Dismal Swamp State Park to offer ride to fire site


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

CAMDEN — Dismal Swamp State Park will host a bike ride later this month to the site of the last wildfire in the swamp.

Billed the “Bike to the Burn,” the round-trip ride Sunday, July 22, will be led by Ranger Joe Hyatt and cover roughly 16 miles. The trip will be entirely within the bounds of the state park in Camden County.

Riders will travel to a section of the state park near the Virginia state line where more than 6,600 acres burned in 2011. The blaze, known as the Lateral West Fire, burned for months through the summer and fall and temporarily closed the state park and the Dismal Swamp Canal. The fire also affected visibility in surrounding areas, including Elizabeth City.

Hyatt will present a short talk at the site of the wildfire before the group heads back to park headquarters.

“He will talk about how the area is rebounding and how it offers habitat for everything from eagles to otters,” said Lisa Doepker, office manager at Dismal Swamp State Park.

Participants are strongly encouraged to bring their own bike, though about seven are available at the park for participants’ use.

A mountain bike or beach bike will be needed for the ride because the route will follow old logging roads in the park.

Participants are advised to be prepared to ride a distance of 16 miles on varying dirt road conditions — mostly well-packed dirt with some softer areas.

Doepler noted a 10-year-old did complete the trek successfully in a ride last fall.

The ride is slated to start at 9:30 a.m. Bikers probably will return to the park’s headquarters by 1 p.m. or so, depending on the pace of the slower riders in the group.

To pre-register for Bike to the Burn call the Dismal Swamp State Park office at 771-6593.

“We will take people right up to that day as long as we’re not full,” Doepker said.