Friday, April 18, 2008

Dismal Swamp State Park Offers North Carolina Visitors New Access For Experiential Travel

Contact: Elizabeth Evans
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Dismal Swamp State Park Offers North Carolina Visitors New Access For Experiential Travel

(Elizabeth City, N.C., April 18, 2008) – Nature lovers now have a convenient new departure point for hiking, mountain-biking and paddling expeditions into one of North America’s great wetland forests – the Dismal Swamp.

Earlier this spring, the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation opened a new visitor center at the Dismal Swamp State Park in Camden County. Although the state has managed the 14,344-acre park as a natural area since 1974, the opening of the new facility marks the first time visitors can access the Dismal Swamp in North Carolina.

"There has been access in Virginia, but none in North Carolina until now," said Joy M. Greenwood, superintendent of the Dismal Swamp State Park. "Now visitors can enjoy a little green space between southeastern Virginia and Elizabeth City."

At one time the Dismal Swamp covered nearly 1.2 million acres in North Carolina and Virginia. Today, the swamp is considerably smaller, totaling more than 125,000 acres. This includes 111,000 acres of the Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Dismal Swamp State Park is located on Highway 17, adjacent to the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center, a popular rest stop for motorists and recreational boaters. To reach the new state park visitor and education center, travelers must walk over a short swing-span bridge across the Dismal Swamp Canal.

On the other side, the new facility features a small exhibit hall that interprets "The Changing Face of the Dismal Swamp." Exhibits focus on the native populations that inhabited the region; the European explorers who first ventured into the swamp; the workers who dug the Dismal Swamp Canal, once a major transportation route; enslaved people who sought refuge in the wetlands; and commercial loggers.

The exhibit hall offers a bounty of information on the natural history of the Dismal Swamp. Kids will enjoy stepping onto a simulation of the soft, spongy peat that lies beneath the swamp’s surface and investigating the footprints and clues left by the animals that reside in the forest.

After touring the visitor center, step outside to walk along a raised boardwalk, or go for a longer hike among the 16.7 miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails into the park’s interior. Paddlers can use the state park to launch canoes and kayaks for excursions along the historic Dismal Swamp Canal. Native stands of Atlantic white cedar thrive in the Dismal Swamp, as well as deer, river otters and rare plants. Migratory, neo-tropical birds and a significant number of butterfly species also make the state park home.

The visitor center also includes an auditorium and classroom, where staff will conduct interpretive programs. Combined, the new facilities represent a $3.5 million investment from the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, the principal funding source for state parks capital projects and land acquisition. For additional information call (252) 771-6593 or go to http://www.ncparks.gov/

About Elizabeth City

A visit to the Dismal Swamp State Park is an ideal departure point for touring nearby offerings in Elizabeth City. Located in northeastern North Carolina on the Pasquotank River, Elizabeth City has six National Register Historic Districts and is home to the Museum of the Albemarle, Arts of the Albemarle, Elizabeth City State University Planetarium and Port Discover Hands-on Science Center. For travel information and suggested itineraries, call the Elizabeth City Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-866-ECity-4U (1-866-324-8948) or (252) 335-5330 or go to http://www.discoverelizabethcity.com/
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