The Roanoke River Light Stations​

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, waterways such as the Roanoke River were America’s highways, and beacons such as the Roanoke River Lighthouse were the traffic signals. For 100 years, a beacon in the Albemarle Sound at the mouth of the Roanoke River guided ships to and from Plymouth’s bustling waterfront. At one time, the Roanoke River Lighthouse was one of hundreds of beacons and other navigational aids that guided ships sailing in the rivers and sounds of eastern North Carolina.

George Washington, an early proponent of maritime commerce in northeastern North Carolina, realized that a canal linking the Albemarle Sound with the deepwater port of Norfolk, Virginia would open the entire region to international trade.

In 1794, enslaved workers using hand tools started digging a canal through 23 miles of the Great Dismal Swamp to connect the headwaters of the Pasquotank River near South Mills, North Carolina to the Elizabeth River just south of Norfolk, Virginia.  The canal opened in 1805.  Learn More (Video here)