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