Posts Tagged ‘Harriet Beecher Stow’

 Buttercup: That’s the fire swamp! We’ll never survive.                                                                                                                      Wesley: Nonsense! You’re only saying that because no one ever has.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 — The Princess Bride

View of The Great Dismal Swamp from Highway 17 -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

 It was a beautiful fall day that found Maggie and I driving south on Highway 17. We had no plans except for making it 100 miles farther down the road, a necessity if we were to be back in Texas in time for Thanksgiving with family.

 I had just crossed from Virginia into North Carolina when I came upon the Great Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center. Of course I stopped to investigate.

 Maggie, who was recovering from one of her recurring bouts of the infamous cocker-spaniel-ear infections, gave me her: Don’t bother me, I’m napping look. No problem, I told her as I climbed down from the RV.

Sailboats tied up at the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center in North Carolina. -- Photo by Pat Bean

From information available in the visitor center, I learned that the swamp stretched from Virginia into North Carolina, and that 110, 000 acres of it was a designated national wildlife refuge. The more fascinating information concerned the canal that ran behind the visitor center.

This 22-mile long waterway was the idea of George Washington, who saw it as an investment to accommodate trade between Virginia and an isolated region of North Carolina. In George’s day, such a canal was the only easy way through the swampy muck.

 Given the year it was begun, 1793 (finished in 1805), it’s a given that slaves were the digging tools. But the swamp was also a place of hiding for runaway slaves, which “Unce Tom’s Cabin” author, Harriet Beecher Stow, wrote about in her less known work, “Dred.” This is the story of an escaped slave who lives in the Great Dismal Swamp.

Civilized trail -- no snakes -- Photo by Pat Bean

 Today, the canal provides access to Lake Drummond , and is a shortcut for boaters traveling between the Elizabeth River and Chesapeake Bay in Virginia to the Pasquotank River in North Carolina. Six large sailboats tied up this morning at the welcome center dock told me it was a popular passage.

 By the time I got back to the RV, Maggie had decided she wanted to investigate, too. I took her for a walk on a short nature trail on the civilized and landscaped side of the swamp.

 Back on the road, Highway 17 traversed the swamp for another 60 miles. From my comfortable seat behind the steering wheel, with the tires of my RV humming a pavement tune, I didn’t find the swamp dismal at all.

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