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All roads lead to the Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival in Southeastern Virginia, on the 7th to 9th of May. Bird watchers are looking forward to the day’s events, which range from guided bird walks to bird-banding shows, photography workshops, bus trips to Lake Drummond, paddling tours and taking nighttime walks like “Sounds of the Night” and like an “Owl Prowl”.

In addition to being famous for its wildlife, wetlands and the gigantic bald cypress trees, the Great Dismal Swamp also has a very fascinating history behind it. Former leader of Continental Army, George Washington, together with Patrick Henry contributed to the construction and establishment of the Great Dismal Swamp Canal Company. George Washington ordered slaves to help dig the canal using their hands. When the slaves decided to escape, they hid inside the 22 mile-long swamp canal, which by then was used as an underground rail route.

The Great dismal Swamp, whose headquarters are located in Suffolk, Virginia, is a National Civil Engineering Landmark, registered on the National Register as a Historic Place. It is located 4 hours South of Washington D.C, near Chesapeake. This strategic position allows holidaymakers who prefer hotels over camping to get an array of choice. The refuge is still part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway linking Boston, Massachusetts with Key West.

The outstanding swamp caught the imagination of some 19th century writers like Edgar Allen Poe, who took a trip through the canals and slept at night on its banks. Another writer was Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose book, “Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp,” was set in the canal.

The Great Dismal Swamp birding festival is free of charge, but one would need to make reservations in advance, as there is limited space on guided walks, bus tours and workshops. For reservation, and to get further information regarding the event, call 757-986-3705.

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