The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is a network of navigable channels, rivers, bays, and canals that stretches more than 3,000 miles along the eastern and Gulf coasts of the United States, from Boston, Massachusetts to Brownsville, Texas. The ICW provides a protected and inland route for boats to travel up and down the coast, avoiding the dangers of the open sea and the need to go around the Florida peninsula.
The ICW was originally developed as a commercial waterway in the early 1900s, but today it is primarily used by recreational boaters, including sailors, powerboaters, and cruisers, who want to explore the many ports, towns, and anchorages along the coast. The waterway is maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and includes many man-made canals and dredged waterways, as well as natural waterways like sounds and rivers.
The ICW is a popular route for boaters who want to travel the East Coast of the United States, with many stops and attractions along the way, including historic towns, scenic waterways, and beautiful beaches. However, because the waterway is a man-made and maintained waterway, it does require careful navigation and attention to water levels, depth, and channel markers. Many boaters rely on navigational charts and GPS devices to navigate the waterway safely.
The Ditch on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) refers to the section of the waterway that runs through the mainland and barrier islands of the eastern United States.
The Ditch specifically refers to the portion of the ICW that runs through the Eastern Seaboard, including the coast of the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. It is called the Ditch because it is a man-made waterway that is often very narrow, with relatively shallow water and a narrow channel that requires careful navigation. The Ditch is popular with recreational boaters who use it to travel up and down the coast, as well as commercial vessels that transport goods and materials along the waterway.
- A great resource for information on the Intracoastal waterway is the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association (AIWA). Their Aquamap tool provides the latest NOAA charts and is updated regularly.
- Take a look at the Atlantic ICW Quick Reference Guide by TheBoatGalley. It is a comprehensive guide to everything a cruiser needs in the ICW