Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUERY II A notice of its rivers, rivulets, and how far they are navigable? - The Works, vol. 3 (Notes on Virginia I, Correspondence 1780-1782)
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QUERY II A notice of its rivers, rivulets, and how far they are navigable? - Thomas Jefferson, The Works, vol. 3 (Notes on Virginia I, Correspondence 1780-1782) 
The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 3.
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 In common winter and spring tides it affords 15 feet water to Louisville, 10 feet to Le 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 the sudden turns of the river and the strength of its current will admit a safe steerage. The rapids at Louisville descend about 30 feet in a length of a mile and a half. The bed of the river there is a solid rock, and is divided by an island into two branches, the southern of which is about 200 yards wide, and dry four months in the year. The bed of the northern branch is worn into channels by the constant course of the water, and attrition of the pebble stones carried on with that, so as to be passable for batteaux through the greater part of the year. Yet it is thought that the southern arm may be the most easily opened for constant navigation. The rise of the waters in these rapids does not exceed 10 or 12 feet. A part  of this island is so high as to have been never overflowed, and to command the settlement of Louisville, which is opposite to it. The fort, however, is situated at the head of the falls. The ground on the South side rises very gradually.
The Tanessee, Cherokee, or Hogohege river is 600 yards wide at its mouth, ¼ of a mile at the mouth of the Holston, and two hundred yards at Chotee, which is 20 miles above Holston, and three hundred miles above the mouth of the Tanessee. 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 burden to the Muscleshoals, where the river passes through the Cumberland mountain. These shoals are 6 or 8 miles long, passable downwards for loaded canoes, but not upwards, unless there be a swell in the river. Above these the navigation for loaded canoes and batteaux continues to the Long island. This river has its inundations also. Above the Chickamogga towns is a whirlpool called the Suckingpot, which takes in trunks of trees or boats, and throws them out again half a mile below. It is avoided by keeping very close  to the bank, on the south side. There are but a few miles portage between a branch of this river and the navigable waters of the river Mobile, which runs into the gulph of Mexico.
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 the Cumberland mountains. It is about 120 yards wide through its whole course, from the head of its navigation to its mouth.
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.
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 Erie, 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, it is yet 100 yards wide. To these towns it is navigable for loaded batteaux, and its  eastern branch affords navigation almost to its source.
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 head waters of James1 river. Nevertheless it is doubtful whether its great and numerous rapids will admit a navigation, but at an expense 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.2
Hock-hocking is 8 yards wide at its mouth, and yields navigation for loaded batteaux to the Pressplace, 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, called Junius’s creek, which interlocks with the western of Monongahela, may one day admit a shorter passage from the latter into the Ohio.
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 Erie.
At Fort Pitt the river Ohio loses its name, branching into the Monongahela and Allegany.
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 Tygart’s valley, presenting only some small rapids and falls of one or two feet perpendicular, and lessening in its width to 20 yards. The Western fork is navigable in the winter 10 or 15 miles towards the northern of the Little Kanhaway, and will admit a good wagon road to it. The Yohoganey is the principal branch of this river. It passes through the Laurel mountain, about 30 miles from its mouth; is so far from 300 to 150 yards wide, and the navigation much obstructed in dry weather by rapids and shoals. In its passage through the mountain it makes very great falls, admitting no navigation for ten miles to the Turkey foot. Thence to the great crossing, about 20 miles, it is again navigable, except in dry seasons, and at this place is 200 yards wide. The sources of this river are divided from those of the Patowmac by the Alleganey mountain. From the falls, where it intersects the Laurel mountain, to Fort Cumberland, the head of the navigation on the Patowmac, is 40 miles of very mountainous road. Wills’ creek, at  the mouth of which was Fort Cumberland, is 30 or 40 yards wide, but affords no navigation as yet. Cheat river, another considerable branch of the Monongahela, is 200 yards wide at its mouth, and 100 yards at the Dunkard’s settlement, 50 miles higher. It is navigable for boats, except in dry seasons. The boundary between Virginia and Pennsylvania crosses it about three or four miles above its mouth.
The Allegany river, with a slight swell, affords navigation for light batteaux to Venango, at the the mouth of French creek, where it is 200 yards wide, and is practised even to Le Bœuf, from whence there is a portage of 15 miles to Presque Isle on the Lake Erie.
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 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 Missisippi itself. Down the last will pass all heavy commodoties. 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 merchandise 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 navigators returning by land, or in light batteaux. There will, therefore, be a competition between the Hudson and Patowmac rivers for the residue of the commerce of all the country westward of Lake Erie, on the waters of the lakes, of the Ohio, and upper parts of the Missisipi. To go to New York, that part of the trade which comes from the lakes or their waters, must first be brought into Lake Erie. Between Lake Superior and its waters and Huron are the rapids of St. Mary, which will permit boats to pass, but not larger vessels. Lakes Huron and Michigan afford communication with Lake Erie by vessels of 8 feet draught. That part of the trade which comes from the waters of the Missisipi must pass from them through  some portage into the waters of the lakes. The portage from the Illinois river into a water of Michigan is of one mile only. From the Wabash, Miami, Muskinghum, or Alleganey, are portages into the waters of Lake Erie, of from one to fifteen miles. When the commodities are brought into, and have passed through Lake Erie, there is between that and Ontario an interruption by the falls of Niagara, where the portage is of 8 miles; and between Ontario and the Hudson’s river are portages at the falls of Onondago, a little above Oswego, of a quarter of a mile; from Wood creek to the Mohawks river two miles; at the little falls of the Mohawks river half a mile; and from Schenectady to Albany sixteen miles. Besides the increase of expense occasioned by frequent change of carriage, there is an increased risk of pillage produced by committing merchandize to a greater number of hands successively. The Patowmac offers itself under the following circumstances: For the trade of the lakes and their waters westward of Lake Erie, when it shall have entered that lake, it must coast along its southern shore, on account of the number and excellence of its harbours; the northern, though shortest, having few harbours, and  these unsafe. Having reached Cayahoga, to proceed on to New York it will have 825 miles and five portages; whereas it is but 425 miles to Alexandria, its emporium on the Patowmac, if it turns into the Cayahoga and passes through that, Bigbeaver, Ohio, Yohogania, or Monongalia and Cheat,) and Patowmac, and there are but two portages; the first of which between Cayahoga and Beaver, may be removed by uniting the sources of these waters, which are lakes in the neighborhood of each other and in a champaign country; the other to waters of Ohio to Patowmac will be from 15 to 40 miles, according to the trouble which shall be taken to approach the two navigations. For the trade of the Ohio, or that which shall come into it from its own waters of the Missisipi, it is nearer through the Patowmac to Alexandria than to New York by 580 miles, and it is interrupted by one portage only. There is another circumstance of difference too. The lakes themselves never freeze, but the communications between them freeze and the Hudson’s river is itself shut up by the ice three months in the year; whereas the channel to the Chesa- peak leads directly into a warmer climate. The southern parts of it very rarely freeze at all, and whenever the northern do, it is so near the sources of the rivers, that the frequent floods to which they are there liable, break up the ice immediately, so that vessels may pass through the whole winter, subject only to accidental and short delays. Add to all this, that in case of war with our neighbors, the Anglo-Americans or the Indians, the route to New York becomes a frontier through almost its whole length, and all commerce through it ceases at that moment.—But the channel to New York is already known to practice, whereas the upper waters of the Ohio and the Patowmac, and the great falls of the latter, are yet to be cleared of their fixed obstructions.1
[1 ]Altered to “8 or 9” in edition of 1787.
[2 ]The words in brackets are struck out with ink, in all the copies I have examined. And in Jefferson’s letter to Thomson of June 21, 1785, he mentions the copy of the Notes sent to Monroe, and adds: “Pray ask the favor of Colonel Monroe, in page 5, line 17, to strike out the words ‘above the mouth of the Appamattox,’ which makes nonsense of the passage; and I forgot to correct it before I had enclosed and sent off the copy to him.”
[1 ]“James and Roanoke rivers” in edition of 1853.
[2 ]In the edition of 1853 is here added: “It is said, however, that at a very moderate expense the whole current of the upper part of the Kanhaway may be turned into the South Fork of Roanoke, the Alleghaney, there subsiding, and the two rivers approaching so near, that a canal of nine miles long and of thirty 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 court-house of which is on the top of the Alleghaney.”
[1 ]Besides the three channels of communication mentioned between the western waters and the Atlantic, there are two others to which the Pennsylvanians are turning their attention; one from Presque-isle, on Lake Erie, to Le Bœuf, down the Alleganey to Kiskiminitas, then up the Kiskiminitas, and from thence, by a small portage, to Juniata, which falls into the Susquehanna: the other from Lake Ontario to the East branch of the Delaware, and down that to Philadelphia. Both these are said to be very practicable; and, considering the enterprising temper of the Pennsylvanians and particularly of the merchants of Philadelphia, whose object is concentred in promoting the commerce and trade of one city, it is not improbable but one or both of these communications will be opened and improved.—Charles Thomson, in appendix.