America’s Great Loop – 6,000 Miles on the Water

Great Loop Map

If you are looking for a major water-based adventure,  the Great Loop may be for you.  All it requires is a boat (maximum draft 5 feet, maximum height 19 feet, minimum fuel range 250 miles), some time (like six to nine months), some money and a longing for a great adventure.

The Route

There are a few potential routes,  but the most common adventure begins in Stuart, Florida then travels:

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty
New York Harbor

  • Along the Intracoastal Waterway along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina
  • Through Chesapeake Bay
  • In the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal to Delaware Bay.
  • Along the Intracoastal Waterway from Cape May to Manasquan, New Jersey.
  • Along the coast to New York Harbor
  • Up the Hudson River to the Erie Canal
  • On the Erie Canal to Lake Ontario
  • Through Lake Erie
  • Around Michigan through Lake Huron and Lake Michigan
  • Down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers,
  • Up the Ohio and Tennessee rivers,
  • Down the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway to Mobile, Alabama.
  • Along the Intracoastal Waterway to Fort Myers
  • Through the Okeechobee Waterway back to Stuart.

The map at the top offers a rough idea of the over 5,600 mile journey.

A key to this is the counter-clockwise path and a spring start.  This helps avoid hurricanes on the east coast and should get adventurers to the Great Lakes in the summer and down (rather than up) most of the rivers in the fall.  The idea is to complete the trip by November.

The History

Erie Canal lock Lockport, New York

Erie Canal – Lockport, New York
By Wilson44691 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Virtually every mile along this journey is steeped in the history of North America and the United States.  You’ll be following the routes of the earliest explorers and through historic points of the Revolutionary War and Civil War.  You’ll discover the greatest cities in the eastern U.S. travel historic waterways, and see the country from a whole new perspective.

I thought about listing all of the National Parks, State Parks, Historicists and great places along the way that you could explore, but the list is endless!  If you have a dinghy you will be able to go ashore anywhere and explore forever.

The Adventure

Pulling off this particular adventure requires considerable preparation.  Before you even start planning it would be a great idea to decide upon the type of boat you want to use, get it properly outfitted and become an expert in operating it under all conditions.  It doesn’t need to be a terribly expensive boat either.  Captain John says: “Even if you don’t know how to sail and never learn, an auxiliary powered (live a-board size) sailboat offers the most economical long-distance voyaging available.”  Fuel will be a major expense so choose your boat carefully.

While you are getting intimately familiar with your boat, you can begin planning your trip.

Marquette Park Mackinac Island, Michigan

Marquette Park on Mackinac Island, Michigan

Planning Your Trip

Listed below are some books and websites that can help.  I particularly recommend Captain John’s Website.  It’s an interesting read with a lot of advice and insight from an experienced “looper”, as these adventurers are called.

Setting Off

Here is a video that offers a quick look at one family’s journey and some of the sights along the way.  Enjoy.

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2 Responses to “America’s Great Loop – 6,000 Miles on the Water”

  1. ed elder says:

    I am a charter broker in South Florida. Ive been getting a handful of emails about the Great Loop trip looking to charter a boat. I have not been able to locate a place that offers boats to charter.

    Do you have any recommendations to offer my clients for boat options to make a trip like this?

    Thanks for your time!

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