Dismal Swamp

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DISMAL SWAMP, an immense wetland in North Carolina and Virginia covering about 750 square miles. In the center of the swampland is circular Lake Drummond, 3.5 miles in diameter. The swamp was named by a wealthy Virginia land speculator, William Byrd, in 1728, and four thousand acres of it were owned by George Washington. During the eighteenth century the area was the subject of land speculation by wealthy easterners. It was immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in

"The Slave in the Dismal Swamp." In the 1970s a controversial drainage and agricultural development program aroused conservationists. Although today it is a National Wildlife Refuge, water is drained from the swamp to help maintain water levels in the nearby Intracoastal Waterway.


Royster, Charles. The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company: A Story of George Washington's Times. New York: Borzoi Books, 1999.

James ElliottWalmsley/h. s.

See alsoWetlands .

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Dismal Swamp, SE Va. and NE N.C. With dense forests and tangled undergrowth, it is 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. Dismal Swamp was surveyed in 1763 by George Washington, who was a member of a company organized to drain it. A canal 22 mi (36 km) long, which is part of the Intracoastal Waterway, was completed in 1828 and connects Chesapeake Bay with Albemarle Sound. Lake Drummond, c.3 mi (4.8 km) in diameter, in the center of the swamp, is its highest elevation. The swamp is the scene of Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Dred.