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Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
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General Information

Description - Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is located in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina and consists of 107,100 acres of mainly forested wetlands that have been ditched and logged since 1763.

It is home to what may be the most concentrated black bear population on the east coast, and certainly in Virginia. The largest Atlantic white-cedar stand remaining in the country is mostly in the refuge. The 3100 acre Lake Drummond, one of two natural lakes in Virginia is located near the center.

The Dismal is rich in history. In 1665, William Drummond, governor of North Carolina from 1663-1667, stumbled across the lake which now bears his name. William Byrd III led a surveying party into the swamp to define the boundary between Virginia and North Carolina in 1728. He called it a "horrible desert unfit for respiration."

George Washington first visited the swamp in 1763 and called it a glorious paradise. The five mile Washington Ditch was first excavated to Lake Drummond by slave labor under the direction of the land company of which Washington was a part. Since then, the Great Dismal has been ditched, roads built and timber harvested.

In 1973, Union Camp Corporation donated 49,100 acres to The Nature Conservancy, who then conveyed it to the Department of the Interior. The refuge was officially established through the Dismal Swamp Act of 1974.

In addition to the usually shy black bear, the refuge is also home to deer, otter, beaver, rare bats, birds, and bobcats. Over 200 species of birds have been identified since 1974. The rare dwarf trillium and silky camelia bloom in the spring. Eight major plant communities comprise the swamp vegetation. Tupelo-bald cypress and Atlantic white-cedar, formerly predominant forest types in the swamp, today account for less than 20% of the total.

Recreation - Chesapeake, Virginia is located to the east of the Swamp. It is a city that is rapidly growing an is already classified as one of Virginia's largest. It offers endless cultural, recreational, industrial and agricultural opportunities.

Climate - Virginia generally has mild winters and warm humid summers. The eastern portion of the state has winter temperatures averaging above 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius). The state's summer temperatures have little variation. The eastern portion of Virginia generally experiences temperatures above 78 degrees Fahrenheit (26 Celsius). High humidity along with warm temperatures can be uncomfortable.

Location - The Great Dismal Swamp is located in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina between Norfolk in Virginia and Elizabeth City in North Carolina.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Filed By: Carl Hanbury (Chesapeake, VA)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: With a group of 4 friends, I hiked in along the Washington Ditch Trail which is a four mile hike to Lake Drummond. As we hiked along the Ditch, we heard an agitated barking sound, and looked around to see a river otter swimming back and fourth fussing us out. Apparently, otter are territorial and he/she didn't want us in their space. We continued walking along on the easy, flat trail which is under a canopy of trees all the way to Lake Drummond. At the west end of Washington Ditch, we came to the dock which extends a short distance into the Lake. We sat on the dock and had lunch; it was extremely quiet and peaceful as no motor boats are allowed in fact we did not see any canoes either.The lake's water is very dark as it is colored by tanic acid and looks like iced tea. In the old days, the sailing ships, we are told took Lake Drummond's water in casks to sea to drink. While the rest of us were still eating lunch, our friend Rita unbeknownst to us entered the Swamp beside the Lake to answer a call of nature and tripped. When she tripped, she screamed "Carl" which alarmed all or us as we had no idea where she was or at first even who was calling, but I answered her back and she identified herself and was able to walk back to the sound of my voice even though she had sprained her ankle. After reassuring Rita and her reassuring us that she was o.k., we began to retrace our steps back on the Washington Ditch Trail until we came to the Lynn Ditch which we followed south until it entersected with the Jericho Ditch which we followed east to its end near White Marsh Road in Suffolk, VA The entire hike was flat, and quiet as we encountered no one else along the trail not even a black bear. Some of the other trails are over grown and impassable, but many miles of trails are clear.

Filed By: Carl Hanbury (Chesapeake, V)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly

More Information

Contact Information:
Great Dismal Swamp NWR, P.O. Box 349 , Suffolk, VA, 23434, Phone: 757-986-3705
, r5rw_gdsnwr@fws.gov

Additional Information:
Tidewater, Hampton Roads & Eastern Shore Travel Region - Home to one of America's largest resort cities which has two state parks and a national wildlife area within its borders.
Virginia National Wildlife Refuges - The Wildlife Refuges in Virginia cover areas of upland forests, wetland forests, marshlands, rivers, coastal estuaries and more. Visitors will find quality hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and more.

Great Dismal Swamp NWR - Official agency website


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