Home The Core Pillar American Founders Notes on the state of Virginia - Page 2
Notes on the state of Virginia - Page 2
The Core Pillar - Core American Founders
Written by Thomas Jefferson   
Article Index
Notes on the state of Virginia
Page 2
All Pages



The following Notes were written in Virginia in the year 1781, and somewhat corrected and enlarged in the winter of 1782, in answer to Queries proposed to the Author, by a Foreigner of Distinction, then residing among us. The subjects are all treated imperfectly; some scarcely touched on. To apologize for this by developing the circumstances of the time and place of their composition, would be to open wounds which have already bled enough. To these circumstances some of their imperfections may with truth be ascribed; the great mass to the want of information and want of talents in the writer. He had a few copies printed, which he gave among his friends; and a translation of them has been lately published in France, but with such alterations as the laws of the press in that country rendered necessary. They are now offered to the public in their original form and language.

February 27, 1787.




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 harbor, 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 Smithfield, which admits vessels of 20 tons.

Ohickahominy 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 4 miles further; and those of 6 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 harbor 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 centre of the town, 4 feet and a half, where the navigation is interrupted by falls, which, in a course of 6 miles, descend about 80 feet perpendicular; above these it is resumed in canoes and battcaux, 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 expense 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 Greenbriar, 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.

 Read more at our source:  http://books.google.com