Gulf Intracoastal Waterway - Florida’s Panhandle

Carrabelle, FL to Perdido Key, FL

From its starting point at 29° 47.533’ N / 84° 40.384’ W (MM "376.0 EHL") near Carrabelle, FL, this section of Florida’s Gulf Intracoastal Waterway runs generally in a westerly direction, ending at 30°18.549’N / 87°27.342’W (MM "170.0 EHL") near Ono Island, AL and Perdido Key, FL, a distance of approximately 206 statute miles.

Be aware of the time zone change on the GICW in the vicinity of Green Daybeacon #1 (MM "316.9 EHL") on Wetappo Creek 1.5 miles NNW of the Overstreet Bridge.

Navigation

Buoyage

The GICW is marked with your standard Aids to Navigation. In addition, they display yellow triangles or yellow squares. When westbound along this section of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, marks displaying yellow triangles should be kept on your starbord hand and those marked with yellow squares should be kept to port. While typically the yellow triangles will be found on red markers and yellow squares are found on green markers, caution should be exercised around Panama City and Pensacola where the GICW intersects or coincides with channels marked by the Lateral Buoyage System.

Charts

NOAA chart coverage of this portion of Florida"s GICW between Carrabelle and Perdido Key, FL is provided by charts #11404, #11402, #11393, #11390, #11385, and #11378. These charts can be viewed by clicking on the links below:

Chart #11404 Carrabelle to Apalachicola Bay
Chart #11402 Apalachicola Bay to Lake Wimico
Chart #11393 Lake Wimico to East Bay
Chart #11390 East Bay to West Bay
Chart #11385 West Bay to Santa Rosa Sound
Chart #11378 Santa Rosa Sound to Dauphine Island

Distances and Mileages

All distances along the Florida Gulf 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.

Unlike the GICW of Florida’s west coast, this portion of the GICW between Carrabelle and Perdido Key, FL is measured based on decreasing mileage when westbound (East of Harvey Lock - EHL) from (MM "376.0 EHL") to (MM "170.0 EHL".)

Channels

The Federal Project Depth for this portion of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway provides for a channel depth of 12 feet. While every effort is made to maintain this project depth, the actual controlling depths in the channels may vary due to shoaling reducing the available water depth until maintenance dredging can be accomplished.

Communications


Bridges, Locks, and Overhead Power Lines

Bridges

At last count, a total of 13 bridges cross the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway between Carrabelle and Perdido Key, FL. The fixed bridges along this route provide a minimum vertical clearances of 50’.

This list is believed to be accurate as of January 2019. If any errors or omissions are noted, please e-mail us at with any corrections or recommendations.

Open Down Arrow GIWW - Florida Panhandle Bridge Schedule
Carrabelle to Panama City

Gulf Intracoastal Waterway Bridges - Florida (GIWW)


St. George Sound to East Bay

Mile Marker Bridge Charted Vert. Clear. Schedule Restrictions VHF
 
361.2 EHL St. Georges Bridge 65’ Fixed Bridge    
351.4 EHL John Gorrie Bridge 65’ Fixed Bridge    
347.0 EHL Apalachicola RR Swing Bridge 11’ Fully open and out of service. Abandoned  
330.7 EHL RR Pontoon Bridge 0’ Fully open and out of service. Abandoned  
329.3 EHL White City Bridge 65’ Fixed Bridge    
315.4 EHL Overstreet Bridge 65’ Fixed Bridge    
295.4 EHL Dupont Bridge 50’ Fixed Bridge    

Open Down Arrow GIWW - Florida Panhandle Bridge Schedule
Panama City to Destin

Gulf Intracoastal Waterway Bridges - Florida (GIWW)


St. Andrew Bay to Choctawhatchee Bay

Mile Marker Bridge Charted Vert. Clear. Schedule Restrictions VHF
 
284.6 EHL Hathaway Bridge 65’ Fixed Bridge    
271.8 EHL West Bay Creek Bridge 65’ Fixed Bridge Twin Spans  
250.4 EHL Choctawhatchee Bay Bridge 65’ Fixed Bridge    
234.2 EHL Mid-Bay Bridge 64’ Fixed Bridge    

Open Down Arrow GIWW - Florida Panhandle Bridge Schedule
Destin to Perdido Key

Gulf Intracoastal Waterway Bridges - Florida (GIWW)


Choctawhatchee Bay to Ono Island

Mile Marker Bridge Charted Vert. Clear. Schedule Restrictions VHF
 
223.1 EHL Brooks Bridge 50’ Fixed Bridge    
206.6 EHL Navarre Causeway Bridge 50’ Fixed Bridge    
189.0 EHL Pensacola Beach Bridge 65’ Fixed Bridge    
171.8 EHL Perdido Key Bridge 73’ Fixed Bridge    

The table above lists the bridges, their schedules, and restrictions along Florida's Panhandle route segment of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway from it's beginning at Carrabelle, FL to the Alabama state line.

This bridge operating schedule can be downloaded for your personal and private use as a ZIP file. The file contains the schedule in Adobe (.pdf) file format.

Florida (Panhandle) GIWW Bridge Schedule - Download

Locks

None

Overhead Cable and Power Lines

The minimum authorized clearance of overhead cables crossing this section of the GICW is 70 feet and is found on West Bay Creek at (MM "272.5 EHL".)

Caution - Many of the overhead cables over the waterway carry high voltage, and an extra margin of safety should be allowed when the weather is threatening.

Tides

Tidal ranges are fairly small along Florida’s panhandle coast. Under normal conditions the mean range of tide averages slightly above 1.5’ at Carrabella and decreases to approximately 1.1’ at Pensacola.

The type of tide experienced in this area is typically a "Diurnal Tide" - exhibiting (1) high tide and (1) low tide each day.

Entrances, Inlets, and Passes

There are numerous Entrances, Inlets, or Passes between the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Panhandle Coast of Florida. Between Carrabelle in the east and Perdido Key to the west, there were 10 at last count. All provide access to sheltered inland waters with most providing access to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

While many of these are only suitable for shallow draft vessels and/or local knowledge, some can be considered navigable for most vessels. We have listed them below along with useful information on each to aid you in deciding if you wish to use a particular inlet.

Open Down Arrow GIWW - Florida Panhandle Entrances, Inlets, and Passes
Carrabelle to Port St. Joe

East Pass

The principal inlet into St. Georges Sound. Lying between Dog Island and St. George Island, East Pass is found 131.5 NM NW of Anclote Key on Florida’s West Coast and 31.7 NM SW of St. Marks Light. It provides access to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway(GIWW), Carrabelle, FL, and Apalachicola, FL.

The approach is marked by buoy (R “2”, Fl R 4s); lying 2.5 NM SSE of the entrance.

East Pass is reported to be deep and well-marked with lighted and unlighted buoys. The GIWW will be intersected 0.4 NM above the entrance at MM “375.4 EHL” in the vicinity of buoy (R “12” Fl R 4s). In 1991, a visible wreck was reported about 1 mile south of Carrabelle Channel Buoy (G "13" in about 29°47’36"N., 84°39’58"W.

Dangers – Carrabelle 3 Mile Reef about 4.1 NM east of the approach buoy.

Tides and Currents – Tidal range at East Pass averages about 1.6 feet. Current velocities are typically about 1 knot, however velocities as high as 3 to 4 knots have been encountered. The currents typically set across the channel and care should be taken to avoid being set down on the shoals on either side of the entrance.

Government Cut

One of two entrances into Apalachicola Bay, Government Cut is located 17.8 NM WSW of East Pass and 7 NM south of Apalachicola, FL.

The approach from the Gulf of Mexico is marked by a pair of buoys (G "1" Fl G 2.5s and R "2" Fl R 2.5s) at the entrance. From this point, there are conflicting reports of depth available in the cut. Some report 7 to 8 feet at high water other report shoaling to a depth of 3 feet. Caution is advised. It intersects the GIWW at MM “355.5 EHL” approximately 3.3 NM above the entrance.

Dangers – Extreme shoaling possible.

Tides and Currents – Currents through Government Cut have been reported to be as high as 3 to 4 knots.

West Pass

Located 11.4 NM ESE of Cape San Blas and 8.0 NM WNW of Government Cut, is the second of the two entrances into Apalachicola Bay. It is subject to extreme shoaling, is not marked and unreliable for navigation.

Tides and Currents – Tidal range in the western portion of Apalachicola Bay is 0.8 feet.

Indian Pass

Found 5.6 NM miles east of Cape San Blas, Indian Pass enters St. Vincent Sound between Indian Peninsula and St. Vincent Island.

The approach and channel are unmarked and a bar with depths of less than 3 feet block the entrance.

Dangers – The approach and entrance are subject to extreme shoaling. The pass is unreliable for navigation

St. Joseph Bay Inlet

Located 14.7 NM NNW of Cape San Blas, St. Joseph Bay is recognized as one of the best harbors on the Gulf. It offers access to Highland View, FL and Port St. Joe, FL as well as the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. It is easily entered by vessels with drafts to 25 feet except during periods of very severe weather.

The approach from the Gulf is marked by buoy (R "2" Fl (2) 5s) located at the beginning of the improved channel. Prominent on the approach, is St. Joseph Bay Light (Iso 6s 78ft 13M at 29°55’06"N / 85°22’50"W) and the stack and buildings of a chemical plant.

A dredged channel leading across 18 foot shoals is well-marked by lighted and unlighted buoys as well as ranges. Vessels should approach the harbor within the Port St. Joe Safety Fairway. Federal project depths are not less than 32 feet in the marked channels.

Access to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway is made via the Gulf County Canal which is adjacent to Port St. Joe and provides a connection between St. Joseph Bay and the GIWW. The canal intersects the GIWW near MM "327.3 EHL" 6.13 miles above St. Joseph Bay. The canal has a project depth of 12 feet. Near the bay entrance the canal is crossed by a fixed bridge with a clearance of 75 feet.

Dangers – A sunken wreck was reported in the safety fairway in about 29°50’12"N / 85°41’36’W.

A shoal tends to build E from the extremity of St. Joseph Point into the W side of the entrance channel.

Tides and Currents – The tidal range in St. Joseph Bay, is about 1.2 feet with strong and erratic crosscurrents being reported at the entrance to St. Joseph Bay NE of St. Joseph Point. These currents are reported to be particularly strong during the ebb. Caution is advised when entering the bay.

Open Down Arrow GIWW - Florida Panhandle Entrances, Inlets, and Passes
Port St. Joe to Pensacola

Mexico Beach Canal Entrance

AKA (Preacher Bryant Pond Inlet) Located 5.0 NM NNW of St. Joseph Point is subject to continual shoaling and change. 5 feet of water at the entrance was reported in November 2009. Local knowledge is highly recommended. The entrance is marked by a lighted beacon (Fl G 6s "1"). There is no access to the GIWW.

Crooked Island Inlet

Found 10.8 NM NNW of St. Joseph Point, this entrance into St. Andrew Sound is unmarked and local knowledge is strongly recommended. This area may be closed for U.S. Government operations. Contact Tyndell Air Force Base at 850-283-4640 prior to entrance. There is no access to the GIWW.

St. Andrews Inlet

Located 34.4 NM NW of Cape San Blas and is the principal entrance to St. Andrew Bay, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, and Panama City, FL.

The approach is marked by a buoy (RW "SA" Mo (A) at 30°05’30"N., 85°46’26"W) and is fitted with an AIS transponder; lying about 2.2 NM southwest of the entrance channel. Vessels should approach the Inlet through the prescribed Safety Fairways.

The inlet channel is through a cut in Shell Island with jetties found on both sides of the entrance. The entrance channel is deep and well-marked by lighted buoys and lighted ranges. Federal project depths are 38 feet to a point just inside the jetties and then 36 feet to the bay.

The intersection with the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway is 3.6 NM above the entrance at MM "290.0 EHL" near Redfish Point.

Cautions – One way traffic is required for all large vessels transiting the entrance channel. Inbound vessels should, as a minimum, give a security call on VHF Channel 13 or 16 at least 15 minutes before passing St. Andrews Bay Entrance Lighted Buoy "1," and another call approaching St. Andrews Bay Entrance Lighted Buoy "15A" before encountering traffic on the GIWW.

Dangers – Submerged jetties extend towards the channel from the northwest and southeast harbor entrance points. The northwest submerged jetty is unmarked and the southeast submerged jetty is marked by a lighted buoy. Mariners are cautioned to keep within the buoyed channel. Small arms firing ranges are southeast of the entrance to St. Andrew Bay. Small arms firing ranges are southeast of the entrance to St. Andrew Bay.

Tides and Currents – The range of tide at the St. Andrew Bay Entrance is 1.2 feet. A strong ebb current sets outward through the cut and causes heavy tide rips if the wind is south and of moderate strength. With a south or west breeze, small vessels bound in or out should try to reach the entrance during flood current.

Choctawhatchee Bay Entrance

Lying about 42 NM west-northwest of St. Andrew Bay, this entrance between Moreno Point and Santa Rosa Island is used to access the GIWW as well as Destin, FL, Ft. Walton Beach, FL, and the western part of Choctawhatchee Bay.

The approach is marked by buoy (RW “CB” Mo (A) with an AIS transponder at 30°22’14"N / 86°30’56"W), about 0.3 NM off the entrance.

The entrance is marked by a pair of green and red buoys and is protected by jetties which are marked by lights off their seaward ends. The channel is well marked by lighted and unlighted buoys and beacons with 12+ feet of water mid-channel. Channel buoys are frequently shifted to mark the best water.

Choctawhatchee Bay is restricted by a fixed bridge crossing the head of the pass with a vertical clearance of 49 feet. The GIWW will be intersected via the North Channel 2.5 NM above the entrance at approximately MM "227.7 EHL."

Dangers – Due to rapid shoaling, passage during rough weather is not advised.

Tides and Currents – The range of tide in East Pass is 0.6 feet.

Pensacola Inlet

Located 110 miles west-northwest of Cape San Blas and 41.3 NM east of the approaches to Mobile Bay. It affords access to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Santa Rosa Sound, Pensacola, Fl, Pensacola Bay, and East Bay.

The approach is marked by the outer two channel markers (G "1" Fl G 2.5s) and (R "2" Fl R 2.5s). Prominent on the approach is Pensacola Light (30°20’46"N / 87°18’29"W), Fl 20s 191ft 27M, and shown from a conical brick tower, lower third white, upper two-thirds black, on the shore north of the entrance. Vessels should approach the harbor through the prescribed Safety Fairways.

Vessels approaching Pensacola Bay by day can verify their positions by the appearance of the land. East of the entrance, Santa Rosa Island presents a white sand beach and low white sand hills. West of the entrance, the shore is low and thickly wooded nearly to the water. Soundings will also indicate whether a vessel is east or west of the entrance. Depths of 10 fathoms when less than 3 miles off the beach indicate the vessel is east of the entrance.

The entrance channel is well marked by lighted and unlighted buoys and ranges. Water depths greater than 30 feet in Caucus Channel were surveyed in June 2016. Intersection with the GIWW is 0.5 NM above the entrance at approximately MM "179.5 EHL. "

Cautions – At night or in thick weather it is well for a vessel uncertain of her position to stay in depths of at least 12 fathoms until the light is sighted or the position is otherwise determined.

Dangers – Caucus Shoal on the east side of the entrance with depths of 2 to 18 feet. Large vessels are advised to navigate as close as possible to the range line. The wreck of the old battleship USS Massachusetts on the south end of Caucus Shoal is awash and marked by a lighted buoy.

Tides and Currents – The range of tide in East Pass is 1.1 feet. Tidal Currents in Pensacola Bay Entrance in mid-channel is about 1.7 knots at strength, although currents of up to 8 knots have been reported in the entrance and up to 5 knots at the Pensacola Naval Air Station pier. In Caucus Cut, for 2 hours at the strongest of the ebb, the normal current has a velocity of 2 to 2.5 knots, setting southeast somewhat across the channel in the vicinity of Fort Pickens. The flood has less velocity and sets along the channels. The flood has greater velocity following a norther than at other times.

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