A waterway is any navigable body of water. Waterways can include rivers, lakes, seas, oceans, and canals. In order for a waterway to be navigable, it must meet several criteria:...
along the Atlantic
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...
coasts of the United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
. Some lengths consist of natural inlets, salt-water rivers, bays, and sounds
In geography a sound or seaway is a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight and wider than a fjord; or it may be defined as a narrow sea or ocean channel between two bodies of land ....
; others are artificial canals. It provides a navigable route along its length without many of the hazards of travel on the open sea.
The shipping hazards and safe havens of the Atlantic coast were well known and appreciated since colonial times, and considered of great communication, commercial and military importance to both the colonial power and the newly established, independent United States.