.

Sometime in 1896 or 1897, the Steamer Saint Lucie joined the Steamers “Saint Augustine,” “Saint Sebastian,” and “The Swan” in plying the waters of the Indian River. The Indian River and Bay Biscayne Inland Navigation Company, an affiliate of the Florida canal company constructing the ICW, purchased these vessels from the bankrupt Indian River Steamboat Company. Between constant repairs and an uneven business along the unfinished waterway, it was only a matter of time before this new steamboat company would abandon the business in the early 1900’s.

St. Augustine’s anchoring and mooring pilot program tested | StAugustine.com

St. Augustine’s anchoring and mooring pilot program tested | StAugustine.com.

Under a state pilot program, St. Augustine enacted an ordinance requiring boats to moor at least fifty feet from the navigable channel of the Intracoastal Waterway. One man who has lived aboard his sailboat for eleven years filed suit challenging the law in federal court.

Under federal maritime law, the federal government has the right to establish mooring rights within the Intracoastal Waterway and its tributaries. The federal supremacy clause makes federal law the supreme law of the land.

Generally, regulation of the use of the Intracoastal Waterway depends upon whether or not the federal government has preempted state and local law by enacting federal law over various uses of the waterway. However, the State of Florida owns the bottom lands of the Waterway by right of sovereignty under federalism. Unless the federal government intervenes in various uses, local governments may set speed limits for marine vessels, for example, transiting the waterway.

Court watchers await the final decision of the United States Supreme Court if the matter reaches that level of judicial authority. The author of this blog believes the federal government will prevail. In the absence of a uniform federal law on mooring, the author envisions scores of municipalities each with a confusing mishmash of differing mooring laws along the waterway.

Back to the future: the Chesapeake and Delaware River Canal

Completed in 1829 during the first great Canal Era when arguments over Constitutional restraints kept Congress from using Federal taxpayer money to fund inland waterway construction, a private company completed the 17-mile waterway between the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays.

The original waterway was a tollway ten feet deep and sixty-six feet wide, with a boat channel thirty-six feet wide. It had four locks, each 110 feet long and 22 feet wide, later enlarged to 220 feet long and 24 feet wide.  The canal system later gave way to the faster and more economical railway by the time of the Civil War.

Today, the Canal has 5 fixed bridges and one lift bridge.  The four locks have been removed. The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal serves as an important inland link in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Boston to Miami.

To see a short film of a boat transiting the Canal, Tap on this: