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Scientist think the Great Dismal Swamp was created when the Continental shelf made its last big shift. The whole swamp has peat underneath. Several theories exist on the origin of Lake Drummond. People have argued the Lake was made by a big underground peat burn about 3,500 to 6,000 years ago. Native American legend talks about "the fire bird" creating Lake Drummond. Other theories regarding the lake's origin include a meteorite and a tectonic shift.
Lake Drummond is one of only two natural fresh water lakes in Virginia. The other, Mountain Lake in Giles County is also of unknown origin. Curiously, both are lakes essentially on top of a hill. Lake Drummond is the highest point in the Dismal Swamp, with nine ditches flowing out of it.
Historic and scenic Lake Drummond is bowl-shaped with acid-stained water, due to the organic acids leaching into the water from surrounding swamp and peat soils. The lake pH normally ranges from four to five. This low pH severely limits the species of fish found there; the low nutrient levels limit the fish biomass. The lake has crappie, yellow perch, chain pickerel, flier, and bullhead catfish. Its best sport fishing is for crappie during the spring. Bowfin and longnose gar are the most abundant predator species in the lake. These grow to a large size and will over a 'heart-thumping' fight if hooked. Lake Drummond is fairly large (3,142 acres) and, as such can get very treacherous in strong winds. However, the lake is shallow (maximum dept 6-feet). Boating access to Lake Drummond is either by a feeder ditch off the Dismal Swamp Canal (east side of the lake) or a road through the refuge from the west.
The closest state ramp to the feeder ditch is on the Dismal Swamp Canal, along Route 17, south of Deep Creek in Chesapeake, VA. It is approximately three miles up the ditch to a lock, and self-operated winch and rail, which can pull boats up to the lake. The lock is managed and services by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Lake Drummond and much of the Great Dismal Swamp are within the bounds of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, officially established through The Dismal Swamp Act of 1974. The refuge includes almost 107,000 acres of forest wetlands. North Carolina established a state park to protect another portion of the swamp. Dismal Swamp State Park protects 22 square miles of forested wetlands.
The oldest and best known myth of the Dismal Swamp legends is that of the Lady of the Lake, a myth the Irish poet Thomas Moore canonized in his 1803 poem, "The Lake of the Dismal Swamp." Based on local legends about an Indian maid who died just before her wedding day and who is periodically seen paddling her ghostly white canoe across the water of Lake Drummond, Moore's poem tells how the bereaved lover came to believe that his lost love had departed her grave and taken to the Swamp. He followed her and never returned but was reunited with his Lady of the Lake in death.
But Oft, from the Indian hunter's camp
This lover and maid so true
Are seen at the hour of midnight damp
To cross the Lake by a fire-fly lamp,
And paddle their white canoe.
Through the years, many a hunter and fisherman has claimed to have sighted the ghostly white canoe with its fire-fly lamp.