Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail
- Seasons: All
- Site Contact: (757) 986-3705, www.FWS.gov/northeast/greatdismal swamp
- Site Access: Free, Daily
- Visit Website
Site CSF09: Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Comprised of nearly 111,000 acres of forested wetlands, canals, ponds, lakes, sphagnum bogs, evergreen shrubs, and marshy borders, the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is the largest entity on the Coastal Phase of the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail. The refuge may be explored via 40 miles of nearly level trails and roads, many of which parallel drainage ditches surveyed by George Washington during the mid-1700s. Three-mile wide Lake Drummond, located in the heart of the Swamp, is one of only two natural lakes in Virginia. This tannin-stained, cypress-lined, isolated lake may be visited from the east by small paddled craft, or from the west by road and hiking/ biking trails. The Great Dismal Swamp is a naturalist's dream. Over 200 species of birds, including 35 kinds of warblers, attract birders, most of whom visit the Swamp during spring migration in mid-April to mid-May. Even after the frenzy of spring migration subsides, wildlife watching in the Swamp can still be very rewarding. The Swamp remains alive with the summer songs of breeding prothonotary, prairie, Swainson's, pine, black-and-white, yellow-throated, yellow, hooded, Kentucky, and black-throated green warblers, northern parula, and dozens of other birds. While searching for the refuge's many birds, even the most casual observer will encounter some of the Refuge's 87 species of reptiles and amphibians. Small mammals are abundant, and large species such as black bear, bobcat, and river otter are encountered with unusual frequency. In fact, the Refuge may currently provide the best opportunity to see black bears in the entire state. The Swamp is an excellent locale for studying butterflies of the southeastern United States, including cane-specialists such as lace-winged roadside-skipper and creole pearlyeye. Mosquitoes are also present in large numbers, so bug spray is highly recommended.
From Lake Kilby, continue on Rt. 688 south for 1.8 miles and turn right onto SR 32/US 13. Turn right on SR 32/US 13 and follow this for 0.8 miles to the SR 32/US 13 split. Follow SR 32 south for 4.4 miles to Rt. 675. Turn left onto Rt. 675 and follow it for 0.6 miles to Rt. 642. Turn left onto Rt. 642 and make an immediate right onto Rt. 675. Follow Rt. 675 for 1.8 miles to Rt. 604. Turn left on Rt. 604 and follow it for 0.5 miles to the Great Dismal Swamp headquarters on your right. At the refuge office you can obtain a map of the Refuge. This site has many entrance points: 1. Jericho Lane entrance: From SR 32 South in Suffolk, turn left on Washington Street/SR 337. Proceed 0.7 miles and turn right on White Marsh Road/Rt. 642. Travel 0.7 miles to the Jericho Lane entrance. 2. The Dismal Town Boardwalk Trail: From the Jericho Lane entrance, go south on Rt. 642 for 4.5 miles and turn left at the Boardwalk Trail/Washington Ditch entrance. 3. Boat access along the refuge's eastern boundary: Exit Suffolk on US 13/58/460 East/North to I-264 North for 2 miles to I-64. Turn right, travel for 6 miles, then turn right on US 17 South and proceed 11 miles. Look for signs for the feeder ditch to Lake Drummond along US 17 at the Dismal Swamp Canal. To return to the interstate, from the Refuge headquarters, turn right on Rt. 604 and follow it north to Rt. 642. Turn right on Rt. 642 and follow it for 7.0 miles north to downtown Suffolk and SR 337. Turn right on SR 337 and proceed for 2.0 miles to US 58/US 460 Business. Turn right/east and follow US 58/US 460 Business to they rejoin the bypass. Follow US 58/460/13 east for 7.0 miles to I-664/I-64. You can follow I-664 north to the Lower Peninsula loop or continue west on I-64 to the South Chesapeake Loop.