notice of its rivers, rivulets, and how far they are navigable?
of a map of Virginia, will give a better idea of the geography of its rivers,
than any description in writing. Their navigation may be imperfectly
so far as it lies within this state, is no where navigable, but for canoes,
or light batteaux; and, even for these, in such detached parcels as to
have prevented the inhabitants from availing themselves of it at all.
and its waters, afford navigation as follows.
of Elizabeth River, the lowest of those which run into James River,
is a harbour, and would contain upwards of 300 ships. The channel
is from 150 to 200 fathom wide, and at common flood tide, affords 18 feet
water to Norfolk. The Strafford, a 60 gun ship, went there, lightening
herself to cross the bar at Sowell's point. The Fier Rodrigue, pierced
for 64 guns, and carrying 50, went there without lightening. Craney
island, at the mouth of this river, commands its channel tolerably well.
River is navigable to Sleepy hole, for vessels of 250 tons; to Suffolk,
for those of 100 tons; and to Milner's, for those of 25.
affords 8 or 10 feet water to Smithfeild, which admits vessels of 20 ton.
has at its mouth a bar, on which is only 12 feet water at common flood
tide. Vessels passing that, may go 8 miles up the river; those of
10 feet draught may go four miles further, and those of six tons burthen,
20 miles further.
may be navigated as far as Broadways, by any vessel which has crossed Harrison's
bar in James river; it keeps 8 or 9 feet water a mile or two higher up
to Fisher's bar, and 4 feet on that and upwards to Petersburgh, where all
itself affords harbour for vessels of any size in Hampton Road, but not
in safety through the whole winter; and there is navigable water for them
as far as Mulberry island. A 40 gun ship goes to James town, and,
lightening herself, may pass to Harrison's bar, on which there is only
15 feet water. Vessels of 250 tons may go to Warwick; those of 125
go to Rocket's, a mile below Richmond; from thence is about 7 feet water
to Richmond; and about the center of the town, four feet and a half, where
the navigation is interrupted by falls, which in a course of six miles,
descend about 80 feet perpendicular: above these it is resumed in canoes
and batteaux, and is prosecuted safely and advantageously to within 10
miles of the Blue ridge; and even through the Blue ridge a ton weight has
been brought; and the expence would not be great, when compared with its
object, to open a tolerable navigation up Jackson's river and Carpenter's
creek, to within 25 miles of Howard's creek of Green briar, both of which
have then water enough to float vessels into the Great Kanhaway.
In some future state of population, I think it possible, that its navigation
may also be made to interlock with that of the Patowmac, and through that
to communicate by a short portage with the Ohio. It is to be noted,
that this river is called in the maps James River, only to its confluence
with the Rivanna; thence to the Blue ridge it is called the Fluvanna; and
thence to its source, Jackson's river. But in common speech, it is
called James river to its source.
a branch of James river, is navigable for canoes and batteaux to its intersection
with the South West mountains, which is about 22 miles; and may easily
be opened to navigation through those mountains to its fork above Charlottesville.
at York town, affords the best harbour in the state for vessels of the
largest size. The river there narrows to the width of a mile, and
is contained within very high banks, close under which the vessels may
ride. It holds 4 fathom water at high tide for 25 miles above York
to the mouth of Poropotank, where the river is a mile and a half wide,
and the channel only 75 fathom, and passing under a high bank. At
the confluence of Pamunkey and Mattapony, it is reduced to
3 fathom depth, which continues up Pamunkey to Cumberland, where the width
is 100 yards, and up Mattapony to within two miles of Frazer's ferry, where
it becomes 2 1/2 fathom deep, and holds that about five miles. Pamunkey
is then capable of navigation for loaded flats to Brockman's bridge, 50
miles above Hanover town, and Mattapony to Downer's bridge, 70 miles above
the little rivers making out of Mobjack bay and those of the Eastern
shore, receive only very small vessels, and these can but enter them.
affords 4 fathom water to Hobb's hole, and 2 fathom from thence to Fredericksburg.
is 7 1/2 miles wide at the mouth; 4 1/2 at Nomony bay; 3 at Aquia; 1 1/2
at Hallooing point; 1 1/4 at Alexandria. Its soundings are, 7 fathom
at the mouth; 5 at St. George's island; 4 1/2 at Lower Matchodic; 3 at
Swan's point, and thence up to Alexandria; thence 10 feet water to the
falls, which are 13 miles above Alexandria. These falls are 15 miles
in length, and of very great descent, and the navigation above them for
batteaux and canoes, is so much interrupted as to be little used.
It is, however, used in a small degree up the Cohongoronta branch as far
as Fort Cumberland, which was at the mouth of Wills's creek: and is capable,
at no great expence, of being rendered very practicable. The Shenandoah
branch interlocks with James river about the Blue ridge, and may perhaps
in future be opened.
will be one of the principal channels of future commerce for the country
westward of the Alleghaney. From the mouth of this river to where
it receives the Ohio, is 1000 miles by water, but only 500 by land, passing
through the Chickasaw country. From the mouth of the Ohio to that
of the Missouri, is 230 miles by water, and 140 by land. From thence
to the mouth of the Illinois river, is about 25 miles. The Missisipi,
below the mouth of the Missouri, is always muddy, and abounding with sand
bars, which frequently change their places. However, it carries 15
feet water to the mouth of the Ohio, to which place it is from one and
a half to two miles wide, and thence to Kaskaskia from one mile to a mile
and a quarter wide. Its current is so rapid, that it never can be
stemmed by the force of the wind alone, acting on sails. Any vessel,
however, navigated with oars, may come up at any time, and receive much
aid from the wind. A batteau passes from the mouth of Ohio to the
mouth of Missisipi in three weeks, and is from two to three months getting
up again. During its floods, which are periodical as those of the Nile,
the largest vessels may pass down it, if their steerage can be ensured.
These floods begin in April, and the river returns into its banks early
in August. The inundation extends further on the western than eastern
side, covering the lands in some places for 50 miles from its banks.
Above the mouth of the Missouri, it becomes much such a river as the Ohio,
like it clear, and gentle in its current, not quite so wide, the period
of its floods nearly the same, but not rising to so great a height.
The streets of the village at Cohoes are not more than 10 feet above the
ordinary level of the water, and yet were never overflowed. Its bed
deepens every year. Cohoes, in the memory of many people now living,
was insulated by every flood of the river. What was the Eastern channel
has now become a lake, 9 miles in length and one in width, into which the
river at this day never flows. This river yields turtle of a peculiar
kind, perch, trout, gar, pike, mullets, herrings, carp, spatula fish of
50 lb. weight, cat fish of an hundred pounds weight, buffalo fish,
and sturgeon. Alligators or crocodiles have been seen as high up
as the Acansas. It also abounds in herons, cranes, ducks, brant,
geese, and swans. Its passage is commanded by a fort established
by this state, five miles below the mouth of Ohio, and ten miles above
the Carolina boundary.
since the treaty of Paris, the Illinois and Northern branches of the Ohio
since the cession to Congress, are no longer within our limits. Yet
having been so heretofore, and still opening to us channels of extensive
communication with the western and north-western country, they shall be
noted in their order.
is, in fact, the principal river, contributing more to the common stream
than does the Missisipi, even after its junction with the Illinois.
It is remarkably cold, muddy and rapid. Its overflowings are considerable.
They happen during the months of June and July. Their commencement
being so much later than those of the Missisipi, would induce a belief
that the sources of the Missouri are northward of those of the Missisipi,
unless we suppose that the cold increases again with the ascent of the
land from the Missisipi westwardly. That this ascent is great, is
proved by the rapidity of the river. Six miles above the mouth it
is brought within the compass of a quarter of a mile's width: yet the Spanish
Merchants at Pancore, or St. Louis, say they go two thousand miles up it.
It heads far westward of the Rio Norte, or North River. There is,
in the villages of Kaskaskia, Cohoes and St. Vincennes, no inconsiderable
quantity of plate, said to have been plundered during the last war by the
Indians from the churches and private houses of Santa Fe, on the North
River, and brought to these villages for sale. From the mouth of Ohio to
Santa Fe are forty days journey, or about 1000 miles. What is the
shortest distance between the navigable waters of the Missouri, and those
of the North River, or how far this is navigable above Santa Fe, I could
never learn. From Santa Fe to its mouth in the Gulph of Mexico is
about 1200 miles. The road from New Orleans to Mexico crosses this
river at the post of Rio Norte, 800 miles below Santa Fe: and from this
post to New Orleans is about 1200 miles; thus making 2000 miles between
Santa Fe and New Orleans, passing down the North river, Red river and Missisipi;
whereas it is 2230 through the Missouri and Missisipi. From the same
post of Rio Norte, passing near the mines of La Sierra and Laiguana, which
are between the North river and the river Salina to Sartilla, is 375 miles;
and from thence, passing the mines of Charcas, Zaccatecas and Potosi, to
the city of Mexico is 375 miles; in all, 1550 miles from Santa Fe to the
city of Mexico. From New Orleans to the city of Mexico is about 1950
miles: the roads, after setting out from the Red river, near Natchitoches,
keeping generally parallel with the coast, and about two hundred miles
from it, till it enters the city of Mexico.
is a fine river, clear, gentle, and without rapids; insomuch that it is
navigable for batteaux to its source. From thence is a portage of two miles
only to the Chickago, which affords a batteau navigation of 16 miles to
its entrance into lake Michigan. The Illinois, about 10 miles above
its mouth, is 300 yards wide.
is 100 yards wide at its entrance into the Missisipi, and preserves that
breadth to the Buffalo plains, 70 miles above. So far also it is
navigable for loaded batteaux, and perhaps much further. It is not
is the most beautiful river on earth. Its current gentle, waters
clear, and bosom smooth and unbroken by rocks and rapids, a single instance
It is 1/4
of a mile wide at Fort Pitt; 500 yards at the mouth of the Great Kanhaway:
1 mile and 25 poles at Louisville: 1/4 of a mile on the rapids, three or
four miles below Louisville: 1/2 a mile where the low country begins, which
is 20 miles above Green river: 1 1/4 at the receipt of the Tanissee: And
a mile wide at the mouth.
as measured according to its meanders by Capt. Hutchings, is as follows:
From Fort Pitt
In common winter
and spring tides it affords 15 feet water to Louisville, 10 feet to La
Tarte's rapids, 40 miles above the mouth of the great Kanhaway, and a sufficiency
at all times for light batteaux and canoes to Fort Pitt. The rapids
are in latitude 38 degrees.8'. The inundations of this river begin
about the last of March, and subside in July. During these a first
rate man of war may be carried from Louisville to New Orleans, if the sudden
turns of the river and the strength of its current will admit a safe steerage.
The rapids at Louisville descend about 30 feet in a length of a mile and
a half. The bed of the river there is a solid rock, and is divided by an
island into two branches, the southern of which is about 200 yards wide,
and is dry four months in the year. The bed of the northern branch
is worn into channels by the constant course of the water, and attrition
of the pebble stones carried on with that, so as to be passable for batteaux
through the greater part of the year. Yet it is thought that the
southern arm may be the most easily opened for constant navigation.
The rise of the waters in these rapids does not exceed 10 or 12 feet.
A part of this island is so high as to have been never overflowed, and
to command the settlement at Louisville, which is opposite to it.
The fort, however, is situated at the head of the falls. The ground
on the South side rises very gradually.
BACK | FORWARD
Cherokee or Hogohege river is 600 yards wide at its mouth, 1/4 of a mile
at the mouth of Holston, and 200 yards at Chotee, which is 20 miles above
Holston, and 300 miles above the mouth of the Tanissee. This river
crosses the southern boundary of Virginia, 58 miles from the Missisipi.
Its current is moderate. It is navigable for loaded boats of any
burthen to the Muscleshoals, where the river passes through the Cumberland
mountain. These shoals are 6 or 8 miles long, passable downwards
for loaded canoes, but not upwards, unless there be a swell in the river.
Above these the navigation for loaded canoes and batteaux continues to
the Long island. This river has its inundations also. Above
the Chickamogga towns is a whirlpool called the Sucking-pot, which takes
in trunks of trees or boats, and throws them out again half a mile below.
It is avoided by keeping very close to the bank, on the South side.
There are but a few miles portage between a branch of this river and the
navigable waters of the river Mobile, which runs into the gulph of Mexico.
or Shawanee river, intersects the boundary between Virginia and North Carolina
67 miles from the Missisipi, and again 198 miles from the same river, a
little above the entrance of Obey's river into the Cumberland. Its
clear fork crosses the same boundary about 300 miles from the Missisipi.
Cumberland is a very gentle stream, navigable for loaded batteaux 800 miles,
without interruption; then intervene some rapids of 15 miles in length,
after which it is again navigable 70 miles upwards, which brings you within
10 miles of the Cumberland mountains. It is about 120 yards wide
through its whole course, from the head of its navigation to its mouth.
is a very beautiful river, 400 yards wide at the mouth, and 300 at St.
Vincennes, which is a post 100 miles above the mouth, in a direct line.
Within this space there are two small rapids, which give very little obstruction
to the navigation. It is 400 yards wide at the mouth, and navigable
30 leagues upwards for canoes and small boats. From the mouth of
Maple river to that of Eel river is about 80 miles in a direct line, the
river continuing navigable, and from one to two hundred yards in width.
The Eel river is 150 yards wide, and affords at all times navigation for
periaguas, to within 18 miles of the Miami of the lake. The Wabash,
from the mouth of Eel river to Little river, a distance of 50 miles direct,
is interrupted with frequent rapids and shoals, which obstruct the navigation,
except in a swell. Little river affords navigation during a swell
to within 3 miles of the Miami, which thence affords a similar navigation
into lake Erie, 100 miles distant in a direct line. The Wabash overflows
periodically in correspondence with the Ohio, and in some places two leagues
from its banks.
is navigable for loaded batteaux at all times 50 miles upwards; but it
is then interrupted by impassable rapids, above which the navigation again
commences, and continues good 30 or 40 miles to the mouth of Barren river.
river is 90 yards wide at the mouth, and also at Boonsborough, 80 miles
above. It affords a navigation for loaded batteaux 180 miles in a
direct line, in the winter tides.
Miami of the Ohio, is 200 yards wide at the mouth. At the Piccawee
towns, 75 miles above, it is reduced to 30 yards; it is, nevertheless,
navigable for loaded canoes 50 miles above these towns. The portage
from its western branch into the Miami of Lake Erie, is 5 miles; that from
its eastern branch into Sandusky river, is of 9 miles.
river is at all times navigable for loaded batteaux 70 or 80 miles.
It is 80 yards wide at its mouth, and keeps that width to its fork, 25
Miami of the Ohio, is 60 or 70 yards wide at its mouth, 60 miles to
its source, and affords no navigation.
is 250 yards wide at its mouth, which is in latitude 38 degrees, 22'. and
at the Saltlick towns, 200 miles above the mouth, it is yet 100 yards wide.
To these towns it is navigable for loaded batteaux, and its eastern branch
affords navigation almost to its source.
river is about sixty yards wide, and navigable sixty miles for loaded batteaux.
is about the width of the river last mentioned, but is more rapid.
It may be navigated by canoes sixty miles.
Kanhaway is a river of considerable note for the fertility of its lands,
and still more, as leading towards the headwaters of James river.
Nevertheless, it is doubtful whether its great and numerous rapids will
admit a navigation, but at an expence to which it will require ages to
render its inhabitants equal. The great obstacles begin at what are
called the great falls, 90 miles above the mouth, below which are only
five or six rapids, and these passable, with some difficulty, even at low
water. From the falls to the mouth of Greenbriar is 100 miles, and
thence to the lead mines 120. It is 280 yards wide at its mouth.
is 80 yards wide at its mouth, and yields navigation for loaded batteaux
to the Press-place, 60 miles above its mouth.
Kanhaway is 150 yards wide at the mouth. It yields a navigation
of 10 miles only. Perhaps its northern branch, called Junius's creek,
which interlocks with the western of Monongahela, may one day admit a shorter
passage from the latter into the Ohio.
is 280 yards wide at its mouth, and 200 yards at the lower Indian towns,
150 miles upwards. It is navigable for small batteaux to within one
mile of a navigable part of Cayahoga river, which runs into lake Erie.
At Fort Pitt
the river Ohio loses its name, branching into the Monongahela and Alleghaney.
is 400 yards wide at its mouth. From thence is 12 or 15 miles to
the mouth of Yohoganey, where it is 300 yards wide. Thence to Redstone
by water is 50 miles, by land 30. Then to the mouth of Cheat river
by water 40 miles, by land 28, the width continuing at 300 yards, and the
navigation good for boats. Thence the width is about 200 yards to
the western fork, 50 miles higher, and the navigation frequently interrupted
by rapids; which however with a swell of two or three feet become very
passable for boats. It then admits light boats, except in dry seasons,
65 miles further to the head of Tygarts valley, presenting only some small
rapids and falls of one or two feet perpendicular, and lessening in its
width to 20 yards. The Western fork is navigable in the winter
10 or 15 miles towards the northern of the Little Kanhaway, and will admit
a good waggon road to it. The Yohoganey is the principal branch
of this river. It passes through the Laurel mountain, about 30 miles
from its mouth; is so far from 300 to 150 yards wide, and the navigation
much obstructed in dry weather by rapids and shoals. In its passage
through the mountain it makes very great falls, admitting no navigation
for ten miles to the Turkey foot. Thence to the great crossing, about
20 miles, it is again navigable, except in dry seasons, and at this place
is 200 yards wide. The sources of this river are divided from those
of the Patowmac by the Alleghaney mountain. From the falls, where
it intersects the Laurel mountain, to Fort Cumberland, the head of the
navigation on the Patowmac, is 40 miles of very mountainous road.
Wills's creek, at the mouth of which was Fort Cumberland, is 30 or 40 yards
wide, but affords no navigation as yet. Cheat river, another
considerable branch of the Monongahela, is 200 yards wide at its mouth,
and 100 yards at the Dunkard's settlement, 50 miles higher. It is
navigable for boats, except in dry seasons. The boundary between
Virginia and Pennsylvania crosses it about three or four miles above its
river, with a slight swell, affords navigation for light batteaux to Venango,
at the mouth of French creek, where it is 200 yards wide; and it is practised
even to Le B;oeuf, from whence there is a portage of 15 miles to Presque
Isle on Lake Erie.
watered by the Missisipi and its eastern branches, constitutes five-eighths
of the United States, two of which five-eighths are occupied by the Ohio
and its waters: the residuary streams which run into the Gulph of Mexico,
the Atlantic, and the St. Laurence water, the remaining three-eighths.
quit the subject of the western waters, we will take a view of their principal
connections with the Atlantic. These are three; the Hudson's river,
the Patowmac, and the Missisipi itself. Down the last will pass all heavy
commodities. But the navigation through the Gulph of Mexico is so
dangerous, and that up the Missisipi so difficult and tedious, that it
is thought probable that European merchandize will not return through that
channel. It is most likely that flour, timber, and other heavy articles
will be floated on rafts, which will themselves be an article for sale
as well as their loading, the navigators returning by land or in light
batteaux. There will therefore be a competition between the Hudson
and Patowmac rivers for the residue of the commerce of all the country
westward of Lake Erie, on the waters of the lakes, of the Ohio, and upper
parts of the Missisipi. To go to New-York, that part of the trade
which comes from the lakes or their waters must first be brought into Lake
Erie. Between Lake Superior and its waters and Huron are the rapids
of St. Mary, which will permit boats to pass, but not larger vessels.
Lakes Huron and Michigan afford communication with Lake Erie by vessels
of 8 feet draught. That part of the trade which comes from the waters
of the Missisipi must pass from them through some portage into the waters
of the lakes. The portage from the Illinois river into a water of
Michigan is of one mile only. From the Wabash, Miami, Muskingum,
or Alleghaney, are portages into the waters of Lake Erie, of from one to
fifteen miles. When the commodities are brought into, and have passed through
Lake Erie, there is between that and Ontario an interruption by the falls
of Niagara, where the portage is of 8 miles; and between Ontario and the
Hudson's river are portages at the falls of Onondago, a little above Oswego,
of a quarter of a mile; from Wood creek to the Mohawks river two miles;
at the little falls of the Mohawks river half a mile, and from Schenectady
to Albany 16 miles. Besides the increase of expence occasioned by
frequent change of carriage, there is an increased risk of pillage produced
by committing merchandize to a greater number of hands successively.
The Patowmac offers itself under the following circumstances. For
the trade of the lakes and their waters westward of Lake Erie, when it
shall have entered that lake, it must coast along its southern shore, on
account of the number and excellence of its harbours, the northern, though
shortest, having few harbours, and these unsafe. Having reached Cayahoga,
to proceed on to New-York it will have 825 miles and five portages: whereas
it is but 425 miles to Alexandria, its emporium on the Patowmac, if it
turns into the Cayahoga, and passes through that, Bigbeaver, Ohio, Yohoganey,
(or Monongalia and Cheat) and Patowmac, and there are but two portages;
the first of which between Cayahoga and Beaver may be removed by uniting
the sources of these waters, which are lakes in the neighbourhood of each
other, and in a champaign country; the other from the waters of Ohio to
Patowmac will be from 15 to 40 miles, according to the trouble which shall
be taken to approach the two navigations. For the trade of the Ohio,
or that which shall come into it from its own waters or the Missisipi,
it is nearer through the Patowmac to Alexandria than to New-York by 580
miles, and it is interrupted by one portage only. There is another
circumstance of difference too. The lakes themselves never freeze,
but the communications between them freeze, and the Hudson's river is itself
shut up by the ice three months in the year; whereas the channel to the
Chesapeak leads directly into a warmer climate. The southern parts
of it very rarely freeze at all, and whenever the northern do, it is so
near the sources of the rivers, that the frequent floods to which they
are there liable break up the ice immediately, so that vessels may pass
through the whole winter, subject only to accidental and short delays.
Add to all this, that in case of a war with our neighbours the Anglo-Americans
or the Indians, the route to New-York becomes a frontier through almost
its whole length, and all commerce through it ceases from that moment.
-- But the channel to New-York is already known to practice; whereas the
upper waters of the Ohio and the Patowmac, and the great falls of the latter,
are yet to be cleared of their fixed obstructions.