—Dismal Swamp Canal Trail —
Across the canal lies the US Fish & Wildlife Service's Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
The Great Dismal Swamp was once a vast ecosystem that covered as much as one million acres of southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. The biologically-rich wetland stretched from the Suffolk scarp (an ancient sand dune ridge) to the Albemarle Sound, and from Deep Creek (Chesapeake) to Edenton, N.C. The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1974 by an Act of Congress and now protects over 112,000 acres. These lands are considered by scientists as the heart of the original ecosystem.
Not only a refuge for wildlife, but also a refuge for people...
The Great Dismal Swamp once harbored generations of freedom seekers under the veil of its dense wetland forest. Hundreds, or even thousands, of runaway slaves moving from the south to the north preferred traveling these dark, veiled waterways. Some made it this far north and stayed. Others continued their journeys on to Norfolk and Portsmouth with the help of the web of assistance that came to be known as the Underground Network. Today, The Refuge and the Dismal Swamp Canal are official sites of the National Park Service's Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
The Refuge is one of over 550 refuges
in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the system is the world's premiere network of public lands and waters. Formal protection of this resource began 1973 when the Union Camp Corporation (a local forest products company) donated 49,097 acres to The Nature Conservancy. The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.