The Elizabeth River is a 6-mile-long (10 km) tidal estuary forming an arm of Hampton Roads harbor at the southern end of Chesapeake Bay in southeast Virginia in the United States. It is located along the southern side of the mouth of the James River, between the cities of Portsmouth and Norfolk. Forming the core of the Hampton Roads harbor, it is heavily supported by its tributaries which depend upon it.
Through its Southern Branch and the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal, the Elizabeth River also is a gateway to points to the south for the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, an inland path from the ocean providing a more sheltered navigable waterway to Florida for commercial and recreational boating.
Importance and use:
The Elizabeth River estuary and its tributaries provide significant military and commercial port facilities for Norfolk and Portsmouth, as well as a third major city, Chesapeake, which was formed by the voluntary political consolidation in 1963 of the small independent city of South Norfolk with much larger Norfolk County, which had long surrounded the other two large and expanding cities.
The three cities surround the Elizabeth River and most of the area served by its three main branches. The Elizabeth River is the home of the oldest and largest naval shipyard in the United States, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Originally founded as The Gosport Shipyard in 1767, the shipyard is still in use today having survived both the American Revolutionary and Civil wars and fires set to the shipyard within each conflict.
The river and its branches provide for both commerce and recreation activities. The Intracoastal Waterway connects to the greater Hampton Roads area through the Elizabeth River. They are of great importance to both commerce and the U.S. military considerations.