The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge preserves the largest intact remnant of an ecosystem that once stretched over one million acres in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. With more than 110,000 acres of seasonally flooded forested wetland, and the 3,100 acre Lake Drummond at its center, the refuge contains important wildlife habitat.
Over 200 species of birds have been observed on the refuge, including the elusive Swainson’s warbler. Nearly 100 species of butterflies and skippers have also been recorded. Mammals found on the refuge include black bear, bobcat, otter and white-tailed deer.
The mystery, remoteness, and solitude of the swamp have attracted and inspired people for many reasons. Robert Frost, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and countless others have used the Dismal Swamp as a stage for their poetry and novels. George Washington once owned a portion of the swamp. Recent research has also shown that, prior to the Civil War, the Dismal Swamp was both a temporary resting place for escaped slaves on their way north, as well as a permanent hiding place for others who established entire communities deep within the swamp.
Visitors to the refuge can hike on the one-mile Washington Ditch Boardwalk, or can take a longer, four-and-a-half mile hike along Washington Ditch to Lake Drummond. An auto tour route to the lake is also available. Fishing is permitted from boats, which can reach the lake from the Dismal Swamp Canal. The refuge also hosts hunts for deer and bear.