Borrego Springs, CA

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A dismal day

The alarm went off this morning at 6:30, and I hopped out of bed ready to take Emma and go on an adventure.  No chores today!  I had packed a lunch last night, so we were soon on our way for a two hour drive.  Our destination was the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia.


The refuge encompasses more than 110,000 acres of seasonally flooded wetland forest.  That was a surprise to me.  I had expected the Great Dismal Swamp to be flooded year round.  This refuge held another surprise for me as well.


We hiked the first boardwalk along the Railroad Ditch road.  At the end of the boardwalk is a pavilion that showcases the part that the refuge land played as a stop in the Underground Railroad in the period just before the Civil War.  It also served as a hiding place for communities of escaped slaves known as maroons.  I can’t imagine the hardships endured by these former slaves when confronted with living in this swamp.  I had no idea this was such an historic location.


The Railroad Ditch auto tour route ends at Lake Drummond.  It’s a 3100 acre lake that is named after the first colonial governor of North Carolina. 


After stopping at the refuge headquarters to have my passport book stamped, we headed over to the Washington Ditch road to have a little lunch.  There are two trails located off of the parking lot.  We tried the Dismal Town boardwalk first, but weren’t able to complete the whole loop as I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes.  I guess you really have to expect that in a swamp.


The second trail is the 4.5 mile long Washington Ditch trail that goes all the way to Lake Drummond.  I certainly wasn’t going to be able to do the whole thing, but we did walk a portion of it.


                             Oh boy, what a horrible job those slaves had to do hand digging that long ditch. 


That’s the ditch on the left.  Good old George, along with some shareholders, formed the Dismal Swamp Company to drain, farm, and log portions of the swamp.


Being in the swamp at high noon on a hot and muggy day, I really didn’t expect to see much wildlife out and about.  So I was pleasantly surprised when these two does popped out of the woods in front of me.


           I imagine they’ll be a bit more skittish towards the end of fall when the hunting season opens up.

While I was at the headquarters getting my passport stamped, I mentioned that I volunteered at the Gateway VC, and that we didn’t have any information on the Great Dismal Swamp NWR.  It is one of the 11 refuges that we tell visitors about.  So, I left with a bag of pamphlets to display at the VC.  Winking smile  At this point, I’ve visited six of the eleven refuges we represent.  I’m hoping to visit the rest of them in the next couple of weeks.  

I think you’ll agree that my day wasn’t really dismal, it just involved a Dismal location.  One of the best parts was it was a day off, and it didn’t rain!


                                                                                THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy


  1. Lol, loved the end! Oh and the beginning and middle too! Loved the mix of history and sightseeing. Good job with on advertising at you place of work!! It is good to be on top of it, don't you wonder how long they have been without the pamphlets?

  2. Wasn't it William Byrd surveying the dividing line between N.C. and Virginia who named it Dismal and said something about it being the most god forsaken place? It does have very interesting history though and is great for kayaking if you go in the winter or later in the fall before hunting season.

    They have a spring birding event that is also very nice and before the mosquitos get TOO BAD. I cannot imagine working there though especially being forced to.

  3. Did you see any evidence of forest fires ? I seem to remember that there were fires in the swamp last year and could see and smell smoke while we were in Chincoteague, Virginia last summer.

  4. You have SUCH an interesting life. And what great photos!

  5. That sounds like a fine Dismal day! I enjoyed hearing about the Underground Railroad connection.

  6. Here I thought, from the title, that you had a downer of a day! A happy surprise to find out otherwise. Interesting history, too. Thanks for that!

  7. This kind of a dismal day is a good dismal day.

  8. I was expecting a real Dismal place and swampy, it looks like a great place to visit, thanks.

  9. What a great history area. I can't image traveling that area as an escaped slave. How brave they were.
    Sounds like you had a wonderful day!

  10. quite the 'dismal' day you had! :)

  11. No rain, that was great for an adventure.

  12. OK...another place I really want to visit...The history there gave me goosebumps just looking at your pics...Walking those paths that Washington and the many slaves were at...channeling history..I would have been in History Heaven. Thanks for posting.

  13. As you know, we love NWR's. This is the type of one we'd enjoy. We've found some to be disappointments such as yesterday we went to part of North Platte NWR near Scottsbluff, NE. One short dead end road leading to a small lake. Oh well, never know unless we try. You, my friend, would lead us in the right direction so not the miss the very best.

  14. Thanks for the interesting history lesson and great photos.

  15. Maybe they named it "Dismal" because of all the mosquitoes...."Off" with Deet is getting to be my "perfume of the day" now that we are back in the midwest. Enjoyed your trip out and about!

  16. How did those poor runaway slaves survive all the mosquitos? Makes you appreciate even more how much their quest for freedom meant with the hardships they endured to get it.

    Nice walkways that are there, sure makes wandering around in a swamp a lot cleaner.

  17. The trails are very nice. Those are the kind I like to walk. Love the photos and the history of the place. This is a place I will add to my list ot places to visit. Thank you.

  18. What a gloomy name, even for a swamp! You're brave to enter this place in summer, even if you are covered with DEET. I'd be eaten alive! Come winter, tho, that boardwalk and ditch trail would make for good hiking, I bet.

    Lots of history in those parts - nice to explore on a "dry" day! Beautiful pics.

  19. Really great photos and lovely blog. I like the feature that updates us on where you are! I'm now following you on GFC, feel free to check out my travel blog and follow if you want to - any advice is greatly appreciated :)



  20. These are the best kind of adventures, in my opinion. . .much better than the tourist trap areas!

  21. I'm sure you did enjoy the adventure. Thanks fro sharing this exciting tour with us. I appreciate it.