Friday, January 16, 2015

ISO bears in the Great Dismal Swamp

I think I am like many in this region who are guilty of not appreciating the natural resources right in our back yards.  I finally made it a point over the last couple of years to explore The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife refuge.

Lake Drummond (above) is one of only 2 natural lakes in Virginia.  It sits in center of the swamp, virtually untouched.  It's not easy to get there. The shortest way by bike or on foot is down Washington Ditch.  I like riding from the Jericho parking lot, heading down Lynn Ditch to Washington which gives round trip of about 16 miles to lake and back.  The only way to get there by car is to use the Interior Ditch, and by canoe, kayak or small boat through the Feeder Ditch.
Riding the double track looks simple enough, but the map is very misleading.  Below is an image of the East Ditch which appears on the map to connect to Camp Ditch and back to Jericho.  The disconnects in the trail are sometimes completely overgrown portions, and sometimes flooded portions like the one to the right.  It gets scary in there, slogging around with no way out, knowing the place is crawling with bears.  Actually, I still haven't seen any bear but would love to.              
 It's also not possible to access the Suffolk trails from the Chesapeake side.  And there is a similar network of trails to the south of the NC line that do not meet up neatly with the Suffolk side. 

Information about the Virginia side
Information about the North Carolina side

There is a Dismal Swamp Canal Trail that is easily confused with all of this.  The Canal Trail is a paved trail that runs on the far eastern border of the swamp (see map).  You cannot get from that paved trail to any of the dirt trails unless you get off your bike and get into a boat.

This is Bethany on Washington Ditch.  It's the most recent picture I have, taken in December 2014. 

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