Cruising/Navigating - Virginia’s AICW
Norfolk to North Landing River
The Virginia segment of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW) begins in the north on the Elizabeth River in Norfolk, VA at AICW (MM "0.0"); near buoy (R "36" Q R). It proceeds in a somewhat serpentine, but overall southerly direction to the junction of the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal Route (route #1) and the Great Dismal Swamp Route (route #2) located near (MM "7.1").
Route #1 provides deeper water and the possibility of higher speeds, while Route #2 allows the mariner to experience the wildlife and vistas along with slow and easy cruising. The vast amount of traffic tends to use Route #1, the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal Route.
Using Route #1, the Virginia portion of the AICW ends at (MM "34.0") on the North Landing River, while Route #2 of Virginia’s AICW ends at (MM "24.6") on the Dismal Swamp Canal (the Virginia/North Carolina State Line).
Aids to Navigation
Buoys and Marks
Intracoastal Waterway buoys and navigational markers are marked like most other lateral marks in the U.S. the difference is that either yellow triangles or yellow squares are added to the mark to indicate they are ICW markers.
The rule is: When proceeding south on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway in Virginia, markers with yellow triangles are kept to starboard while marks with yellow squares are kept to port at all times.
In most cases, this will equate to "Red" marks to starboard and "Green" marks to port southbound on the ICW, but use caution here, because regardless of the color of the mark; yellow "triangles" are to be kept to starboard and yellow "squares" are to be kept to port PERIOD.
- “Yellow Squares are ALWAYS kept to port”
- “Yellow Triangles are ALWAYS kept to starboard”
Regardless of the color of the mark!
NOAA Chart #12206, provides complete coverage of the Virginia portion of the AICW.
Chart #12206 - Norfolk to Albemarle Sound covers the ICW from (MM "0.0") in Norfolk to (MM "65.0") at Albemarle Sound via Route #1 and to (MM "65.0") at the mouth of the Pasquotank River via Route #2 (Great Dismal Swamp Canal).
Distances and Milages
All distances along the Virginia segment of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway are given in statute miles unless otherwise noted. Statute miles are used in order to conform to the distances shown on the small craft charts typically used along this route.
The Virginia portion of the AICW (southbound) is measured based on increasing mileage between the Elizabeth River (MM "0.0") and the North Landing River (MM "34.0") for a total of 34.0 SM (29.5 NM).
The Federal project depth for the Virginia portion of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Norfolk to the (Virginia/North Carolina State Line) is 12 feet.
The actual controlling depths in the channels may vary due to shoaling. This reduces the available water depths to less than the Federal project depth until maintenance dredging can be accomplished.
Bridges and Locks – VHF Channel 13.
Bridges and Locks
Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway - Virginia Bridge Schedule
The following table lists the bridges & locks; their schedules, and restrictions along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW) south from Norfolk, VA to the North Carolina State Line.
The minimum overhead clearance for all fixed bridges over the Virginia portion of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway is 65 feet.
AICW - Virginia Bridge Schedule
Norfolk to Pungo Ferry
Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway - Virginia
|Mile Marker||Bridge||Charted Vert. Clear.||Schedule||Restrictions||VHF|
|2.6||N&P BL RR Lift Bridge||6’/142’||Normally Open||Closes for RR Traffic||13|
|2.8||South Norfolk Jordan Bridge||145’||Fixed Bridge|
|3.6||N&W RR Lift Bridge||10’/135’||Normally Open||Closes for RR Traffic||13|
|5.8||Gilmerton Lift Bridge||36’/136’||Opens on Demand||Closed M-F 0630-0830 and 1530-1730 except Federal holidays.||13|
|5.8||N&S RR Bascule Bridge #7||7’||Normally Open||Closes for RR Traffic||13|
|7.1||I-64 Bascule Bridge||65’||Opens on Demand with 24 hour notice.||Openings from 0600 - 0900 and 1500 - 1800 Mon through Fri xcept Fed. Holidays require 72 hour notice.||13|
|7.15||I-64 Bridge||100’||New Fixed Bridge - Under Construction|
|8.8||Veterans Bridge||95’||Fixed Bridge||Twin Spans|
|11.5||Great Bridge Lock (USACE)||1’ - 3’ ↑||Once every hour from 0600 - 1900. Other times on demand.||Lockage is generally coordinated with the openings of the Great Bridge Bridge below.||13|
|12.0||Great Bridge Bascule Bridge||8’||On the Hr. 0600-1900 - Other times on demand.||13|
|12.6||Great Bridge Highway Bridge||65’||Fixed Bridge|
|13.9||A&C RR Bascule Bridge||7’||Normally Open||Closes for RR Traffic||13|
|15.2||Centerville Turnpike Swing Bridge||4’||From 0830 to 1600, Mon through Fri, except Fed. holidays, the draw need only be opened on the hour and half hour. Other times on demand.||Closed M-F 0630 - 0830 and 1600 - 1800 except Fed. holidays.||13|
|20.2||North Landing Swing Bridge||6’||The draw shall open between 0600 - 1900 on the hour and ½ hour. Other times on demand.||13|
|28.6||Pungo Ferry Bridge||65’||Fixed Bridge|
The Virginia ICW Bridge List as well as the entire AICW Bridge List (Norfolk to Miami) can be downloaded for your personal and private use below. The ZIP files contain the schedules in Adobe (.pdf) file format:
Temporary Long Term Bridge Restrictions
Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway - Virginia
|Mile Marker||Bridge||Charted Vert. Clear.||Restrictions|
|7.1||I-64 Bridge||65’||The VA Dept. of Transportation has awarded the contract to add a new fixed bridge just south of the existing I-64 bascule bridge. Project construction has started and the completion date is expected to be summer of 2021. The new fixed bridge will provide a vertical clearance of 100 feet above MHW.
Delays and channel closures should be expected during the period of construction.
Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway - Virginia Locks
Via Route #1 - (1) The Great Bridge Lock. The lock opens on demand, but mariners should note that the City of Chesapeake’s Great Bridge Bridge, located adjacent to the lock, opens on the hour from 0600 to 1900 and on demand after 1900. The schedule is subject to change during adverse weather conditions.
Via Route #2 - (1) Deep Creek Lock (52x300) feet. The lock schedule is 0830, 1100, 1330 and 1530 seven days per week 365 Days a year.
(1) South Mills Lock (52x300) feet. The lock schedule is 0830, 1100, 1330 and 1530 seven days per week 365 Days a year. The drawbridges adjacent to these locations will operate as normal and in conjunction with the lock openings. Vessels are allowed to moor overnight in the canal. There will only be one operator at Deep Creek and one at South Mills, so the bridge will not be manned when the lock is being operated, and vice versa. Locks and bridges monitor channel 13.
While the South Mills Lock is actually in North Carolina, we cover it here as well as in the North Carolina section.
Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway - Virginia Overhead Cables and Power Lines
Approximately (6) overhead cables cross the Virginia segment of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. The minimum cable crossing authorized clearance is 91 feet. (2) Cable crossings are on the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River, (2) Cross Route #1, and (2) more cross Route #2.
Caution - Many of the overhead cables over the waterway carry high voltage, and an extra margin of safety should be allowed during threatening weather.
The tides in Virginia, where they exist, are semi-diurnal exhibiting (2) equal high and low tides every ≈24 hours 50 minutes.
Beginning in Norfolk with a mean average tidal range of 2.8 feet to just south of Great Bridge Lock where lunar tides are for all practical purposes non-existent, to North River Landing River where the mean tidal range increases to less than 1 foot at the Virginia/North Carolina State Line.
Entrances, Inlets, and Passes
There are are a number of Entrances, Inlets, or Passes between the the Atlantic Ocean coastal waters of Virginia and the sheltered waters inside. From Chincoteague Inlet in the north to Rudee Inlet in the south.
While many of these are only suitable for shallow draft vessels with local knowledge, some can be considered navigable for most vessels. We have listed them on the next page along with useful information on each to aid you in deciding if you wish to use a particular inlet.