Lake Drummond/Dismal Swamp NWR
Situated in the middle of The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, is two and one-half miles across and 3.5 miles from the nearest paved road. One of only two natural lakes in Virginia, it is over 20 feet above sea level, unique for a US eastern coastal swamp. A jungle atmosphere is pervasive; you do not want to go off the trail here. The Refuge, larger than the city of Norfolk, has a population of some 300 black bears, along with grey and red fox, mink, bobcat, and deer. We are more likely to see their tracks on the road than the actual critters. The Swamp is rich in history and lore from Colonial days as well as a haven for a large variety of birds and flowering plants.
We offer two all day trips to the Lake.
The first launches into the historic Dismal Swamp Canal part of The Inter Coastal Water Way that George Washington built. From there we follow the Feeder Ditch through the Refuge to the spillway that holds in The Lake. There is a campground here with flush toilets and picnic tables. From the spillway it is only a quarter mile to the Lake. We paddle north along the eastern shore of The Lake where we see hundreds of Cypress trees growing just off shore creating an obstacle course for those who want to search for dry land. We return along the same course and have lunch at the spillway before paddling back out the Feeder Ditch. This is our longest trip. We are paddling for approximately 5 hours with several breaks and lunch. We will paddle 10 to 12 miles. We go at a leisurely pace.
The second trip is much less paddling but you do not see any of the Ditches (canals). For this trip we meet at the Washington Ditch parking area and carpool (we will need volunteer drivers) to the gate at Railroad Ditch. From the gate it is dirt roads for 6 miles through the refuge. We launch directly into the SW corner of Lake Drummond from the Interior Ditch boat ramp. We will paddle along the Western edge of the Lake past the remains of an old hunt club and stop for lunch on the pier at the Washington Ditch. We then paddle across the middle to get a panoramic view of how immense this body of water is, and return to our launch site. We will also spend some time on the road looking for tracks.
We also offer shorter trips on the Northwest River that is part of the Dismal Swamp environment but not inside the Refuge. See that trip for a description.
Spring: Many migratory songbirds with warblers being most abundant. The Prothonotary Warbler is common, occasional Osprey, Wood Ducks will begin nesting. Orchids, coral honeysuckle, and yellow jessamine are in flower.
Summer: Bear, deer, and bobcat are more active so we are more likely to see their tracks. The Green Heron, Red-tailed Hawk, Barred Owl, Pileated woodpecker, Prothonotary Warbler and more are common breeders here. Great Blue Heron and Belted Kingfisher are active along the ditches. Trumpet and passion vines bloom.
Fall: Autumn colors peak in late October through November. Wild fruits like Paw Paw and wild grapes are abundant along the ditches. Common Loon, Tundra Swan and Snow Goose, Great Blue Heron will begin coming into the area.
I wanted to thank you for another set of awesome trips. Everyone had a great time. Lake Drummond reminded us of the time of the Druids and of Lake Avalon. The old cypress trees reminded us of
the tree people from the Lord of the Rings - that is truly a magical place. Hearing the tree fall just as we were leaving the lake, was just perfect.
-- Gail, Alexandria, VA