Dismal Swamp Canal To Reopen Under Restricted Conditions

Oct 30, 2017

The Dismal Swamp Canal will reopen Tuesday under restricted conditions. The Army Corps of Engineers closed it more than a year ago, after damage from Hurricane Matthew.

Donna Stewart, director of the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center in South Mills, says almost 400 trees fell on the canal, and nearby ditches were inundated.

“Because of the force of the amount of water that we received, it created shoals -- or sandbars, so to speak -- so that a boat could not get through,” Stewart said.

Stewart said about 1,800 boats usually navigate the canal annually.

“So, if you can imagine, a 50-foot-wide canal, a six foot navigational depth, if there's 400 trees down, they can't get through,” she said.

The trees have been cleared, according to Joel Scussel, of the Army Corps of Engineers. But there's a layer of green duckweed overtop of the canal that could pose a nuisance to vessels.

“No boats have been moving, so the duckweed kind of took off and grew quite heavily this year,” Scussel said. “There's so much we can do about that. Hopefully some of the cold weather and rain will wash some of the duckweed down.”

The Corps has been dredging, but only a 25-foot-wide section of the canal is completely passable, said Scussel, adding that he expects dredging projects to restore it to 50-feet by spring.