If you’re heading around the Great Loop, or simply cruising up and down the Intracoastal Waterway, you may want to schedule a stop at the facedock at the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center in North Carolina, just south of the Virginia border. It’s always been a friendly spot to rest or spend the night; indeed, about 2,000 boats stop there each year. But now it has some added cachet: Architectural Digest just named it one of the 15 most beautiful rest spots in the U.S.
The state-run welcome center serves as a gateway to the Dismal Swamp State Park just across the canal, a 22-mile-long stretch of the alternative ICW that connects the Elizabeth River in Virginia with the Pasquotank River near Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The main ICW goes through the Virginia Cut past Coinjock down to Albemarle Sound.
The area around the Welcome Center is beautiful this time of year, with flowering dogwood, tall pines and the dark reflective water of the canal. “It’s just very picturesque,” Donna Stewart, director of the center, told the News Observer. “We often hear what a pleasant surprise it is.” Some 20 miles of nature trails and a 2,000-foot boardwalk offer a glimpse of the 112,000-acre swamp, which is home to black bears, bobcats, otters, weasels and 70 species of reptiles and amphibians.
British colonists gave the Great Dismal Swamp its name, but it was George Washington who suggested that it be drained to create a waterway between the Chesapeake and Albemarle Sound in a visit in 1763. The canal was opened in 1805, and is now the oldest still operating man-made canal in the U.S. Read more: