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Cape May Canal ~ Intracoastal Waterway

A cache by Old Navy Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 08/09/2010
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1.5 out of 5

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Geocache Description:

The Intracoastal Waterway is a 3,000-mile (4,800-km) waterway which runs for most of the length of the Eastern Seaboard along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. It's 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. Some lengths consist of natural inlets, salt-water rivers, bays, and sounds; others are artificial canals. It provides a navigable route along its length without many of the hazards of travel on the open sea.

The Intracoastal Waterway connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico to several navigable rivers and inlets where shipping traffic can travel to inland ports, including the Mississippi, Alabama, Savannah, James, Susquehanna, Delaware, Hudson, and Connecticut Rivers.

Cape May Canal ~ Intracoastal Waterway

The Cape May Canal is a waterway that stretches nearly three miles from Cape May Harbor to the Delaware Bay, at the southern tip of Cape May County, New Jersey. The canal was constructed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers during World War II to provide a protected route to avoid German U-boats operating off Cape May Point and to become part of the Intracoastal Waterway. The canal was dredged as a wartime emergency measure in 1942 and was the final link in a protected waterway intended to allow coastal shipping to travel along the coast with a greatly reduced risk of attack from German submarines.

The Cape May Canal ~ West to the Delaware Bay

The Cape May Canal ~ East to the Atlantic

Arial view of the Cape May Canal

The canal completed Cape Island, which includes Cape May, Cape May Point, West Cape May and the southernmost portions of Lower Township. The island is separated from the mainland and the rest of Cape May County by the Cape May Canal, Cape Island Creek and Cape May Harbor which cut it off from the rest of the peninsula.

There are three bridges across the canal: Route 109 (the link from the Garden State Parkway into Cape May), Route 162 (Seashore Road into West Cape May), and the railroad drawbridge of the Cape May Seashore Lines.


The current in the canal flows the opposite way that it would if the canal were a river emptying into the bay. When the tide is moving from low to high (flood tide), the canal current is flowing west toward the Delaware Bay.


EarthCache sites must provide Earth science lessons. They take people to sites that can help explain the formation of landscapes or to sites of interesting phenomena such as folds, faults, intrusions or reveal how scientists understand our Earth (such as fossil sites etc.) EarthCache sites must be educational. They provide accurate but simple explanations of what visitors will experience at the site. Logging of an EarthCache must involve visitors undertaking some educational task that relates to the Earth science at the site. This could involve measuring or estimating the size of some feature or aspect of the site, collecting and recording data


You must visit the area and answer an earth science question. There is no container or logbook for you to sign just a beautiful and unique natural feature to observe.

Take note of the tide and direction of current flowing water in the canal, and describe the flow direction towards west, Delaware Bay or towards the east ~ Atlantic ocean.

1. To log this cache you must record the time of your visit as it relates to the incoming or outgoing tides, (see tide chart below) and what you observe, height of the tide, rough or calm water, and direction. Include anything else you observed. An example of a log might be: Arrived at 4:30 p.m. which was 1 hour after high tide, and the water was flowing to east, there was turbulence with wave height up to two feet high. There were several sea birds fishing, and many boats at the time of our visit.

2. You must post a photo of your and or your GPS with the Cape May Canal in the background. Include as many canal photos as you would like. Enjoy.

Over time, as the logs accumulate visitors will realize if they want to have the best view of this tidal phenomenon, the time that they should visit Cape May Tidal charts are available at: Tides.Info: Tide Predictions for Cape May, Atlantic Ocean, New Jersey


The creation of the Intracoastal Waterway was authorized by the United States Congress in 1919. It is maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. 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 depths.

First publicly conceived in 1808 by the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin, the concept of a national, protected, north-south waterway was introduced in his report to President Thomas Jefferson that year. Gallatin noted that the United States possessed an inland navigation solution from Massachusetts to Georgia (then the southernmost Atlantic state) that was "principally, if not solely" interrupted by a mere four stretches of land - Cape Cod, a section of New Jersey between the Raritan and Delaware rivers, the peninsula between the Delaware River and the Chesapeake Bay, and the marshy tract between the Chesapeake Bay and the Albemarle Sound.

By 1808, there were but a handful of fairly successful manmade canals in the country, and many more were either already under construction or soon would be. Gallatin explained in his report that if the federal government would appropriate the necessary funds then these mere four stretches of land could be dredged with new canals, therefore a sea vessel could travel by rivers, bays, sounds, and a handful of canals from Boston to Beaufort, North Carolina, on down to the Cape Fear River, then broken by a short ocean run the inland navigation could continue again inside the chain of barrier islands skirting the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia.

Secretary Gallatin estimated that the cost of the four canals would be $3 million. His entire scheme for roads and canals would cost an expected $20 million. By setting aside $2 million per year from the annual Treasury surplus (then in excess of $5 million), the whole project envisioned could be accomplished within ten (10) years.

Delayed by foreign problems (the War of 1812 comes to mind) and further frustrated by domestic obstructions (President Jefferson was not entirely sold on the idea), Gallatin's plan was never fully implemented. His concept of an Intracoastal Waterway never died, but the waterway ultimately came into being mostly due to local projects rather than centralized planning during the nineteenth century. And instead of taking ten years, its construction spanned more than a century.

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, conceived by Secretary Albert Gallatin in 1808, was not essentially completed until the 1930s - in the midst of the Great Depression. It is a hybrid creation of man comprised of many existing (although upgraded) riverways, man-made canals, and existing sounds and bays. The waterway came into being through a series of local projects developed in expectation of local benefits. Today, commerce south of Norfolk is almost entirely domestic and mostly short haul. It is now used more for recreation than for commerce. And, it is no longer maintained to the width and depth as it was during the peak of its usage.

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