Intracoastal Waterway is a 4,800-km (3,000-mile)
waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of
Some lengths consist of natural inlets,
salt-water rivers, bays, and sounds; others are man-made canals. It
provides a navigable route along its length without many of the
hazards of travel on the open sea.
waterway runs for most of the length of the Eastern Seaboard, from its unofficial
northern terminus at the Manasquan
River in New Jersey, where it connects with the Atlantic Ocean
at the Manasquan Inlet, then around the gulf of Mexico to Brownsville, Texas.
waterway is toll-free, but commercial users pay a fuel tax
that is used to maintain and improve it.
The ICW is a significant portion of the Great
, a circumnavigation route encircling the eastern half of
the North American continent.
The creation of the Intracoastal Waterway was authorized by the
United States Congress
1919. It is maintained by the United States Army Corps
. Federal law provides for the waterway to be
maintained at a minimum depth of 12 ft (4 m) for most of its
length, but inadequate funding has prevented that. Consequently,
shoaling or shallow water are problems along several sections of
the waterway; some parts have 7-ft (2.1-m) and 9-ft (2.7-m) minimum
waterway consists of three non-contiguous segments: the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway,
extending from Brownsville,
Texas east to Carrabelle, Florida, the Florida Gulf Intracoastal Waterway
beginning at Tarpon Springs, Florida and extending south to Fort
Myers, Florida , and the Atlantic Intracoastal
Waterway, extending from Key West, Florida to Norfolk, Virginia (milepost 0.0). These segments were
originally intended to be connected via a northern Florida dredged
waterway from St. Marks to Tarpon Springs and the Cross Florida Barge Canal across
northern Florida, but these
projects were never completed due to environmental concerns.
canals and bays extend a navigable waterway to Boston, Massachusetts.
The Intracoastal Waterway has a good deal of commercial activity;
barges haul petroleum, petroleum products, foodstuffs, building
materials, and manufactured goods. It is also used extensively by
recreational boaters. On the east coast, some of the traffic in
fall and spring is by snowbirds
who regularly move
winter and north in summer. The waterway is also used when the
ocean is too rough to travel on. Numerous inlets connect the
Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico with the Intracoastal
Natural bodies of water
The following natural bodies of water are included in the
Intracoastal Waterway system:
Major freight canals