Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Darreus. Darreus Wonders, “Where was the underground railroad?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Darreus!
Imagine that your parents tell you it's time to go on vacation. You can choose anywhere in the United States that you want to go. Where would you want to visit?
If you were to make a list of all the places you'd want to go, we bet there's one place that wouldn't make the list: the Great Dismal Swamp. Wow. Doesn't that sound inviting? It's a huge swamp AND it's dismal? Sign us up! Not!
The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge sprawls across more than 112,000 acres in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. Despite its unattractive name, the area is environmentally, biologically, and historically important.
This unique habitat once occupied over a million acres. It shrunk in size over time as it was drained and logged by various companies. It became a protected resource in 1973 when the Union Camp Corporation donated nearly 50,000 acres to The Nature Conservancy.
Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the swamp with a stated purpose of protecting and preserving the unique ecosystem in order to sustain its unique diversity of plant and animal life.
The Great Dismal Swamp is exactly what it sounds like: more than 112,000 acres of seasonally-flooded wetland forests with 3,100-acre Lake Drummond at its center. The lake was named for William Drummond, the first colonial governor of North Carolina, who discovered it in 1665.
In addition to some of the most important wildlife habitat in the region, the swamp has also been occupied by humans for 13,000 years or more. George Washington even visited the swamp in 1763, when he formed the Dismal Swamp Company to drain, log, and farm parts of the swamp.
Although most European settlers found the swamp too forbidding to live in permanently, it did serve an important purpose for those seeking a place to hide. In the years before the Civil War, the swamp was an important refuge for slaves fleeing the South.
Known as "maroons," these freedom seekers found solitude and safety in small settlements within the swamp. Archeologists have recently started to study the area in depth to find evidence of these settlements. Their findings to date led to the swamp being designated as an official site on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.