Take a visit to the swamp

Published 11:28 am Saturday, June 13, 2015

If you’ve never experienced the wild, wonderful Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, this summer would be the perfect time to do it.

If you’ve never been there, it might be because you’ve been misled by the name. It is great but neither dismal nor much of a swamp, at least not in the sense of “wet and gross.” It is a wildlife refuge, but it’s not there just for the deer and the birds — we humans can enjoy it, too, as long as we follow the old Boy Scout rule, “leave no trace.”

If you’ve never been there, it also might be because you’re not sure what you can do there. That’s another easily remedied problem.

Hiking and biking are allowed year-around on the refuge. The trails are open daily, sunrise to sunset.

The refuge headquarters is open on Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and there you will find several exhibits about the wildlife and history of the swamp and several interesting and knowledgeable people that will be glad to help you learn more about it.

The auto tour, which takes you to the beautiful Lake Drummond via the Railroad Ditch entrance, is also available year-around. Along the route, you can visit the Underground Railroad Education Pavilion, the Cypress Marsh and the West Ditch Boardwalk. Once at the lake, you can put in a canoe or kayak.

At the Washington Ditch entrance, you an enjoy the ¾-mile boardwalk trail that loops into the forest, or the 4.5-mile hiking or biking trail that takes you to Lake Drummond, where you will find an observation deck.

At the Jericho Ditch you will find the entrance to many miles of hiking and biking. This is also a great area for bird watching during the spring.

There’s a lot you can do on the refuge, and the refuge staff are actually in the process of making the hours and times of year even more permissive so that more people can enjoy the refuge.

The recently issued “Draft Compatibility Determinations” are an invitation for comment on the new regulations. The auto tour would be open seven days a week, instead of being closed on Sundays, and have longer hours. Year-around access to Lake Drummond from the west would also be newly permitted — currently it is available only from April 1 to June 15.

Visit www.fws.gov/refuge/Great_Dismal_Swamp/ for more information and to learn how to comment on the new regulations.

tracy agnew is the news editor for Suffolk News Herald. She can be reached at 934-9609 or tracy.agnew@suffolknewsherald.com