Great Dismal Swamp

The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Outdoor adventures abound in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge!  It covers more than 112,000 acres of pristine forested wetlands and is home to Lake Drummond, the second largest natural lake in Virginia. 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. This foreboding paradise has inspired writers and outdoor enthusiasts alike and is a must see for any Chesapeake visitor!


Birding in ChesapeakeThe Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is a birder's paradise where more than 200 types of birds can be found. Visit Chesapeake in late March and April for the annual spring migration. Plan ahead and don't miss the first canoe trip of the year, led by Chesapeake Parks, Recreation & Tourism.

The best birding on the refuge occurs during the spring migration in the months of April and May. The spring is a great time to watch warblers, especially the Swainson's and Wayne's. Over the winter, robins and blackbirds are very common. Other special birds of interest include the  barred owl, the wood duck, the prothonotary warbler, and the pileated woodpecker. For information on the annual Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Birding Festival, click here.

Boating & Fishing

Marina1.jpgBoating is permitted year round on Lake Drummond. The 3,100 acre natural lake is located at the heart of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Visitors can canoe, kayak or boat on the lake. Boating access to Lake Drummond can be found via the feeder ditch off the Dismal Swamp Canal or at the public boat ramp north of the feeder ditch.

The best time to fish on Lake Drummond is during the spring. Anglers can fish for crappie, yellow perch, catfish, chain pickerel, flier and the aggressive longnose gar. A valid Virginia fishing license is required for all anglers. For more information about fishing regulations and licenses, please visit the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.


The Great Dismal Swamp offers miles of hiking (and biking) trails. Visitors can observe natural swamp conditions along the Dismal Town Boardwalk Trail, a mile long elevated wooden walkway over the swamp, or try the 4.5 mile Washington Ditch Trail to Lake Drummond. Click here for a complete list of hiking trails in the refuge. 

Find out more about Chesapeake's great outdoors here.

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