america's great loop map, miles,guide,boating
Boating through downtown Chicago
    Cruising in your own boat. . . over 5,429-miles through 18 States (or more), and 2 Provinces of Canada, along beautiful
beaches, past the Statue of Liberty, across the historic Erie Canal, through downtown Chicago, and down the Inland Rivers of America's Heartland to
and through Kentucky Lake on your way to the Gulf of Mexico.
   All this, with the options of cruising across Canada's wonderful Trent Severn & Heritage Canals as well Georgian Bay and the incredible North
Channel. You can take a side-trip up the Missouri to Hannibal and beyond, the Ohio to Pittsburgh, the Cumberland to Nashville, the Tennessee River
to Chattanooga and Knoxville and even visit Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains. It is an epic 'bucket list' boating adventure that will take you
as close to the frozen tundra as it does the tropics of the Equator. From the Statue of Liberty to the St. Louis Gateway Arch, and from Canada's
French Quebec to the New Orleans' French Quarter. . .
You are the Captain! You are in command! You go where you want, when you want
and stay as long as you want.
  
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The Grand Hotel - Mackinac Island
Just Imagine. . .
Sights you will see
cruising America's
Great Loop
Great voyages deserve great stories and every Looper has one!
   In the history of the world few figures have been more envied, more fascinating, or more captivating than the
explorer in a boat. Whether you wear a Ballcap, Panama hat or Pith helmet, you will be the explorer on this epic
boating adventure.
How epic is it?
   Averaging 2,000-miles longer than the Amazon and Nile rivers, America’s Great Loop is not only epic; it is the
ultimate voyage of freedom, discovery and achievement. While the average Looper cruises very near 6,000-
miles, many Loopers report cruising closer to 7,000-miles and a few have reported making side-trips and cruising
over 8,000-miles. In fact, depending on your route and the side trips you can make, your Great Loop voyage
could exceed the distance of Columbus’ first voyage discovering America. Now that’s epic!
   While most Loopers spend very near a year on this adventure. Cruising America’s Great Loop averages
cruising approximately 140 days at an average distance of only 40-miles per day. It really is that simple and
easy. If you think of this 5,429-mile adventure in terms of 140 ‘travel days’ cruising near 10-miles per hour
averaging 40-miles a day; it puts the voyage and the route itself into a very manageable perspective.
Obviously, the adventure includes many more nights spent living on your boat and days spent sightseeing and
being a tourist. These nights and days we are not actually cruising are spent with our boat safely docked in a
marina or on the hook in a safe anchorage. With few exceptions, that choice will be yours.    
   Cruising the Great Loop, you will always be boating in areas that are safe and readily accessible by
emergency medical personnel and convenient to pharmacies, hospitals, banks, post offices, rental cars, airports,
restaurants, movie theaters, museums, and endless amounts of historic and popular places to see and
experience all along the way.
   You will cruise by Castles and Cathedrals, Mountains and Marshlands, Giant Cypress trees and Civil War
battlefields. You will cruise along rolling hillsides and lush vineyards, Antebellum mansions, century old towns
and enchanting riverside Vistas. Along the way you will cruise through exceptionally beautiful waters with sandy
beaches and around pink granite fresh water islands populated only by pine trees. From hundreds of historic
Lighthouses to hundreds more fabulous waterfront restaurants, this is the recreational boaters equivalent of
Route 66. It is your aquatic highway filled with hidden gems, marvelous adventure, amazing sunsets and simply
incredible destinations.    
   From the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway to the mighty Mississippi and from the Florida Keys to Canada’s North
Channel, you will experience Southern hospitality, European charm, exquisite regional cuisine, cobblestone
streets and sidewalk cafes; not to mention countless waterfront restaurants & Tiki Bars. This is where the
destinations you visit are as exciting as the journey itself. It all makes up magnificent views with such amazing
beauty it has inspired countless writers’ musicians, novelists, poets, photographers and a few thousand Loopers
before you.
   On this journey you can take your own boat as close to the Arctic Circle as you can the Tropics of the
Equator. You can take it from the St Louis Gateway in the West, to the Outer Banks in the East and even to the
Chattanooga Choo-Choo and Great Smoky Mountains. It is all made safe and possible by a series of connected
Inland Rivers, Lakes, Intracoastal Waterways, Manmade Canals, Land Cuts and Locks. In the process, Locks will
lift your boat from sea level to a height of almost 900-feet and back down again.  
    Instead of taking you miles away from shore into the perils of the deep blue sea, this incredible boating
adventure takes you along the shorelines of inland rivers, lakes and canals potentially through 20 U.S. States (or
more) and 2 great Provinces of Canada; depending on your choice of route and side-trips. As epic as this
boating adventure is, greater still are the immeasurable sights and destinations along the way. Many of which are
only reachable by boat.
   Beyond the ever-changing waterfront views and scenery, you will cruise through all the defining moments of
America’s history. America’s Great Loop’s main route will take you through 9 of the original 13 Colonies with the
option of cruising all thirteen. From lighthouses older than America, historic places, incredible museums, you will
discover rich and fascinating cultures with postcard-perfect landscapes. You will cruise by numerous big and
lively cities, notable small towns, quaint little fishing villages and hidden destinations. All of which present you with
an unlimited number of tempting places with friendly natives offering scrumptious regional foods, unique one of a
kind shopping and charming waterfront attractions.
    Whether you're the kind of person who strays off the beaten path or one who hits the tourist traps, no matter
the number of selfies or scenic pictures you take, you will be able to instantly send your photos to friends and
family or post them on your Blog and FB page.
   Cruising America’s Great Loop is your greatest opportunity to trade the rush of everyday life for the slow and
easy. It is where the utmost of comfort meets the very ultimate of freedom and adventure. It is where friendly
people, exceptional cuisine and amazing sunsets all come together to provide you with a boat load of
quintessential experiences.   




Possibly the Greeks said it best when they first described the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. They
used the word “theamata” which translates best into English as “must see, must experience”. This is where
Loopers have discovered the road less traveled isn’t a road at all. It is a combination of inland protected
waterways that if nothing else, are proof positive America the beautiful is best seen and experienced from the
water in your very own boat.
   Thanks to the efforts & strategy of the America’s Great Loop Cruising Association (AGLCA), Looping has
become a culture. A culture easily identified by their elite AGLCA Burgee which can be seen flying at the bow on
vessels all over the Great Loop route and America’s amazing inland waterways. This “Looping Culture” belongs
to that fortunate group of friendly boaters known as Loopers. They share common interests and a love for the
boating lifestyle, as well as the ultimate freedom of cruising America’s Great Loop.
   The word “Loopers” of course, has become a common reference for boaters (past & present) cruising America’
s Great Loop. Since it is a loop, most Loopers complete this voyage exactly where they started. This is referred
to as “crossing our wake”. Many Loopers have made this voyage more than once. Several of them have made
this voyage three or more times.
   Baby Boomers make up the majority of Loopers and many have made it their permanent method of retirement.
Our current estimates indicate 200 to 300 boaters a year are making all or part of this voyage. Couples make up
the majority of Loopers while two couples cruising together, families, and solo voyagers are also common.  
   The vast majority of Loopers are making this journey in vessels between 26 and 46 feet in length with the most
common size vessel being very near 36-feet. The most popular vessel for cruising the Loop is a Trawler, followed
by Sailboats, Cabin Cruisers and even some Cuddy Cabins. However, (not that we would advise it), this voyage
has been completed by some more ‘adventurous type’ individuals in everything from jet-skis, customized pontoon
boats, open bow boats and center consoles.
   Understandably, most vessels cruising the Loop are comfortable to live-aboard. They can be new or used, sail
or power, but also equipped with fresh water, cooking appliances, sleeping quarters, refrigeration and marine
toilets/shower facilities. Some vessels have central air & heat.   
   This too is part of the Looping culture. While you might meet a Looper in brand new Flagship vessel, the majority of Loopers are cruising in
safe, suitable yet humble vessels purchased on the used market.
   A Looper’s previous boating experience varies greatly. For most, cruising America’s Great Loop is the Looper’s very first long-distance boating
adventure. It is most often the boaters first time to cruise through unknown and unfamiliar waters. While some have boating experience on inland lakes
or rivers, others have experience on Intracoastal and tidal waters. Many have never been through a Lock and some have never even seen a Lock, Lift
or Swing Bridge. In addition, most Loopers have never experienced anchoring out in tidal waters or strong river currents. Very few Loopers starting
out on this voyage have experienced all the above. This makes cruising the Loop full of brand-new experiences for all of us.    
   The “Looping Culture” is a very friendly and helpful. Boaters in general are a friendly lot, but Loopers are the ultimate ‘friendlies’ on ship or shore.
This is another great reason to purchase that AGLCA Membership and get your AGLCA Looper Burgee. You will want to fly it proudly on the bow of
your boat to let all of us know you too are one of our elite comrades. The camaraderie among AGLCA Members is second to none. Common interests
make fast friendships and many Loopers meet and make friendships on this voyage that last forever.
    With your AGLCA Burgee flying at the bow, no matter where you start your journey, sooner or later you will end up cruising along with other
Loopers. Today, if you cruise the Loop in the recommended counter-clockwise direction during each area’s preferred boating season, it is virtually
impossible not to meet other Loopers along the way.  
   Your AGLCA Looper Burgee will attract other Loopers, help create instant comradely and friendships. Your AGLCA Burgee will often be the
reason for quick assistance if you need it. Because of your Burgee, others will recognize you as member of our safe, respected, fun and elite group. It
will also get you discounts and friendly respectful treatment at most every Marina along the entire Great Loop route.
   Beyond doubt, Loopers are the boaters obeying the rules and having the most fun! They are easy going and maintain a rather laid-back
carefree lifestyle. Their schedules are flexible and relaxing. All of them have great stories to tell, advice to give and advice to seek. So, cruising
couples or cruising solo, you won’t be alone on this adventure unless you choose to be. Half the fun is meeting and socializing with other Loopers
along the way.
   Forget about Pirates! If you ever peeked at your parent’s National Geographic Magazines, you can also forget about those Missionaries wearing
pith helmets in those big black pots being boiled by the natives. On America’s Great Loop, all the natives are friendly, and their food is fantastic. Any
Pirates you meet along the way will be about 3-feet tall and carrying bags of candy.
   Yes, Looping is a culture. It is one where you will realize your most indulgent luxury is time. You will want to spend as much of it as possible
cruising America’s Great Loop.
   A day in the life of a Looper will include cruising an average of about 40-miles. Most of us cruise at a very safe “Looper Speed” which is generally
10-mph or less. For much of this voyage it is not a question of how fast we can go, but how far it is to the next incredible destination. Some days you
may cruise as little as 14 or 20-miles to reach your next destination. Additionally, regardless of your boat’s ‘capable’ speed, your journey is often
limited by speed limits, fuel economy and reaching all the stop lights while they are green.  
    It will almost never be safe to cruise after dark and your daylight distance will greatly depend on the farthest distance you can safely travel to reach
the most desired destination before dark. While many of us can easily make 70-miles in daylight, rarely are we able to go much farther and still reach
the next safe anchorage or marina before dark.
   Our safe cruising distance in daylight is limited by speed limits, no wake zones, manatee zones, tides, currents and mostly “wait times” (for the lights
to turn green) at Locks and Lift bridges. As a result, regardless of your speed, your forward progress is often hindered or prevented by closed locks
and lift bridges. Most of which operate on an hourly schedule and remain closed at night.

   A frequent regret Loopers mention after completion of their voyage is not planning enough time to stop and linger at many of the interesting
places along the way. While destinations such as New York City and Chicago are places we’ve all heard of, places such as Charlievoix, Leland,
Traverse City, Barefoot Landing, Murrells Inlet, Pawley’s Island, Little Current, Frying Pan Island, Cabbage Key, Killarney and Penetanguishene are
destinations no Looper should miss. These hidden gems are the places that will surprise you with exquisite local cuisine, one of a kind shopping,
friendly natives, amazing scenery and exceptional experiences. Many of them, in fact, will tempt you to drop your anchor and remain forever.   
   While not mandatory, a time table of 12 months (give or take one or two) for completing the Loop is the safest and best way to go. As a result,
Loopers cruise in a counter-clockwise direction; timing their voyage to be in each geographical area during its preferred most comfortable and safest
boating season. We therefore ‘spring’ up the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway in Spring. We cruise across the Great Lakes and Canada in the much
cooler Summer. We ‘fall’ down the Inland rivers and cruise the beautiful Heartland of America in the colorful Fall. That leaves us in the much warmer
south during Winter.
- The Looper's Companion Guide -
Where do you want to go on America's Great Loop?