noun - The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is a 3,000-mile (4,800 km) waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. Some sections of the waterway consist of natural inlets, saltwater rivers, bays, and sounds, while others are artificial canals. It provides a navigable route along its length without many of the hazards of travel on the open sea.
The Intracoastal Waterway runs for most of the length of the Eastern Seaboard, from its unofficial northern terminus at the Manasquan River in New Jersey, where it connects with the Atlantic Ocean at the Manasquan Inlet, then around the Gulf of Mexico to Brownsville, Texas.
The waterway consists of three non-contiguous segments: the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, extending from Brownsville, Texas, east to Carrabelle, Florida; a second section of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, beginning at Tarpon Springs, Florida, and extending south to Fort Myers; and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, extending from Key West, Florida, to Norfolk, Virginia (milepost 0.0). These segments were intended to be connected via a dredged waterway from St. Marks to Tarpon Springs and the Cross Florida Barge Canal across northern Florida, but these projects were never completed due to environmental concerns. Additional canals and bays extend a navigable waterway to Boston, Massachusetts.
The Intracoastal Waterway has a good deal of commercial activity; barges haul petroleum, petroleum products, foodstuffs, building materials, and manufactured goods. It is also used extensively by recreational boaters. On the east coast, some of the traffic in fall and spring is by snowbirds who regularly move south in winter and north in summer. The waterway is also used when the ocean is too rough for travel. Numerous inlets connect the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico with the Intracoastal Waterway.
The Intracoastal Waterway connects to several navigable rivers where shipping traffic can travel to inland ports, including the Mississippi, Alabama, Savannah, James, Susquehanna, Delaware, Hudson, and Connecticut rivers.
Natural bodies of water
The following natural bodies of water are included in the Intracoastal Waterway system:
Cape Cod Bay
Cape Fear River
Corpus Christi Bay
Indian River Lagoon
Long Island Sound
Pine Island Sound
Port Royal Sound
Santa Rosa Sound
Saint Helena Sound
Lake Worth Lagoon