Swamp trail getting facelift

Published 8:53 pm Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The most popular trail in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is getting a facelift, prompting the National Park Service to temporarily close the refuge’s Washington Ditch entrance.

More than 10,000 visitors each year hike the Washington Ditch Boardwalk trail, according to Park Service officials. The trail was built in the late ‘70s and has been subjected to everything from thousands of falling trees, the wrath of Hurricane Isabel and the incessant gnawing of bears.

The site of the boardwalk also holds historical significance, as it was the location of the work camp known as Dismal Town, a base camp for both slaves and hired hands digging the Washington Ditch for the Dismal Swamp Land Co., of which George Washington was a prominent shareholder.

The ditch, which was named prior to Washington’s presidency, is thought to be the first landmark to get his name, according to park officials.

The new boardwalk will feature an environmentally sensitive decking material, and it will be wider, with fewer railings (to provide better visibility) and new interpretive signs. Also, handicap access from the parking area is expected to be smoother.

For information about the park, call 986-3705 or visitfws.gov/northeast/greatdismalswamp.