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Great Dismal Swamp

Great Dismal Swamp, SE Va. and NE N.C. With dense forests and tangled undergrowth, the wetlands are a favorite site for sportsmen and naturalists. It once may have covered nearly 2,200 sq mi (5,700 sq km) but has been reduced by drainage to less than 600 sq mi (1,550 sq km). The swamp bottom is composed of organic material deposited by fallen trees and other vegetation. Its forests still contain valuable timber, despite the lumbering and fires that have plagued the area. Lake Drummond, c.3 mi (4.8 km) in diameter, in the center of the swamp, is its highest elevation.

From the early 1600s until the end of the Civil War, the largely impenetrable area was a refuge first for Native Americans fleeing European settlers and soon for Africans and African-Americans fleeing slavery. Great Dismal Swamp was surveyed in 1763 by George Washington, who was a member of a company organized to drain it. Dismal Swamp Canal, 22 mi (36 km) long, part of the Intracoastal Waterway , was completed in 1828 and connects Chesapeake Bay with Albemarle Sound. The swamp is the scene of Harriet Beecher Stowe 's novel Dred.

Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, c.112,000 acres (45,325 hectares), lies west of Dismal Swamp Canal in Virginia and North Carolina, and includes Lake Drummond. The refuge was established in 1974. Dismal Swamp State Park borders the refuge on the southeast in North Carolina.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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