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Great Bridge Lock Park sits beside the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway at the point where the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal - coming up from North Carolina - meets the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. Here is where thousands of boats make their way into the Chesapeake watershed.
The city park consists of a small peninsula surrounded by the canal on one side and the river on the other. Visitors come to watch boats pass along the canal and through a single lock, and to use a boat ramp, playground equipment, picnic shelters, and fishing and crabbing spots. Nearby the park is the site of an early Revolutionary War battle fought to defend a land route to Norfolk. While not publicly accessible at this time, the battlefield and additional canal frontage are the focuses of a local conservation effort that may ultimately expand the story at Great Bridge Lock Park.
The park is open during daylight hours, year-round.
(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)
There are no fees for visiting the park.
The park features a two-lane boat ramp, picnic shelters with grills and a foot trail along the north shoreline and through the wooded western portion of the park. There is a large play area, provisions for indoor toilets and extensive fishing and crabbing areas. Bleachers permit spectators to view the many yachts passing through the lock.
The picnic, playground and rest room areas are handicapped accessible. The boat ramp area is not accessible at this time.
On their voyages in the Chesapeake Bay, Captain John Smith and his crew traveled as far south as present-day Great Bridge Park.
On the 1612 map Smith published, he drew American Indian towns in this region, including Mantoughquemed and Chesapeack, after which the Bay is named.
The Nansemond tribe, which was part of an empire ruled by Powhatan, also lived in the region at the time of Smith’s voyages. Their town of Chuckatuck was on the Nansemond River at the site of present-day of Suffolk, Virginia.
The Nansemond probably had a population of about 1,200 people, including 300 warriors.
In 1608, the English colonists burned Chuckatuck and forced the people to give up their corn. Over the next two centuries, colonization forced the Nansemond off their land, and they lost the last of it around 1792.
Today, many members of the Nansemond Tribe live in the Suffolk and Chesapeake, Virginia, area.