Did you ever wonder how the Dismal Swamp got that name to begin with?
There are two main bodies of thought on the title “Dismal Swamp”: back in 1728, when Colonel Byrd was surveying the NC/Va line, Colonel William Byrd II referred to the swamp as “dismal”, thanks to the abundance of chiggers, ticks, and yellow flies. He also referred to it as a “horrible desert”. However, Europeans called areas with long standing water “dismals”, and that is the more popular belief for the origin of the name.
William Drummond, the first governor of our fair state, was the person who actually discovered Drummond Lake, which now bears his name. The lake is roughly 3000 acres, and is only 3-4 feet deep, on average. It is a fresh water lake, located almost in the middle of the swamp. Lake Drummond is often referred to as a “jewel”, and is the feeder for the Dismal Swamp Canal by way of the feeder ditch.
To learn more about Colonel William Byrd II, please see the North Carolina History Project.
To learn more about William Drummond, please see NCPedia
The water in the swamp is an amber color, and although this might seem unsavory, the water is actually very pure, due to tannic acids supplied by the bark of the gum, cypress, and juniper. This tannic acid is not friendly to bacteria, and apparently, this made the water very important to sailing ships before refrigeration was available. The purity of the water led to the belief that drinking it on a regular basis led to a long life and helped prevent any illness.
All this info is taken from the brochure supplied by the Dismal Swamp Canal Information Center, which “Stanley” at the welcome center outside Manteo thoughtfully supplied.
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South Mills, NC
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