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Great Bridge Lock Park
|Phone: 757-382-6411||Fax: 757-277-9365||Email: PRGeneral@cityofchesapeake.net|
|Address: 100 Lock Road, Chesapeake, VA 23322|
The park — located along the Intracoastal Waterway just off Battlefield Blvd., where the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal, coming up from North Carolina, meets the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River — is named for the Corp of Engineers’ lock which separates the salt water of the river from the fresh water of the canal. This 19-acre park, a small peninsula surrounded by the canal on one side and the river on the other, features a two-lane boat ramp, picnic shelters and a foot-trail along the north shoreline and through the wooded western portion of the park. There is a large playground, play area, provisions for indoor toilets and extensive fishing and crabbing areas. A raised berm area, with interpretive signage explaining the lock system, permits spectators a great view of the many yachts which transit the lock on this busy waterway which runs from Maine to Key West, FL.
In 2004, the National Park Service added Great Bridge Lock Park to its “Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network” for its historic and ecological significance — it is at the southern most estuary in the Gateway Network and the southern most explored point on the NPS’s Capt John Smith National Historic Waterways Trail. Go to www.baygateways.net for more information.
This is also the site for the annual re-enactment of the historic Battle of Great Bridge. In 1775, 200 feet from the park entrance, American troops defeated British forces in this first battle of the Revolutionary War fought on Virginia soil. The route through Great Bridge was the only route by which Norfolk could be approached by land from the south; it was also the land route to get food-stores and valuable commodities from the farms to the south, into Norfolk, the largest port on the mid-Atlantic east coast. This was, therefore, a valuable location for the British fort. William Woodford’s Virginia riflemen defended the passage. When Lord Dunmore’s British regulars attempted cross the swamp on the bridge and along the Great Road, on December 9, 1775, they were cut to pieces by the fire of the riflemen. This defeat forced Lord Dunmore to retreat and evacuate Norfolk, ending British occupation in the area and positioned Virginia to be a major supplier of food and naval stores for the American forces throughout the Revolutionary War.
Currently, work is continuing, spearheaded by the Great Bridge Battlefield & Waterways History Foundation, through efforts of the partnership between the City of Chesapeake, and The Army Corp of Engineers, to establish an Historic Park & Visitor Center in which educational displays and artifacts, electronic media and trained staff will tell the story of the battle and the waterways. To get involved or simply to learn more, visit www.GBBattlefield.org.