Recent articles highlight welcome center


Penny Leary-Smith

Sunday, May 6, 2018

It was a privilege to read two recent articles, “Nothing Dismal about Carver’s job at Camden State Park” and “Dismal Swamp Welcome Center rest area noted for beauty” in The Daily Advance.

Let me compliment Anna Goodwin McCarthy, your correspondent, but the Dismal Swamp State Park is located in the South Mills area of Camden County, not the Shiloh area. As director of the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center for approximately 24 years, I can assure you that there is nothing dismal about the park and its surrounding areas.

Even before the state park was established and it was designated as a nature area, it was not dismal. We received continuous inquiries from travelers seeking an entrance to the swamp from the North Carolina side. We had to direct them to the entrance to the National Wildlife Refuge in Suffolk, Virginia.

We were very fortunate after 15 years of working and many trips to Raleigh, to gain the strong political support needed to reach the beginning of what we have today. There were many dedicated people from northeastern North Carolina who banded together in support of this project. We also have had very dedicated state park employees who shared in the park’s growth and who have since advanced in their jobs or died.

One of your staff reports recognizes the beauty of the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center to Camden County, our region and our great state. This welcome center is the only one in the state where both highway and waterway travelers are greeted. The Dismal Swamp Canal is the oldest man-made waterway in operation today. The canal is an alternate route of the Intracoastal Waterway and is managed by the Norfolk District of the U.S. Corps of Engineers. The center is a great asset for Camden and is steeped in history and uniqueness.

The archives established over the years at the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center tell a massive story worthy of a best-seller. There are stories like the Locki and the logging industry; the ownership of a canoe carved from a tree that grew from the swamp; and the painting of the canal as one of the 42-most historic landmarks in North Carolina. The Corps of Engineers’ original archives contain documents about the canal that made history for Camden County both before and after the building of the welcome center.

Camden County witnessed, when print media was the way to tell the world, numerous articles written by a variety of publications, just like the ones published recently in The Daily Advance. No other county in North Carolina has the privilege of having this kind history, so we have much to be proud of. 

Penny Leary-Smith


Editor’s note: The author is a retired director of the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center. The error she notes about the location of Dismal Swamp State Park in a recent Daily Advance article was not the fault of Anna McCarthy, the correspondent who wrote the story. The error occurred during the story’s editing.