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Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

With over 100,000 acres of Red Maple-Black Gum swamp, marsh and bog lands, handsome stands of Bald Cypress and Atlantic White Cedar, and 3,100-acre Lake Drummond, the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge holds natural secrets that can take a lifetime of exploration to uncover. The Great Dismal Swamp was hacked away at for some 200 years, and the draining, lumbering, and development schemes perpetrated here have left their marks. This is a marvelous refuge, but a lot of the "great" has long since been removed from the swamp. Still, this sanctuary is full of creatures great and small, and some 40 miles of dirt roads pass through its habitats; although generally not open to motorized vehicles, they are perfect for foot and bicycle travel, and usually give visitors a multitude of wildlife-viewing opportunities.

Nearly 80 species of reptiles and amphibians, including snakes, lizards, turtles, salamanders, frogs, and toads, have been observed here -- an extraordinary diversity. Various turtles, such as the Spotted and the Yellow-bellied, are conspicuous in the roadside canals and ponds, sunning themselves on logs and cypress stumps. Other amphibians and reptiles are easily recognized by their voices -- the "clink" of the Green Treefrog and the "plink plink" of the Carpenter Frog. Three poisonous snake species, the Timber Rattlesnake, Copperhead, and Cottonmouth, live here.

Two hundred and ten species of birds have been recorded in the refuge. Breeding wood-warblers, among the most colorful avian residents from spring to fall, include Prothonotary, Yellow-throated, Kentucky, Hooded, and the extremely local Swainson’s Warblers.

Mammal-watchers will have to work a lot harder to build a long sightings list, but their efforts may lead to glimpses of Black Bears, White-tailed Deer, beavers, gray squirrels, Red and Gray Foxes, Eastern Cottontails, Marsh Rabbits, muskrats, Minks, Northern River Otters, and Bobcats. Great Purple Hairstreak and Palamedes Swallowtail are two of the many beautiful butterflies here.

The road at the Washington Ditch entrance leads to Lake Drummond, one of only two natural lakes in the state. It also accesses the 3/4-mile Boardwalk Trail, which hints at some of the swamp’s natural treasures.

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  • biking
  • boating
  • fishing
  • hiking
  • paddling