See Why the Dismal Swamp is misnamed
The Great Dismal Swamp sounds downright dismal. But what the name hides is one of the great natural areas left in the eastern United States and an area filled with history, mystery and adventure. The 22-mile Dismal Swamp Canal, completed in 1805, runs north/south through the eastern edge of the swamp and is the oldest man-made waterway having sustained continuous operations. Today, it is an alternate route on the Intracoastal Waterway used by boaters going between Chesapeake Bay and the Albemarle Sound. Despite its impressive size and age, the Great Dismal Swamp remains a mystery to most people, but at one point it drew George Washington, Robert Frost and many other notables to it. The swamp also played an integral part in the cultural history of the region with its dense forests providing refuge to runaway slaves. As a result, the Great Dismal Swamp was the first National Wildlife Refuge to be officially designated as a link in the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. The Dismal Swamp Welcome Center in Camden is the only visitor center in the continental U.S. greeting visitors by both a major highway and an historic waterway. The center offers information on the history and mystery of the swamp as well as walking, hiking and biking trails. It also provides access to the Dismal Swamp State Park. For the adventurer, there are 18 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails in the park, or visitors can enjoy a leisurely paddle down the Dismal Swamp Canal in a canoe or kayak. The welcome center offers free bike rentals and features an annual Paddle For the Border event that draws hundreds of visitors for a day of fun on the canal. There’s nothing dismal about that.
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