Great Loop FAQs
Questions about the Great Loop Route
Because there are several points on the route where there are choices that may send you to different waterways, we recommend you examine our Public Interactive Map. However, the primary waterways on the basic route include:
- The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
- The Chesapeake Bay
- The C&D Canal
- The Atlantic Ocean from Cape May to New York Harbor (or sometimes inland waterways through part of New Jersey)
- The Hudson River
- The Erie Canal (or a popular route option on the "Triangle Loop")
- The Oswego Canal (or continue on the Erie Canal to Lake Erie)
- Lake Ontario
- The Trent-Severn Canal
- Georgian Bay
- Lake Michigan
- The Illinois River
- The Mississippi River
- The Ohio River
- The Tennessee River
- The Tenn-Tom Waterway
- Mobile Bay
- The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway
- The Okeechobee Waterway (or continue on the Gulf Intracoastal to the Keys)
We’re seeing a trend towards people doing the Great Loop in segments, cruising for a few weeks or months, and then returning home to take care of business or other responsibilities, and returning to the boat for another segment when possible.
The US. and Canada are usually part of the Great Loop, although one route option keeps you within the U.S. borders. Some Loopers do a side trip to the Bahamas as well.
Depending on route choices, you will go through at least 15 U.S. states and Canadian provinces, which may include:
- South Carolina
- North Carolina
- New Jersey
- New York
The double swallow tail AGLCA burgee is the flag that binds America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association™ members. It's been called the welcome mat for Loopers and is proudly flown by our members whenever they are cruising. Members who fly an AGLCA Burgee receive instant recognition from the boating community and their fellow members.
The White Burgee is an indicator of AGLCA membership and can be flown by any of our members on any type of boat, even if it’s not your Loop boat.
The Gold Burgee is the "Gold Standard" and is reserved for members who have completed the Great Loop Cruise.
The Platinum Burgee has been specially designed to identify our most experienced Loopers, those who have accomplished multiple Loop completions!
And, our veteran Loopers who display the Gold and Platinum Burgees as their credential of completion(s) are accorded the respect that goes with being someone who has done extensive cruising on America's Waterways.
In addition to members, AGLCA sponsors can also be seen flying burgees.
The Red Burgee represents the highest level of AGLCA sponsorship and is flown by our Admiral sponsors.
The Green Burgee represents the second highest level of AGLCA sponsorship and those sponsors are known as Commanders.
The Blue Burgee represents sponsors at the Lieutenant and Lieutenant Plus sponsorship levels.
Wherever you see one of these colors flying you can be assured that these sponsors will do whatever they can to assist you with your Great Loop journey.
The lowest unavoidable fixed bridge on the Great Loop is currently charted at 19.6’ and is located at mile 300.6 on the Illinois River. The boat you intend to use for the Loop must be able to clear that bridge. Some members with taller boats are able to get under 19.6’ by lowering antenna, radar arches, etc. About 8% of our members have sailboats. Most sailboats will need to unstep the mast to clear the bridges outside of Chicago and upstate New York.
Your choice of waterways through New York State and into Canada will also be dependent on your air draft. If you can clear a 15' bridge, you have the option to take the Erie Canal to its western terminus into Lake Erie. If you can clear a 17' bridge, you can do the "triangle loop" that takes you into Lake Champlain and through the St. Lawrence Seaway into Lake Ontario. (As an additional option on the triangle loop, if you can clear many eight foot bridges, you can take the historic, charming and free Lachine Canal through Montreal rather than the Seaway locks.) The final option is to take the Erie Canal to the Oswego canal to Lake Ontario. That route requires you to clear 21' bridges.
Your air draft will also dictate which route you take off Lake Michigan. To cruise the Chicago River through downtown, you must be able to clear 17' bridges. If you can't clear that, you will take the Cal-Sag Canal which is south of Chicago to the Illinois River.