By: Shelly Jackson
It was a gorgeous day for our bike ride along the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail (https://www.ncparks.gov/dismal-swamp-state-park/home). The southern part is a 9.8-mile paved trail through a heavily wooded area that follows the canal from the entrance of the Dismal Swamp State Park to South Mills. We met at the Dismal Swamp Visitors’ Center parking lot and then took the Canal Trail around and back to the Visitors’ Center.
The Dismal Swamp Canal itself represents an important piece of American history. It is the oldest hand-dug waterway in the country. It was constructed in 1793 to transport supplies and timber products and stretches 22 miles from Deep Creek in Chesapeake, Virginia, to the town of South Mills, North Carolina. It was opened to boating traffic in 1805 and is still in use today as a part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. The canal was also used by the Underground Railroad during the Civil War.
After our ride, we enjoyed a bag lunch at the picnic tables along the canal. We still had time to go over the swing bridge and visit the Great Dismal Swamp State Park Visitors’ Center and its many interesting interactive wildlife and bird displays. The State Park is separate from the Canal Trail and features an additional 20 miles of walking trails.
Not far from Albemarle Plantation, the park is a great venue for biking safely while enjoying the outdoors and experiencing the wonders of nature in a historic local setting. Look for another bike trip in the fall where we will explore the area around Chesapeake.