Do It Outdoors: Camping trip in the Great Dismal Swamp is highly recommended

By Wade Betts

The Perquimans Weekly

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Wifey and me recently spent the night in the middle of the Great Dismal Swamp.  

I know what you are thinking, and no, we were not lost. We paddled my canoe to Lake Drummond and spent the night in a tent.  

Our son dropped us off at the boat ramp on the old canal bank road and we paddled the four miles to the Drummond Reservation.

The campground is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. Although the campground is in the middle of the refuge, it is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the feeder ditch and dike system that makes the locks at South Mills and Deep Creep work.

When you leave the boat ramp you head south in the Dismal Swamp Canal. After a mile or so, turn right — into the feeder ditch. The feeder ditch was dug to allow water from Lake Drummond to flow into the canal. This water is what lifts boats in the locks. Once a boat is inside the locks, the gates are closed and valves are opened letting the water enter. The water lifts the boat and then the gates are opened on the upstream side and the boat leaves the locks. It takes one million gallons of water to make this happen.

At the upstream end of the feeder ditch is the dam and the campground. The dam controls the water level in the lake. They maintain the level so there will be enough water to work the locks. During droughts the water level can drop low enough that the locks can’t function and the canal has to be closed.

Camping is first come-first serve. There is enough room for four or five campsites. Camping is primitive but there are bathrooms with running water. An attendant is there in the daytime — at night, you’re on your own. There are grills and a fire pit. Best of all, camping is free.

Wifey and I had a great time. The canoe trip gave us some exercise and once we had camp set up, we just relaxed.

If you can, you need to take this trip. More on this later.