The Great Dismal Swamp straddles the two states of Virginia and North Carolina. The majority of the IBA is composed of the Great Dismal Swamp NWR, which consists of over 111,000 acres of forested wetlands and contains a 3,100 acre natural lake - Lake Drummond - at its heart. Five major forest types make up the majority of the swamp - pine, Atlantic white-cedar, maple-blackgum, tupelo-baldcypress, and sweetgum-oak poplar. The remainder of the swamp consists of remnant marsh, sphagnum bog, and an evergreen shrub community.

{link:For a fact sheet on this IBA, including a map, click here| Dismal Swamp.pdf}

Ornithological Summary

Over 200 species of birds are known to use the swamp or the surrounding habitat at some point during their annual cycle. Of these, 96 are reported to breed on the refuge, many of which are of conservation concern. Two vulnerable southern species, the Swainson's Warbler and the Wayne's Warbler (a race of the Black-throated Green Warbler) are more common in the swamp than in any other coastal location. The Watchlisted Prothonotary Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Wood Thrush are also common on the site. During migration, the refuge is used heavily as a stopover point for Neotropical migratory birds, shorebirds, and waterfowl. In the winter months, large populations of Rusty Blackbirds, robins as well as wintering waterfowl use the swamp.

Conservation Issues

The primary threat to the refuge is the expansion of Red Maple forest communities into other forested communities within the swamp. Tupelo-baldcypress and Atlantic White-cedar were historically the predominant forest community types within the swamp but now make up less than 20 percent of the total cover. This is a result of past forest clearcutting, extensive drainage and fire suppression within the swamp before it was acquired by the Nature Conservancy and then by the Department of the Interior in 1973 and 1974 respectively. These threats are being ameliorated by controlling water drainage from the swamp and by managing the plant communities through activities that stimulate the effects of wildfires. Hunting is occassionally used to balance overabundant species with available food resources.


The Great Dismal Swamp originated with a donation from the Union Camp Corporation to the Nature Conservancy in 1973. The Nature Conservancy then conveyed the property to the Department of the Interior in 1974.


The site is predominantly forested wetlands of Red Maple and Black Gum. Tupelo/Cypress and Atlantic White Cedar comprise less than 20% of this cover type, although historically they were the dominant cover type. Pine forest and remnant marsh, sphagnum bog, and evergreen shrub comprise a small portion of the bog. Smaller portions of the swamp are loblolly and planted pine forest.

Land Use

The vast majority of the swamp is managed to preserve or restore the natural biodiversity of the swamp prior to human disturbance. Water levels are controlled through water control structures placed in ditches and plant communities are being restored through fire management regimes. Hunting is being used to manage wildlife populations to maintain a balance between wildlife and food resources. The portions of the swamp that are open to the public allow low-impact recreation such as hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, and wildlife observation.

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