_A notice of its rivers, rivulets, and how far they are


        Rivers and Navigation

        An inspection 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 noted.

        _Roanoke_, 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.

        _James River_, and its waters, afford navigation as follows.

        The whole 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.

        _Nansemond 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.

        _Pagan Creek_ affords 8 or 10 feet water to Smithfeild, which

admits vessels of 20 ton.

        _Chickahominy_ 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.

        _Appamattox_ 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 navigation ceases.

        _James River_ 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.

        The _Rivanna_, 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.

        _York River_, 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

its mouth.

        _Piankatank_, 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.

        _Rappahanock_ affords 4 fathom water to Hobb's hole, and 2

fathom from thence to Fredericksburg.

        _Patowmac_ 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.

        The _Missisipi_ 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.

        The Missouri, 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.

        The _Missouri_ 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


        The _Illinois_ 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


        The _Kaskaskia_ 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 rapid.

        The _Ohio_ is the most beautiful river on earth.  Its current

gentle, waters clear, and bosom smooth and unbroken by rocks and

rapids, a single instance only excepted.

        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


        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.

        Its length, as measured according to its meanders by Capt.

Hutchings, is as follows:

        From Fort Pitt


                              Miles.                            Miles.

      To Log's town           18 1/2      Little Miami          126 1/4

      Big Beaver creek        10 3/4      Licking creek           8

      Little Beaver cr.       13 1/2      Great Miami            26 3/4

      Yellow creek            11 3/4      Big Bones              32 1/2

      Two creeks              21 3/4      Kentuckey              44 1/4

      Long reach              53 3/4      Rapids                 77 1/4

      End Long reach          16 1/2      Low country           155 3/4

      Muskingum               25 1/2      Buffalo river          64 1/2

      Little Kanhaway         12 1/4      Wabash                 97 1/4

      Hockhocking             16          Big cave               42 3/4

      Great Kanhaway          82 1/2      Shawanee river         52 1/2

      Guiandot                43 3/4      Cherokee river         13

      Sandy creek             14 1/2      Massac                 11

      Sioto                   48 3/4      Missisipi              46



        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.

        The _Tanissee_, 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


        _Cumberland_, 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


        The _Wabash_ 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.

        _Green River_ 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.

        _Kentucky_ 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.

        The _Great 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.

        _Salt_ 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 miles above.

        The _Little Miami_ of the Ohio, is 60 or 70 yards wide at its

mouth, 60 miles to its source, and affords no navigation.

        The _Sioto_ 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.

        _Great Sandy_ river is about sixty yards wide, and navigable

sixty miles for loaded batteaux.

        _Guiandot_ is about the width of the river last mentioned, but

is more rapid.  It may be navigated by canoes sixty miles.

        The _Great 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.

        _Hock-hocking_ is 80 yards wide at its mouth, and yields

navigation for loaded batteaux to the Press-place, 60 miles above its


        The _Little 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.

        The _Muskingum_ 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.

        The _Monongahela_ 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 mouth.

        The _Alleghaney_ 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.

        The country 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.

        Before we 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.