Rivers and Navigation
A NOTICE of its rivers, rivulets, and Rivers and navigation and how far they are navigable?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 [ 4 ]
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 [ 5 ][ 6 ]
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 2½ 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, [ 7 ]
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 7½ miles wide at the mouth ; 4½ at Nomony bay; 3 at Aquia; 1½ at Hallooing point; 1¼ at Alexandria. Its soundings are, 7 fathom at the mouth; 5 at St. George's island; 4½ 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.
[ 8 ]
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 batteaux 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 [ 9 ]Atractosteus spatula, now commonly known as the Alligator Gar. of 50 lb. weight, cat fish of an hundred pounds weight, buffalo fish, Ictiobus, a common freshwater fish. and sturgeon. Alligators or crocodiles have been seen as high up as the Acansas.Arkansas. 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.
[ 10 ]
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 Pancore or Pain Court is now a part of the city of St. Louis, Missouri., or St. Louis, say they go two thousand miles up it. It heads far westward of the Rio Norte, or North River Now known as the Rio Grande.. There is, in the villages of Kaskaskia, Cohoes and St. Vincennes, no inconsiderable quantity of [ 11 ][ 12 ]
The Illinois is a fine river, clear, gentle, and without rapids; insomuch that it is navigable for batteaux A kind of flat-bottomed boat, widely used in this period for navigating rivers. 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.
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 ¼ of a mile wide at Fort Pitt:
500 yards at the mouth of the Great Kanhaway:
1 mile and 25 poles at Louisville:
¼ of a mile on the rapids, three or four miles below Louisville:
½ a mile where the low country begins, which is 20 miles above Green river :
1¼ at the receipt of the Tanissee:
[ 13 ]
And a mile wide at the mouth. Its length, as measured according to its meanders by Capt. Hutchings, Thomas Hutchins (1730-89) was the first (and still the only) official Geographer of the United States, author of A Topographical Description of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and North Carolina (1778), which Jefferson owned, and a History, Narrative, and Topographical Description of Louisiana and West Florida (1784). is as follows:
From Fort Pitt At the site of present-day Pittsburgh.
|To Log's town||18½||Little Miami||126¼|
|Big Beaver creek||10¾||Licking creek||8|
|Little Beaver cr.||13½||Great Miami||26¾|
|Yellow creek||11¾||Big Bones||32½|
|End Long reach||16½||Low country||155¾|
|Great Kanhaway||82½||Shawanee river||52½|
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°. 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 [ 14 ]
The Tanissee Tennessee, Cherokee or Hogohege river is 600 yards wide at its mouth, ¼ 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 [ 15 ]
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 [ 16 ]
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 Erié, 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.
[ 17 ]
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 Erié, 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°. 22'. and at the Saltlick towns, 200 miles above the mouth, [ 18 ]
- and Roanoke
- it is said however that, at a very moderate expence the whole current of the upper part of the Kanhaway may be turned into the South fork of the Roanoke, the Allegany there subsiding, and the two rivers approaching so near, that a canal of 9. miles long. and of 30. feet depth, at the deepest part, would draw the water of the Kanhaway into this branch of the Roanoke. this canal would be in Montgomery county, the courthouse of which is on the top of the Allegany.
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 mouth.
The Little Kanhaway is 150 yards wide at the mouth. It yields a navigation of 10 miles only. Perhaps its northern branch, [ 19 ]
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 Erié.
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 [ 20 ][ 21 ]
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 Boeuf, from whence there is a portage of 15 miles to Presque Isle on Lake Erié.
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 [ 22 ][ 23 ] [ 24 ]
Both manuscript additions are in pencil. The ratio appears in the lower left margin; the plus appears in the fifth line from the bottom of the page just before the sentence beginning "But the courses of the great..." The 1853 edition, printed in Richmond, breaks this text across pages 16 and 17 thus: "... But the | courses of the great ..." And in that new edition, a number 2, the first signature (a printed mark that aids the binder in arranging loose printed sheets in correct order), appears on page 17.
In the hand-press period multiple pages were often imposed on both sides of a single large sheet of paper. These sheets were later folded into groups of leaves or gatherings. The 1787 printing is in quarto (abbreviated 4º): four pages are printed on each side of a sheet that is folded twice. The 1853 printing, an octavo edition (abbreviated 8º), imposed eight pages on each side of the original sheet, which was then folded three times. The complete octavo edition of 1853 is constructed of 18 gatherings, the first 15 of which incorporate the text of the 1787 printing and Jefferson's additions.
These pencilled marks, numbers, and instructions described here provide fascinating evidence of how Jefferson's personal copy was employed in the 1853 edition published by J. W. Randolph in Richmond. The ratio, one of twelve pencilled in the margins of Jefferson's personal copy, is involved in the typesetting of the new edition. It associates text in Jefferson's personal copy with a page number and the signature of a gathering in the new 1853 edition. Other ratios appear on pages 48, 73, 99, 170, 195, 222, 249, 275, 195, 325, and 385 of Jefferson's personal copy. The complete series of ratios is 17/2, 33/3, 49/4, 65/5, 113/8, 129/9, 145/10, 161/11, 177/12, 193/13, 209/14, 210/15. The last of these may be a mistake: the 15th gathering begins with page 225, not 210. Note also, the expected ratios 81/6 and 97/7 do not appear in personal copy. We conjecture that it may have been difficult for the printers to predict how these pages, filled with tables, would be laid out in the new edition.