The new Dismal Swamp State Park, on the western side of the Dismal Swamp Canal, south of the Welcome Center, makes the area a true “geo-tourism” destination. The State Park is accessed by a manned swing bridge. (For those unfamiliar with North Carolina highway engineering, that is a type of drawbridge which swings laterally to allow boats to pass rather than rising in the center or at one end.) The NC Division of Parks and Recreation has constructed a 5,600-square-foot Visitor Center which opens the park for public use. The Center contains a reception area, exhibit area, auditorium, office space, and inside and outside classrooms. The Dismal Swamp State Park provides an interactive visitor experience with the environmental properties and ecology of the
Great Dismal Swamp, including picnicking, hiking trails, canoeing/kayaking, bird watching, and herpetology.
The Dismal Swamp Canal Trail is a unique 4.5 mile multipurpose hard surface trail for hiking and/or biking from the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center to the Village of South Mills, visitors are able to “PEDAL or PADDLE.” Paddlers are discovering the joys of canoeing or kayaking on this historic waterway, more or less alongside the trail, where wildlife sightings are common ( such as bear, bobcat, deer, turtles, snakes, mosquitoes, black flies, etc.), as well as enjoy peace and tranquility and the feeling of “getting away from it all.
The Dismal Swamp Canal, which forms the eastern border of the Dismal Swamp, is the oldest hand-dug canal in the United States which is still in use today. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. In the spring of 2004, it was recognized as part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program and is a segment of both the North Carolina and Virginia Civil War Trails. The "Underground Railroad" was a very informal, but nevertheless well organized system by which people opposed to the institution of slavery helped slaves escape from the Southern States to freedom in the North in the years before the American Civil War. Much of eastern North Carolina is swampland and the water was very helpful in masking the scent of escaping slaves although that same water and the wildlife indigenous to the swamplands posed significant danger as well.
As part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, beautiful pleasure boats
transit the Canal.
The shop is a family operation (J & E stands for Judy and Elton).
It combines a convenience store with a small restaurant (hot dogs, pizze, sandwiches and BBQ). It is a short distance on the west side of the South Mills bridge.
The William Riley Abbott house built in the 1840's is an unusually large Greek revival plantation house near South Mills. This is a private residence and isn't open to the public.
The focal point of this house is its entrance with its Doric type columns, wide veranda, and balcony over the front door (second photo). When I saw the house in person it looked much smaller than I was led to expect from Claiborne Young's website (see URL)
This house is said to have been used as a hospital for soldiers wounded in the Battle of South Mills. It is known locally as the Nosay House and is on NC rte 1224 which is known as Nosay Road
Period of Significance: 1850-1874
The windows are unusual looking and I suspect they have been modified to take modern storm windows or else fake shutters were added..
I got a letter from a former tenant who wrote: "I lived in that house in 1998 and wanted to confirm your suspicions that the windows are not original. During our year there the windows were indeed the original windows with some of the glass appearing to be original. However, because of the age they were extremely drafty in the winter time and caused our heating bills to be astronomical. The owner had refused to repair the windows so we moved. One year later the owner replaced all the windows, removing the original working shutters and install the fake shutters shown in your picture. It's unfortunate because the house looked much better previously."
One of the things I came across while looking for information about South Mills was the [Regs., Apr. 30, 1938, as amended at 8 FR 15381, Nov. 9, 1943; 25 FR 8908, Sept. 16, 1960; 26 FR 353, Jan. 18, 1961; 34 FR 4967, Mar. 7, 1969; 42 FR 57961, Nov. 7, 1977; 48 FR 6335, Feb. 11, 1983; 56 FR 13765, Apr. 4, 1991] on Lock operation.
The locks on both the Dismal Swamp and Virginia Cut are operated by contract personnel.
(8) Mooring. (i) Vessels and rafts when in the lock shall be moored where directed by the lockmaster by bow, stern and spring lines to the snubbing posts or hooks provided for that purpose, and lines shall not be let go until signal is given for vessel or raft to leave. Tying boats to the lock ladders is prohibited.
(9) Maneuvering locks. The lock gates, valves, and accessories will be moved only under the direction of the lockmaster; but if required, all vessels and rafts using the locks must furnish ample help on the lock walls for handling lines and maneuvering the various parts of the lock under the direction of the lockmaster.
(i) Damage. Masters and owners of vessels using the waterways are responsible for any damage caused by their operations to canal revetments, lock piers and walls, bridges, hurricane gate chambers, spillways, or approaches thereto, or other Government structures, and for displacing or damaging of buoys, stakes, spars, range lights or other aids to navigation. Should any part of revetment, lock, bridge, hurricane gate chamber, spillway or approach thereto, be damaged, they shall report the fact, and furnish a clear statement of how the damage occurred, to the nearest Government lockmaster or bridge tender, and by mail to the District Engineer, U.S. Engineer Office, in local charge of the waterway in which the damage occurred. Should any aid to navigation be damaged, they shall report that fact immediately to the Superintendent of Lighthouses at Norfolk, Virginia, if north of New River Inlet, North Carolina..
Fondest memory: (2) Signals. Vessels desiring lockage in either direction shall give notice to the lockmaster at not more than three-quarters of a mile nor less than one-quarter of a mile from the lock, by two long and two short blasts of a whistle. When the lock is available, a green light, semaphore or flag will be displayed...
(3) Precedence at locks. (i) The vessel arriving first at a lock shall be first to lock through; but precedence shall be given to vessels belonging to the United States and to commercial vessels in the order named. Arrival posts or markers may be established ashore above or below the locks. Vessels arriving at or opposite such posts or markers will be considered as having arrived at the locks...
(ii) The lockage of pleasure boats, house boats or like craft shall be expedited by locking them through with commercial craft (other than barges carrying petroleum products or highly hazardous materials) in order to utilize the capacity of the lock to its maximum...
(4)...Vessels or tows that fail to enter the locks with reasonable promptness after being signalled to do so will lose their turn.
(5) Lockage of vessels. (i) Vessels must enter and leave the locks carefully at slow speed, must be provided with suitable lines and fenders, must always use fenders to protect the walls and gates...
(ii) Vessels which do not draw at least six inches less than the depth on miter sills or breast walls, or which have projections or sharp corners liable to damage gates or walls, shall not enter a lock or approaches...
(v) No vessel whose cargo projects beyond its sides will be admitted to lockage.
(vi) Vessels in a sinking condition shall not enter a lock or approaches.
(vii) The passing of coal from flats or barges to steamers while in locks is prohibited...
(ix) The lockmaster may refuse to lock vessels which, in his judgment, fail to comply with this paragraph.