Dismal Swamp State Park in Elizabeth City, NC

By Kevin Litwin on May 9, 2011 at 7:07 pm EST

After visiting Dismal Swamp in the early 1800s, Edgar Allen Poe penned his famed poem, The Raven.

Today, the swamp still inspires. Dismal Swamp State Park covers more than 14,000 acres of protected land on the North Carolina-Virginia state line, and the park is open year-round for recreation. That recreation includes a canal that is used regularly by boaters who travel the Intracoastal Waterway, and the park also includes 20 miles of logging trails through swamp forests that are open to hiking and mountain biking enthusiasts.

Bird watchers also flock to the park to get a glimpse of more than 200 species of birds‚ while nature lovers can view numerous species of animals, reptiles and wild foliage. Dismal Swamp State Park is recognized as part of the North Carolina Birding Trail and the East Coast Greenway, and is home to one of the largest black bear populations on the Atlantic coast.

The swamp itself is a unique natural wonder that is the site of mystery‚ history and recreation that attracts thousands of people each year. Many of those visitors start at the Welcome Center that is located on the banks of the Dismal Swamp Canal.

It is the only welcome center in the continental United States that is accessible by both a major highway and a historic waterway, and keeps its restrooms open 24 hours a day. It offers information on everything from swamp history to local fauna, and tourists can also make lodging and North Carolina Ferry System reservations.

As for the canal itself, it is fully open to canoeists and kayakers and has a launch for access. In addition, park rangers schedule several environmental educational and interpretive events along the waterway throughout the year.

Read more about the outdoors in Elizabeth City, NC.

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