The states of Virginia and North Carolina share a swamp that is known mainly to east coast yachtsmen, The Great Dismal Swamp. And more info here. The Great Dismal Swamp covers about 107,000 acres in Virginia and North Carolina. One leg of the Intracoastal Waterway is through a man-made canal. connecting the Chesapeake Bay near Portsmith Va. with Albemarle Sound near Elizabeth City, NC. This is a shortcut for those that move their boats from north to south for the winter, and vise-versa for the summer. The canal takes small boats along the east side of the swamp, a Natural Wildlife Area. About 2-miles south of the Va/NC border, on US-17 is one of th few ‘tri-modal’ rest stops in the country, serving not only drivers, but yachtsmen, and bicyclists riding on a paved bicycling trail that runs the entire length of the canal – about 20 miles.
The boat ramp
The boat ramp, about 3-miles north of the Va/NC line, on the trail serves as an ideal launch point for kayakers wishing to paddle the middle section of the canal, and deep into the swamp to Lake Drummond, about 3-miles to the west. This lake, a couple of miles across feeds the canal through what is known as “the ditch“, or more properly known as the Lake Drummond Feeder Ditch. Paddling the ditch to Lake Drummond was the reason I made this trip, mainly to find one Geocache. The ditch is about 3-miles long and 50′ wide, still water. It’s a peaceful paddle in ‘black water’, water so colored by decaying leaves that it looks like a very strong tea, one that has steeped for days. I couldn’t see more than a couple of inches of my paddle underwater. Separating the Ditch from the lake is a small dam, with a “boat trolley” to help move small boats from the Ditch to the lake, but I arrived to see that the “tram” was out-of-order. I guess it is because of budget cuts. Well I can carry my boat across some grass so I paddled south on the canal about half of a mile to where the ditch branches off to the right, where I found another of the disappointing signs about the tram being out-of-order. I guess they mean it.
This could be just about anywhere in the Ditch
Back to the paddle, going up the ditch can be almost monotonous, one sees a long flat, mirror like creek ahead overhung by trees. The day I paddled the ditch I headed only two birds calling the distance. Other than that the day was totally silent! As for wildlife I saw one turtle, and lots of Dragonflys. I’ve seen reports from others telling of seeing deer and bears, but I didn’t have such luck on a weekday in the end of August.
Another view on the Ditch
Near shore in the Ditch were a few lonely patches of lily pads with the stray Lilly bloom hanging on. And at times I had to navigate around some deadfall. Finally the dam and the boat trolley came into view, the first stop on my journey and a chance to stretch.
Nearing Lake Drummond one comes across a dam that separates Lake Drummond from the ditch, and the, now inoperable, Boat Trolley that should have provided an easy way to move small boats over the hundred feet or so of grass and a 10-foot hill.
The dam in the distance
The Boat Trolley
From the dam to the lake, the ditch is about the same as the first 3-miles, but less than half a mile. Venturing onto the lake the scenery changes, and I do mean change. The day I was there the lake had some texture, at times it will be mirror flat but a strong wind could cause a definite chop. The most spectacular paddle was among the Bald Cyprus Trees near shore.
Amongst the trees
One Lone Bald Cyprus>
The paddle back was much the same, a never-ending glass smooth paddle in total wilderness. The entire trip took me just short of 4-hours paddling. I’d like to have taken more photos, but they would all look so similar that even I wouldn’t know one from the other. Oh yes, I did find the geocache.