Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1974 to help protect and preserve a portion of the Great Dismal Swamp, a marshy region on the Coastal Plain of southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina between Norfolk, Virginia, and Elizabeth City, North Carolina in the United States.
The Great Dismal Swamp is a southern swamp, the one most north of many along the Atlantic Ocean's coast that includes the Everglades and the Big Cypress in Florida, the Okefenokee, the Congress and Four Holes swamps of South Carolina, and some of the Carolina Bays.
Essential to the swamp ecosystem are its water resources, native vegetative communities, and varied wildlife species. The Great Dismal Swamp's ecological significance and its wealth of history and lore make it a unique wilderness. It is one of the last large wild areas remaining in the Eastern United States.
After centuries of logging and other human activities which were devastating the swamp's ecosystems, in 1973, the Union Camp Corporation donated 49,100 acres (199 km²) of land; the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was officially established by the U.S. Congress through The Dismal Swamp Act of 1974.
The refuge consists of over 111,000 acres (449 km²) of forested wetlands. Lake Drummond, a 3,100 acre (13 km²) natural lake, is located in the heart of the swamp. Outside the boundaries of the National Refuge, the state of North Carolina has preserved and protected additional portions of the swamp.
The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is located not only between two states, but also between two eco-regions, allowing for a wide range of plant and animal species. Cypress, black gum, maple, Atlantic white cedar, and pine are the predominant tree species found on the refuge and support the wildlife within. Many mammal species, including black bear, bobcat, otter, and weasel along with over 70 species of reptiles and amphibians call the swamp home. More than 200 bird species can be seen at the swamp throughout the year, while 96 of those are known to nest on the refuge.
Lake Drummond is the middle of activity in the swamp today, though, with many fishermen, sightseers, and boaters. Boat tours are given from the Dismal Swamp Canal, to Lake Drummond.
The refuge is open daily during daylight hours. There is no entrance fee. The refuge headquarters, at the western edge of the refuge, is open on weekdays, except national holidays.
Visitor activities include birdwatching, photography, hiking, bicycling, boating and canoing (a boat-launching ramp, offering access to Lake Drummond, is provided onto the Feeder Ditch, at the eastern edge of the refuge), fishing, and deer hunting on parts of the refuge during the designated season. Although camping is not permitted on the refuge, campground facilities are available in the general vicinity.
Hiking opportunities include the nearly 0.75-mile (wheelchair-accessible) Dismal Town Boardwalk Trail, located on Washington Ditch Road, that winds through part of the swamp habitat; and a number of the refuge’s unpaved roads that are also open to bicycling. The peak influx of neotropical migratory songbirds, such as numerous species of warblers, is from late April to mid-May.
In 1805, the Dismal Swamp Canal began serving as a commercial highway for timber coming out of the swamp. Today, the canal continues to serve recreational boaters as part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, administered by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
- Official site Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
- GORP's guide to The Great Dismal Swamp
- a sixth grade student's report on the Great Dismal Swamp very comprehensive and well-done
- Defenders of Wildlife Organization - Great Dismal Swamp page
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