Although state transportation officials say the two drawbridges over the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal open 12 times a year on average, actually being there when it occurs is rare.
City of Rehoboth Beach officials sent out an email that Delaware Department of Transportation had notified them about a request made to raise the Rehoboth and Lewes canal bridges between 2 and 4 p.m., May 6. DelDOT staff are responsible for maintenance and operation of the bridges.
Around 3 p.m., a houseboat motoring from Rehoboth Bay neared the Rehoboth bridge. Although the gates to stop traffic were activated and bells went off, the bridge was not opened. Apparently, the houseboat had enough clearance room. Then around 3:45 p.m., the boat approached Lewes and the bridge was raised. On the boat were Michael Heller and his father-in-law Dave White.
Once they fueled up in Lewes, they headed across Delaware Bay to take the houseboat to its new home in Cape May, N.J.
There have been two bridges over the 10-mile canal since it opened in 1916. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dug out the canal in an effort to provide a transportation route for freight from the Broadkill River to Rehoboth Bay. However, an increase in roadways and railways nixed that idea, and for most of its 105-year history, the channel has been used by leisure craft. The canal is a section of the Intracoastal Waterway.
Lewes’ bridge is 40 years old and Rehoboth’s is 30 years old, and both underwent major overhauls in 2018 and 2019.