Warning Notices to Mariners:
Due to shoaling, vessels should approach with caution. Deeper waters are off the port side at the entrance.
There is a low of depth of the water at the entrance to the basin. Boaters should stay to the left side of the basin upon entering the basin, and those with a depth of 4’ or more should anchor in the left side of the basin.
Also, there is a notice of the tides in the Canal. Credit should be given to the Corps for this notice.
Depth survey performed on April 12, 2016. Depths subject to change over time. For informational purposes only.
Click the images to view the PDF files.
Welcome to Chesapeake City on the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal. They say good things come in small packages and nowhere else is this more true! Discover our heritage, hospitality, and picturesque beauty. Find out why residents and tourists alike love the little town with no railroad and no traffic lights. Spend time daydreaming on the water while huge ships pass before your eyes.
Town Docks are now OPEN and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. We do not take reservations. Electric service is available. Water will be accessible April – October.
The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal (C&D Canal) is a 14-mile (23 km)-long, 450-foot (140 m)-wide and 40-foot (12 m)-deep ship canal that connects the Delaware River with Chesapeake Bay in the states of Delaware and Maryland in the United States. The C&D Canal is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District. The project office in Chesapeake City, Maryland, is also the site of the C&D Canal Museum and Bethel Bridge Lighthouse.
In Delaware, the canal is considered the “divide” between the northern and southern parts of the state. It is also widely considered the beginning of the Delmarva Peninsula, although the fall line onto the Atlantic Coastal Plain lies farther north.
The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal is a working waterway with over 25,000 vessels a year making the passage. This makes it one of the busiest canals in the world. A large portion of this traffic is commercial, including: large deep draft ships and tugs with tows.
The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal is open all year long, though during the winter, the canal may be occasionally closed or temporarily restricted to low powered vessels and small craft due to icy conditions.
Communications with the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Dispatcher is not required for most pleasure vessels unless – a private yacht of 300 gross tons or more.
Due to the large volume of commercial traffic that makes use of the C & D Canal, it is recommended that all vessels, regardless of size, maintain a radio watch on VHF channel 13.
For more information, you may visit the Army Corp of Engineer’s C&D Canal page.
“Soundings Online” magazine published a great article on the canal in their December 2014 issue, which you can download here.
Rates For Town Docks:
Docking: Free (please limit your stay to 24 hours)
WiFi: Free, courtesy of Chesapeake City Tourism
Please pay at Town Hall (108 Bohemia Avenue) at the mail slot in the back door. For after hours,place your payment in the envelopes provided by the back door and then put in the mail slot. Please note that our fees are to recoup expenses, not to make a profit.
Environmental Emergencies can be reported to the State of Maryland at 1-866-633-4686. This number is active 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
There are 4 docks offering docking for transient boaters.
If you have any questions, please contact the Town Hall at 410-885-5298 or use our contact form for more information.
- 200’ in length, with a depth at (MLW) of 8’ to 10’.
- Electrical Outlets: 2-50A, 2-30A, and 3-20A available.*
- Potable water is available.*
DOCKS TWO, THREE & FOUR
- 30’ in length, with a depth at MLW of 8’
- Each have electrical outlets of 30A.*
- Potable water is available.*
There is no charge for docking up to a maximum of 24 hours unless authorized by the Dock Master.
*Water and Electric is available for a minimal fee.
The current throughout the Canal changes its direction approximately at the times of low and high tide at Chesapeake City. The flow is eastward during the interval from low to high tide at Chesapeake City, an westward from high to low tide.
Maximum eastward and westward current velocities at Chesapeake City, Summit Bridge and Railroad Bridge occur about 2 ½ hours after the times of low and high tides, respectively, at Chesapeake City.
Relations of Canal Currents to Delaware River Currents
- During the first half of an ebbing current in the Delaware River, the current in the Canal is flowing in a westward direction.
- During the last half of an ebbing current in the Delaware River, the current in the Canal is flowing eastward.
- During the first half of a flooding current in the Delaware River, the current in the Canal is flowing eastward.
- During the last half of a flooding current in the Delaware River, the current in the Canal is flowing westward.
There are five high level fixed highway bridges and one vertical lift railroad bridge crossing the main channel. The bridges have the following clearances:
CLEARANCES IN FEET
|Bridge||Miles from Delaware River||Horizontal||Vertical
|Reedy Point, DE||1.0||584||140||135||Fixed|
|St. Georges, DE||4.5||523||139||135||Fixed|
|Route 1 Bridge, DE||5.0||523||139||135||Fixed|
|Penn Central Trans. (vertical Lift), DE||7.7||522||49137||45133||ClosedOpen|
|Summit Bridge, DE||9.7||586||138||135||Fixed|
|Chesapeake City, MD||13.9||523||137||135||Fixed|
NAVIGATING the C & D Canal
Delaware and Maryland
The Gateway to the Chesapeake Bay
Coming from the northeast, you have your choice…take the long, arduous outside route around Cape Charles, Virginia to head up the Chesapeake Bay, or hop a ride on the fast-moving currents of the C&D Canal to the headwaters of the bay.
The 19.1 official miles of the man-made C&D Canal were controlled by locks from the early 1800s until the 1920s when the Army Corps of Engineers took over from the canal’s private ownership. They improved upon the hand-dug ditch by 1927 and again in the 1940s, creating a 450-foot-wide, 35-foot deep easy passage to and from industrial ports north and south.
The idea of a shortcut between Baltimore and ports east became a reality in 1802 when the private C&D Canal Company was formed, and over 2,000 men were hired to dig the ditch with picks and shovels. Giant waterwheels, powered by steam engines, filled the 100-foot long locks that gave mule drawn barges and early commercial shipping enough depth to proceed up or down the canal. Today, at the C&D Canal Museum, you can see the original wheel that fed the Chesapeake City locks, with all its operating paraphernalia – including one of the largest and oldest steam engines in captivity!
While the C&D is currently the busiest canal in the United States, and the third most-used canal in the world, it remains one of the best-kept secrets to the general population.
Tugs and barges, freighters, cargo ships, tankers, cruise ships, tall ships, and recreational boaters from around the globe all travel together to ride the 2 to sometimes 5 knot currents that carry traffic to and from the Chesapeake Bay.
Commercial shipping, cruise ships and tall ships come from Baltimore to head for the ports of Wilmington and Philadelphia, or down the Delaware Bay to New York, the Hudson, and the Northeast Atlantic coast. But ask a non-boater about the C & D, and they will mostly say, “Never heard of it.”
Quaint harbor villages, seemingly untouched by time, inhabit each end of the canal: Delaware City, which fronts on the Delaware Bay, and Chesapeake City, which sits on both sides of the canal, in Maryland. Each was a major center of commerce and stopping place along the first rendition of the canal, and both suffered economically as the canal was improved and boats became bigger and faster. Today, these pocket-sized towns have come back to life welcoming visitors to artsy boutiques, galleries, antique shops, restaurants, Victorian B&Bs, and a wealth of history to discover.
HOW TO NAVIGATE the C & D
NOAA Chart 12277. Timing your departure just right, you can count on six hours of favorable current when leaving the Cape May canal on route to the C&D. For sailboaters, that’s not near enough, so sooner or later you’ll have to buck the current. Ideally, you’ll want to start off heading west in the C&D at the beginning of the first half of an ebbing current in the Delaware.
Red and green traffic lights are located at each end of the canal. One set on the north bank at Reedy Point and another at Old Town Point Wharf on Town Point Neck at the Chesapeake Bay entrance. Don’t make the mistake of thinking these lights are just for the big ships. Red means “stay out until traffic passes.”
Getting ready to enter the canal, make sure your radio is on and monitoring both VHF 16 and 13. The canal is not straight so you need to know what’s going on around the bend. Only transmit on VHF 13 if there is a serious problem.
Pay close attention at the helm when entering the canal and passing between the jetties on the Delaware Bay side. Currents can cause you to side-slip off course.
Commercial shipping always has the right of way. Big ships heading west are escorted by a Delaware River Pilot up to a point just before Chesapeake City where the transfer of pilot services is turned over to one of the Chesapeake pilots.
Concerning right of way between recreational vessels: “all vessels proceeding WITH THE CURRENT shall have right of way over those proceeding against the current.” Yelling “STARBOARD” doesn’t work here.
The actual length of the canal itself is approximately 12 miles. It’s maintained, closely monitored and managed by a dispatcher at the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) canal headquarters in Chesapeake City. Traffic through the entire canal is visually monitored on a bank of large screens in a glass enclosed room at ACOE headquarters.
NOTE: Buoys read “ red right” from either entrance and reverse at Chesapeake City. Each bend in the canal is marked with a blinking amber light. Both banks of the canal have poles spaced 250 feet apart with every other pole having a mercury vapor luminary, at a height of 25 feet above mean high water, lighting the banks at night, as another aid to navigation for large shipping.
You’ll deal with six bridges in the canal and all but one are fixed bridges with clearances high enough for the cargo ships and car carriers. The bridge clearances listed on the chart are for the center of the canal and that’s where the big ships will be. At mile 7.5 heading west, there is a railroad bridge which is a vertical lift bridge with a vertical clearance of 45 feet MHW when down, and 138 feet MHW when up. This bridge is mostly open.
NOAA Chart 12311. DELAWARE CITY is 2 miles northwest of the eastern entrance to the canal. Head up Bulkhead Shoal Channel and turn to port on the green turning mark at the mouth of the Delaware City Branch Channel. The entrance depth is 7 feet which increases to 10 – 11 feet in the narrow passage. Delaware City was once named Newbold’s Landing until 1826 when the new canal brought new business. The Olde Canal Inn, still in operation, was then home to many of the area canal diggers. Today it’s a cozy waterfront inn with rooms and suites, a boatman’s tavern and a restaurant you might want to try.
The Delaware City Marina is the sole marina, and it sits uniquely on the only remaining portion of the original C&D Canal. This is a perfect place to refuel, provision and start exploring. Upon entering the channel into Delaware City, you will have noticed a ferry dock to starboard. From here, the Delaware River Basin Authority runs the Three Forts Ferry Service –- round trip excursions to Fort Delaware State Park, Fort Mott State Park (NJ) and Fort DuPont State Park. You can’t visit these places in your own boat, so hop on one of theirs. Fort Delaware, a Union Civil War fortress, on Pea Patch Island, is a treat for Civil War buffs. The site once housed over 30,000 Confederate POWs, and was built to protect the ports of Wilmington and Philadelphia. Authentically-clad interpreters and re-enactors take you back to the summer of 1863.
But that’s not all you’ll see on Pea Patch. The 3/4 mile nature trail starts at the fort and meanders through the largest nesting colony of herons, egrets and ibis on the East Coast.
Fort Mott was built at Finn’s Point for defense during the Spanish-American War, but before it was built, a cemetery was created there for the graves of over 2,000 Confederate soldiers. Also interred are men who died in the Spanish-American War, WWI, and 13 German POWs. For more info: www.threeforts.com.
Departing Delaware City means you have to go back the way you came. While it looks on the chart as though you can take a shortcut through the old canal to the new, a fixed bridge holds everything at bay except perhaps a dinghy.
When you enter the C&D, you’ll leave the river’s industrial looking scenery behind you as well as the any saltwater ambience of the Atlantic. All of a sudden you’re in a rural countryside. The canal itself has three marinas. The first, halfway between Reedy Point in Delaware and Town Point in Maryland, is Summit North Marina, tucked into a charming basin on the north side on the canal. Just look for the railroad bridge which looms high up over the tall trees that surround the marina. It’s one of the best hurricane holes in the area.
The marina has only been around for approximately 24 years and actually sits on part of the old canal. Before the Army Corps of Engineers reshaped the canal and created the basin where the marina now lies, this area was known as ‘Deadman’s Curve,’ because the turn in the canal was too sharp and the big ships would collide at the curve.
Crossing over into Maryland waters happens just east of Chesapeake City. The south side has a blinking amber light indicating a bend in the canal in front of the town’s protected anchorage and basin. This is a no-wake area continuing past the bridge.
Time your comings and goings to either side of Chesapeake City with the currents or at slack water. Entering or leaving the south side, back creek basin: be aware there is a shoal in the center of the entrance but plenty of depth if you hug the eastern shore and the bulkhead of the Army Corps of Engineers property. A shoal marker was recently placed at the basin entrance and boaters hould keep the mark to starboard when entering the basin heading for the anchorage or dockage
Currents at the basin entrance can be faster than the current in the canal itself. The best depths for anchoring are near the eastern and northern banks of the basin in the vicinity of the public launch ramp and Army Corps of Engineers canal headquarters. This is the best place for a dinghy landing, also.
The Chesapeake Inn, Restaurant and Marina, (410-885-2040) is a fun stop to play on the outside decks with live entertainment and outdoor dining, in season. The formal indoor dining rooms and the Veranda, are elegantly nautical, with plenty of waterfront window tables to watch shipping go by in the canal while you dine. Boaters and locals alike have recognized this restaurant as one of the “Best of the Bay,” as reported by Chesapeake Bay Magazine’s annual readers’ votes.
Dockage is also available at the historically famous Schaefers Restaurant and Canal Bar (410-885-7200) on the North Side of Chesapeake City. Outdoor dining is also a favorite here with lots of new outdoor seating and live entertainment in season.
Schaefer’s Canal House, also on the north side, has long been known as the primary stopping point in the canal for the mega-yachts that can’t fit in the protected basin on the south side. It’s also the base for the canal pilots who guide commercial shipping through the canal. Schaefers offers the only canal-front fuel service, with both gas and diesel, and starts pumping at at 8 a.m.
Reserve your slip for the night and take some time to discover the charming historic village of Chesapeake City. Follow the printed, self-guided Walking Tour Map up and down quaint streets with brick sidewalks, restored homes and public buildings, unique boutiques, art galleries, antique shops and a lovely little park, called Pell Gardens. It has an ice cream parlor, picnic tables, and a music pavilion where you can enjoy a free concert on Sundays at twilight in the summertime during July and August. Boaters can also opt to spend the night in luxury at one of the Town’s four Bed & Breakfasts.
Other hot dining spots in town are:
The Bayard House, a restaurant and tavern steeped in Chesapeake City history has also added outdoor dining to its menu with a lively “”Umbrella Bar” overlooking the canal.
The Tap Room––a canal-town dive famous as ‘the place’ to pick freshly caught Maryland Blue Crabs!
And the Bohemia Café for delicious breakfasts, lunches and fantastic baked goods. And meet some locals when going to the South Side Grill for lighter fare and drinks.
Free 24-hour dockage is available (first come, first served) at the floating town docks by the park and rafting is permitted. The C&D Canal Museum (free admission) is within an easy walk and worth the visit with interactive displays of miniature canal locks in action and the actual steam-operated lock enclosed in the space where it always was. The museum is under the auspices of the Army Corps of Engineers and therefore is only open on weekdays.
The Miss Claire canal tour boat and the Town Ferry sits at the town docks at the base of the park and will happily ferry you across the canal to the Chesapeake City’s north side. The Ferry Schedule is posted near the boat.
Leaving Chesapeake City and heading west, you’re in BACK CREEK headed to the ELK RIVER and the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay.
CURRENT FACTS coming from the Delaware:
- The current flows WEST during the first half of an ebbing current in the Delaware River. The current flows EAST during the last half of the ebbing current in the Delaware.
- The current flows EAST in the first half of the flood and it flows WEST in the last half of the flood.
- Current changes time and direction at times of high and low tides at Chesapeake City:
— from low to high tide, the current flows EAST from Chesapeake City
— from high to low tide, the current flows WEST from Chesapeake City.
–© Carla Miners