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Featured National Recreation Trail

Dismal Swamp Canal Trail, North Carolina

The trail features a variety of historic sites, abundant wildlife, and opportunities for biking, fishing, and canoeing.

From the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center

photo of bicycling on trail

Bike riding on the Dismal Swamp Canal National Recreation Trail



The Dismal Swamp Canal Trail was designated a National Recreation Trail in 2008.

The concept of a multi-use trail, running parallel with US 17, the original “Ocean Highway,” from the Village of South Mills to the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center was first discussed in a meeting of the Camden County Planning Board in the fall of 1998.

In June of 2000, the County submitted an application to the NC Department of Transportation Enhancement Program for this project. The County entered into an Agreement with NCDOT in the spring of 2001, following the award of enhancement monies to fund the project.

The northern Trailhead begins on the southern end of the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center off US Highway 17. Asphalt tops the 10 foot wide trail, making it ideal for families and handicapped individuals. The first 3 miles meander through a wooded area between the historic waterway and the historic highway, ending at NC Highway 343.

Photo of boys with bird houses
Scouts putting up bird houses

A 5-foot wide highway extension provides access for the trail to the Village of South Mills via NC 343 and Mullen Road, ending at the drawbridge over the canal. A secondary Trailhead & parking area is located at the intersection with NC 343.

The Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center is the only NC Welcome Center built on a historic site. The Dismal Swamp Canal is the oldest hand-dug waterway in the country still in use today, part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Opened to boating traffic in 1805, it holds great historical significance.

The trail became part of the NC Birding Trail on December 15, 2005 and part of the East Coast Greenway on November 6, 2006. Plans for the future include joining the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail in Chesapeake, VA. We are working with East Coast Greenway personnel on this project.

photo of bicycling on trail

New bridge on the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail

Because the trail was financed with grant monies, it was necessary to find other sources of revenue for cost-cutting amenities. Maintenance of the trail is performed by Camden County. Trail infrastructure has been developed using grant monies or volunteer groups. Beautification projects have also been accomplished with volunteers. Special clean-ups have been done using local prison details.

There are two picnic tables along the trail, four benches, and several trash receptacles. The bird houses, feeders, and mile markers were all made by Boy Scout Kevin King for his Eagle Scout project. Kevin and members of Troop 158 in Camden installed project components on April 15, 2006.

For more information:

Trail Location: US Highway 17 in Camden County, NC

Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center
2356 US 17 North, South Mills, NC 27976
(252) 771.8333

photo of water channel photo of swamp photo of kayaker


Photo of boardwalk in swamp
Audubon Center at the Francis Beidler Forest (photo: Mark Musselman)

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