The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is the largest intact remnant of a vast habitat that once covered more than one million acres of southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. Formal protection of this resource began in 1973, when the Union Camp Corporation (a local forest products company) donated 49,097acres to The Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy conveyed the donated land to the federal government, which, combined with additionally purchased land, was used to establish the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in 1974.
The Dismal Swamp Act of 1974 directs the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to: “Manage the area for the primary purpose of protecting and preserving a unique and outstanding ecosystem, as well as protecting and perpetuating the diversity of animal and plant life therein. Management of the refuge will be directed to stabilize conditions in as wild a character as possible, consistent with achieving the refuge’s stated objectives.”
With a secondary purpose to: “Promote a public use program when not in conflict with the primary objectives of the refuge.”
The refuge currently encompasses over 112,000 acres of this environmentally and biologically important area. Special designations for the refuge include both the Virginia and Globally Important Bird Area designations, and the National Parks Services National Natural Landmark and Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site designations.
Download the refuge brochure (pdf)
Download The Great Dismal Swamp and the Underground Railroad brochure (pdf)
The refuge is located in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, contained within the intersections of Virginia Highway 58, North Carolina Highway 158, and U.S. Routes 32 and 17. The headquarters and main trail heads are located on the western boundary in Suffolk, VA.
Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
3100 Desert Rd
Suffolk, VA 23434