Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Travel Guide

  • Tree uprooted from sandy bank
    Tree uprooted from sandy bank
    by grandmaR
  • Another boat following us through the canal
    Another boat following us through the...
    by grandmaR
  • Warnings and Dangers
    by grandmaR

Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Things to Do

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    by grandmaR Updated Feb 18, 2006

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The refuge headquarters is in Suffolk. The North Carolina Canoe Trail gives access to the canals for car top boats.

    A variety of unpaved roads provide opportunities for hiking and biking with Washington Ditch Road the best suited for bicycle traffic. The Dismal Town Boardwalk Trail, located on Washington Ditch Road, meanders almost a mile through a representative portion of the swamp.

    Fishing/Boating are permitted year-round on Lake Drummond. A Virginia fishing license is required. Access is via the Feeder Ditch, which connects Lake Drummond with the Dismal Swamp Canal. A public boat ramp is located north of the Feeder Ditch. Boats must be small enough to portage around the water control structure near the lake. Access to Lake Drummond via the Feeder Ditch is restricted to a 10 Hp (or lower) boat motor limit.

    Trail Information and Rules

    Refuge trails are open to hiking and biking only. Visitors must stay on designated trails.

    Collecting or harming any plant or animal life is prohibited.

    The Washington Ditch and Jericho Lane Entrances are open daily April 1-September 30, 6:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m. and October 1-March 31, 6:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. No overnight use is permitted.

    First part of directions from Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, VA

    I-64 East (Hampton Roads Inner Loop) to Suffolk, VA.
    Exit # 299B- (Rts. 664/58/460/13) Suffolk. I-64 will become I-664.
    Exit #13A- (13 South/58 West/460 West) Suffolk
    Follow Rt. 13 South/Business Rt. 58 West- Downtown Suffolk.

    Reflections in the Dismal Swamp Canal More reflections Stumps with plants growing from them Corps of Engineer's boat at Lake Drummond entrance Shore of canal after Hurricane Isabel (2003)
    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • National/State Park
    • Fishing

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Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Warnings and Dangers

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    by grandmaR Updated Apr 4, 2011

    From the Great Dismal Swamp Refuge webpage:

    "Washington Ditch entrance closed for construction of new boardwalk trail. "

    There were other openings and closings listed on the website after Hurricane Isabel in 2003

    Luna_Moth Sat Jul 10, 2004 10:01 EDT has supplied an UPDATE: Jericho Ditch has been re-opened. We have hiked this with the dog several times already this summer! --elisabeth w., Suffolk VA

    Currently their website says:
    "* Most refuge trails are open to hiking and biking only. Visitors must stay on designated trails. Parking is available at both the Washington Ditch and Jericho Lane entrances. Trails are open daily, sunrise to sunset, unless otherwise posted.."

    * Year-round water access to Lake Drummond is via the Feeder Ditch, from the east. Access to the Feeder Ditch is from the Dismal Swamp Canal. Access from the Interior Ditch boat ramp is available from April 1 to June 15 by special use permit.

    * The Railroad Ditch entrance is open for vehicle access to Lake Drummond by special day pass. To obtain the free pass, you must register on the day of your visit at the refuge headquarters (3100 Desert Road, Suffolk, VA). Passes are issued on normal business days between 8:00am and 3:00pm. You must be out of the gate by 4:00pm. Passes are not available on weekends or federal holidays. Trail is subject to temporary closures due to occasionally downed trees; please feel free to call to check pass availability on the day of your visit. The entrance is also open daily for hiking and biking.

    * No overnight use is permitted on the refuge.

    * Collecting or harming any plant or animal life is prohibited. This includes catch and release. For your safety and the animals' protection do not attempt to handle or feed any wildlife.

    * Animal playback and other recording devices are not allowed as they interfere with the normal behavior of birds.

    * All pets must be on a hand-held leash at all times when on the refuge.

    * Hunting programs occur on the refuge during posted seasons in October through mid November and portions of the refuge are closed to other trail access during these times. Lake Drummond, the Feeder Ditch, and the Dismal Swamp Canal are No-Hunting zones, but boaters should be aware of hunting on nearby refuge lands. For more information on the hunt program click here.

    Additional Information

    * Trails are open daily, sunrise to sunset. After business hours and on weekends trail maps can be found in the kiosk in the Washington Ditch and Jericho Lane parking areas, and at the headquarters front gate kiosk.

    * Dress appropriately for winter walks. By layering, it is easy to adjust to changing temperatures. Sturdy trail shoes are best for the dirt roads.
    * For more information, please call Deloras Freeman, Visitor Services Specialist, at the refuge headquarters. Business hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. The office is closed on federal holidays.

    The website listed has a Refuge map.

    For more information, please contact them at the URL under Other.

    downed trees Another boat following us through the canal Tree uprooted from sandy bank Farmer's bridge
    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • National/State Park
    • Budget Travel

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Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Favorites

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    by grandmaR Updated Jan 1, 2004

    Favorite thing: I would really like to go up to Lake Drummond sometime. According to this Corps of Engineers map on their Dismal Swamp brochure (which shows mostly the Virginia portion of the Refuge as they have something pasted over the NC portion), there is a camp site and picnic area along the Lake Drummond Ditch. This map also shows the boat launch area at the east end of the ditch.

    Fondest memory: When you cruise down the Dismal Swamp Canal, you have the traffic on one side of you and the wilderness of the Refuge on the other side. I've never seen the bears or deer (although I know people that say they have) but we do see mallards, an occasional kingfisher, and a great blue heron or two.

    Map of the Reserve
    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Kayaking
    • Camping

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