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Occasionally something will happen to disable a boat in the canal. The second year we came through, there was a small boat that had lost its transmission when pulling away from the dock.
Claiborne Young says: "If you find yourself in need of mechanical repairs on the Dismal Swamp Canal, call Bob Baker at Fox Marine Services. This independent mechanic will be glad to drive to the welcome center's docks or wherever you have managed to tie off along the canal. Baker has a deserved reputation for thorough and friendly service."
Of course you can come by road - and in 2003 when we were going down the canal, there was an accident on US Rte. 17, and there was a helicopter and fire truck beside the canal. (Photos 4 and 5)
Updated May 24, 2009
This park has been closed by Hurricane Irene.
Last time we stopped (Feb 2011), we saw that you could now access the park via unique hydraulic arm bridge that spans the Dismal Swamp Canal at the NC Welcome Center (photos 3,4 and 5) . They pull the bridge aside so that boats can pass. There is another bridge (photo 2) which a farmer uses to move stock across the canal but that bridge is not normally across the canal except when in use.
Boaters along the canal have 'right of way' which may cause some delay in pedestrians crossing the bridge. The visitor center/exhibit hall, restrooms and parking are accessible. When the park re-opens there will be 18 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails or you could also enjoy a leisurely paddle down the Dismal Swamp Canal in your canoe or kayak. Kayaks and mountain bikes can be rented for about $5.00 and hour
8 a.m. – 6 p.m. March through October
8 a.m. - 5 p.m. November through February
Closed Christmas Day
Visitor Center Open 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. weekdays, 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Trails close one-half hour before park closing time.
We have stopped at the Dismal Swamp Visitor's Center periodically. In the beginning there was nothing and no access to the State Park. Other than the Dismal Swamp Visitor's Center, there the access was just the Albemarle Region Canoe Trail system canoe trail on the Upper Pasquotank River. Or you could access the trail at the US 17 bridge crossing southeast of Morgans Corner. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains a trail for hiking and biking.
From the NC Park website:
The park protects 22 square miles of forested wetland in the Great Dismal Swamp, the largest remaining swamp in the eastern United States. Historically, the swamp was much wetter than what you see today. Extensive ditching and logging have changed its character over the past 200 years. Today's Dismal is dominated by red maple in place of the bald cypress and tupelos that once flourished here
The swamp is home to a wide variety of reptiles and amphibians, and a diversity of mammals, including black bear, bobcat, river otter, and several bat species. The refuges bird list stands at over 200 species, with 34 warblers and 93 nesting species. April, May, and June are a great time to see nesting songbirds, but summer can be oppressively hot and insect-ridden.
Updated Sep 4, 2011
The Visitor's Center is open seven days a week in the summer, and Tues. thru Sat. from Nov 1 to Memorial Day weekend 9-5.
This is the only Visitor Center in the continental U. S. on both a major highway and an historic waterway. From the website:
Located in Camden County on scenic U. S. Highway 17, the original Ocean Hiway, just three miles south of the VA/NC border, the Center sits on the banks of the Dismal Swamp Canal, part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. The Canal is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated a National Civil Engineering Landmark, honors worthy of its colorful past.
In addition to the canal docks for large boats, there is a small boat ramp and small motor boats, kayaks and canoes can use the canal.
Equipment: The dock is 150 feet long and boats raft on each other. There's no dockmaster - the boaters manage their own docking.
There's no electricity available, but there is a nearby drinking fountain with a faucet (picture) to which you can attach a hose (except in the winter when the water is turned off), and trash cans. There are bathrooms which are open all the time which are climate controlled (heated/AC). No showers. There are pay phones and snack machines, picnic tables and grills. There are also walking/hiking trails nearby.
The Visitor's Center is closed Sunday and Monday in the winter. When it is open, boaters can watch videos on the history of the Dismal Swamp Canal or exchange paperbacks. The Visitor's Center also sells some cruising guides.
There is nowhere nearby to buy any food other than snacks.
Updated May 24, 2009
Address: 2356 US Hwy 17 N. South Mills, NC 27976-9425
Favorite thing: Look at the Dismal Swamp Canal.
The canal was a colonial engineering feat. There are locks at either end of the canal because the water level in the Norfolk area is different from the water level in the Elizabeth City area.
Fondest memory: We've been here thrice by boat - there were a lot of other boats here when we were here and it was like one big party. We all stood around and talked and had a good time.
We've been here once by car, and since it was Sunday, the Visitor's Center was closed (they have a lot of travel information and souveniers etc) although the bathrooms were open, and there were no boats on the docks. So it was peaceful and almost lonesome.
Updated May 24, 2009