your paddlesports destination

Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia

Trip Overview

Great Dismal Swamp/Lake Drummond

The Dismal Swamp is located in Chesapeake, Virginia and extends down into North Carolina. The boat ramp is located on 17, just north of the Carolina border, going towards Elizabeth City, N.C.

You can paddle the canal system, that dates back to the Civil War. From the boat ramp you paddle south to the firat canal. This canal is called the Feeder Ditch. Follow this canal to an area set up for camping. It also has a small boat tram to allow boaters with small boats/motors to access Lake Drummond. Paddlers just portage your boat into the access. This is due to the spill way that controls the water level in Lake Drummond and the canal system and controls flooding in the area. The distance from the boat ramp to the camping area is about 3 miles.

Most of the time the water is calm and easy to paddle. However if the spill gates are open, it can cause a strong current paddling up the Feeder Ditch. Paddling the Ditch and Lake Drummond is scenic and quiet most of the time.

I've seen a great deal of wildlife from time to time. Namely deer, bear, beaver, blue heron and many other species of birds. In the summer you can run across a few snakes and other reptiles. Fishing is good. I like the catfishing. You're not going to catch any records, but at night I've caught them in the 2lb range, just right for the frying pan. Sunfish, crappie, perch, bass, pickerel and bowfin are also caught.

The camping area has several screened in gazebos and a bathroom. Fires are allowed only on a cement slab. No ground fires are allowed. You must bring all the water you need if you camp over night. There is no potable water source.

A great day or weekend paddle.


The boat ramp is located on 17, just north of the Carolina border, going towards Elizabeth City, N.C.


Virginia Dept. of Conservation and Recreation

  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip