Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dismal Swamp Canal Trail Designated as National Recreation Trail

Date: June 11, 2008
Contact: Penny Leary-Smith, Director
Phone: 252-771-8333 or 877-771-8333

Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center
2356 Highway 17 N
South Mills, NC 27976

Dismal Swamp Canal Trail Designated as National Recreation Trail

On June 4, 2008, in the spirit of the 40th Anniversary of the National Trails System, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced that he has designated the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail in Camden County, one of the 24 trails in 16 states, to be a National Recreation Trail. North Carolina had only two trails receiving this recognition.

“One of my priorities at Interior is to reconnect American families to nature,” said Kempthorne. “The National Trails System, including these additions, provides an excellent link to the outdoors, particularly for children. National Recreation Trails exemplify partnerships and are providing a path to fitness and stewardship for Americans of all ages.”

The announcement coincides with the 16th annual celebration of National Trails day on Saturday, June 7, 2008. The theme for this year, “Join Us on the Trail,” encourages people of all ages to get outside and use trails for exercise and exploration. Thousands of trail enthusiasts will participate in hikes, educational programs, bike rides, volunteer repair projects, festivals, paddle trips, and trail dedications across the country.

National Recreation Trails have been a touchstone of the National Trails System since the first designations in 1971. The National Recreation Trails recognize existing trails that connect people to local resources and improve their quality of life.

In 1998, the concept of a multi-use trail running parallel with US 17 from the village of South Mills, North Carolina to the North Carolina/Virginia border was first discussed. Groundbreaking for the trail was on September 29,2004, with completion of the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail opening to the public in June, 2005, with Enhancement monies from NCDOT. The main trail begins on the southern end of the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center off US Highway 17. Asphalt tops the 10-foot wide trail ... making it user-friendly and ideal for families and handicapped individuals. The first three miles meander through a wooded area between the historic waterway and the historic highway, ending at NC Highway 343. A 5-foot wide highway extension provides access for the trail to the Village of South Mills via NC 343 and Mullen Road, ending at the drawbridge over the canal. Two picnic tables, four benches, and several trash receptacles complement this trail overlooking the beauty of the historic Dismal Swamp Canal.

In the midst of the natural, cultural, and historic resources of the historic Dismal Swamp Canal, the trail became part of the NC Birding Trail on December 15, 2005, and part of the East Coast Greenway on November 6, 2006. The trail runs long the Dismal Swamp Canal which is the oldest hand-dug waterway in the United States and is part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program. The canal is still in use today as part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. The trail runs close to the highway in one area because this was the location of the old Culpepper Locks (1830-1898), causing the canal to be extra wide at this point, pushing the trail east. The original stone milepost marker # 19 sits along the trail. This trail connects with the Dismal Swamp State Park which only enchances the entire area.

Since it opened the trail has become very popular with both travelers and residents, as it provides wonderful recreational opportunities for bicycle enthusiasts, walkers, runners, birders, and photographers.

For more information please call the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center at 877-771-8333.

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