More Info: The Great Dismal Swamp: A History
Located in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was formed in 1974 when Union Camp Corporation donated 49,100 acres of forested wetlands to The Nature Conservancy. This land was then conveyed to the Department of the Interior, and the Refuge officially established. The Refuge consists of over 107,000 acres, with Lake Drummond, a 3,100 acre natural lake in the center of the Swamp.
The entire Swamp has been logged at least once, and many areas have been burned by periodic wildfires. The Great Dismal has been drastically altered by humans over the past two centuries. Agricultural, commercial, and residential development destroyed much of the Swamp, so that the remaining portion within and around the Refuge represents less than half of the original size of the Swamp.
WHAT KIND OF ANIMALS LIVE IN THE SWAMP?
The Swamp supports a variety of mammals, including otter, bats, raccoon, mink, gray and red foxes, and gray squirrel. White-tailed deer are common, and black bear and bobcat also inhabit the area. Three species of poisonous snakes are found here, -- cottonmouth, canebrake rattler, and the more common copperhead -- along with 18 non-poisonous species. Yellow-bellied and spotted turtles are commonly seen, and an additional 56 species of turtles, lizards, salamanders, frogs, and toads have been observed on the Refuge.
Many ornithologists trek through the Swamp in search of over 200 species of birds identified on the Refuge since its establishment; 96 of these species have been reported as nesting on or near the Refuge. Birding is best during spring migration from April to June. Two southern species, the Swainson's warbler and Wayne's warbler (a small-billed coastal race of the Black-throated Green Warbler) are more common in the Great Dismal than in other coastal locations. Other birds of interest are the wood duck, barred owl, pileated woodpecker, and prothonotary warbler.
WHAT IS THERE TO DO IN THE SWAMP?
Visitors to the Refuge may participate in a variety of activities including hiking, biking, photography, wildlife observation, and fishing and boating. Portions of the Refuge may be closed to public use. A variety of unpaved roads provide opportunities for hiking and biking, with Washington Ditch Road the best suited for bicycle traffic. An interpretive boardwalk trail meanders almost a mile through a portion of the Swamp. Dogs are permitted on a leash only.
Fishing and boating are permitted year-round on
Lake Drummond. A Virginia fishing license is required. Boat Access is permitted via the 3.5 mile Feeder Ditch connecting Lake Drummond with the Dismal Swamp Canal off US Hwy. 17 in Chesapeake, VA. A public boat ramp is located north of the Feeder Ditch. To enter the lake, boats must be transported across the US Army Corps of Engineers spillway on the Feeder Ditch via a small motorized tram on which there is a 1000 pound weight limit with a maximum 10 HP motor. Camping facilities are available at the head of the Feeder Ditch.
WHEN IS IT OPEN?
The Washington Ditch and Jericho Lane entrances are open daily April 1-September 30, 6:30am- 8:00pm and October 1-March 31, 6:30am-5:00pm. The Refuge is open sunrise to sunset for nature study, photography, hiking, biking, boating, and sight-seeing.
HOW TO GET THERE?
From Hampton and Newport News, cross the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge-Tunnel on I-664 toward Portsmouth. Exit on Route 58, traveling west to Suffolk, At Suffolk, turn left on E. Washington Street (Route 337). Take Route 337 to White Marsh Road (Route 642). Turn left on White Marsh Road and follow the Great Dismal Swamp Refuge signs. Approximately 6 miles, turn left into the Washington Ditch entrance. Visitors may drive in to a parking area at the boardwalk trail. There is another entrance on Jericho Lane. Park on road shoulder, making sure your vehicle does not block the road.
For the protection of Refuge resources and to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit, please observe the following regulations:
Refuge trails are open to hiking and biking only. Visitors must stay on designated trails;
Collecting or harming any plant or animal life is prohibited. For your safety and the animals' protection, do not attempt to handle or feed any wildlife..
For further information, contact:
GREAT DISMAL SWAMP NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
P O BOX 349
SUFFOLK VA 23439-0349
Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center or Nature.org