Great Dismal Swamp #1

Nearest Area
Washington Ditch
Brief Directions

From Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, VA via I-64 Take I-64 East (Hampton Roads Inner Loop) toward Suffolk, VA Merge onto I-664 North via EXIT 299B on the LEFT toward US-13/BOWERS HILL/US-58/SUFFOLK/US-460/NEWPORT NEWS Move to the right two lanes and merge onto US-460 W/US-5Exit onto US-58 Business Route (BR) W/US-460 BR W/PORTSMOUTH BLVD/US-13 BR S. Follow TO REFUGE TRAILHEADS or HEADQUARTERS below. From Williamsburg/Richmond, VA Follow I-64 East to I-664 South. Take Exit 13A- Suffolk (460/58/13 west), then follow TO THE REFUGE TRAILHEADS or HEADQUARTERS below. To the Refuge Trailheads or Headquarters8 W/US-13 S via EXIT 13A toward SUFFOLK Turn Left at the first light onto ROUTE 337, EAST WASHINGTON ST. At the second traffic light, turn left onto ROUTE 642, WHITE MARSH ROAD. Jericho Lane and Washington Ditch trailheads are on White Marsh Road. To continue to the headquarters, proceed on WHITE MARSH ROAD to the four-way stop. Turn left onto DESERT ROAD. Proceed 2 miles to the refuge office at 3100 DESERT ROAD.


This was taken at the Washington Ditch.


The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is located in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. The refuge consists of over 112,000 acres of forested wetlands. Lake Drummond, at 3,100 acres and the largest natural lake in Virginia, is located in the heart of the swamp. Human occupation of the Great Dismal Swamp began nearly 13,000 years ago. By 1650, few native Americans remained in the area, and European settlers showed little interest in the swamp. In 1665, William Drummond, a governor of North Carolina, discovered the lake which now bears his name. William Byrd II led a surveying party into the swamp to draw a dividing line between Virginia and North Carolina in 1728. George Washington first visited the swamp in 1763 and organized the Dismal Swamp Land Company that was involved in draining and logging portions of the swamp. A five-mile ditch on the west side of the refuge still bears his name. Logging of the swamp proved to be a successful commercial activity, with regular logging operations continuing as late as 1976. The entire swamp has been logged at least once, and many areas have been burned by periodic wildfires. The Great Dismal Swamp 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. Before the refuge was established, over 140 miles of roads were constructed to provide access to the timber. These roads severely disrupted the swamp's natural hydrology, as the ditches which were dug to provide soil for the road beds drained water from the swamp. The roads also blocked the flow of water across the swamp's surface, flooding some areas of the swamp with stagnant water. The logging operations removed natural stands of cypress and Atlantic white-cedar that were replaced by other forest types, particularly red maple. A drier swamp and the suppression of wildfires, which once cleared the land for seed germination, created environmental conditions that were less favorable to the survival of cypress and cedar stands. As a result, plant and animal diversity decreased. The swamp is also an integral part of the cultural history of the region and remains a place of refuge for wildlife and people. The dense forests of the Great Dismal Swamp provided refuge to runaway slaves, resulting in the refuge becoming the first National Wildlife Refuge to be officially designated as a link in the “Underground Railroad Network to Freedom” in 2003

Date Added
November 19, 2012
Date Taken
November 19, 2012

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