Private Tour: to the Great Dismal Swamp!

Great Dismal Swamp

TOUR NAME: This is a Private Group Tour: to the Great Dismal Swamp! (not open to the public)

Subtitle: Definitely Not Dismal: a nature tour with a bit of history

TWO DATES: Thursday, April 11 + Friday, April 12, 2024 (Rain dates are Thursday, April 25 + Friday, April 26) The trip goes rain or shine. We provide umbrellas in case of rain. The rain date is reserved for “severe” weather and lightning.

DEPARTURE LOCATION: REI 350 Independence Blvd, Virginia Beach, VA 

DURATION – Check-in at the bus at 8:30 – 8:40 am. Please arrive 15-30 min before departure to board the bus. Seat selection is based on the order that each individual checks-in. The check-in procedure takes some time. Departure is promptly at 9:00 am. Return to REI approximately 2:00 pm. The tour is approximately 5 hours (ROUND TRIP): 9:00 – 2:00 (ish) It takes approximately an hour to get to the Dismal Swamp. Flexible return time/Traffic dependent. 

PRICE: $805.00 group fee for 16 people. $50.31 per person  (a tip for the guide is already included in this fee).          5 hours x $140/hr x 16 people = $700 + $105 tip for guide = $805 total. $805 divided by 16 people = $50.31 each person. *Important Note: We do not offer ANY refunds.

DESCRIPTION:  George Washington visited in 1763 and called the Dismal Swamp a “paradise abounding in fowl and game!” Join us on this comfortable bus for a tour with expert guide, Allen Carter (certified forester, horticulturalist and Virginia Master Naturalist) as he leads us on this tour, primarily concentrating on vegetation and wildlife in the swamp, but also touching on some major events of historical importance. Allen Carter will be onboard the bus to help prepare us for what we are about to see. If there were a place that was at once, one of the largest peat bogs in North America, the most important wildlife habitats in Mid-Atlantic region, once over 1.28 million acres of wilderness, listed by Audubon Society as a Globally Important Area, designated as an Underground Railroad Network Freedom Site. Would you go? What if it is one of the top three homes for Black Bears in the East, with more than 200 bird species, 334 plants from 100 plant families? How about if this place was where the poet Robert Frost came to commit suicide, or the place George Washington came to drain the swamp? Or just simply join notable visitors including Poe, Wordsworth, Sir Thomas Moore, Madison, Monroe, and Harriett Tubman? Here’s your chance! While much of this tour is on the heated bus, this tour involves some light walking on short wooden boardwalks and a dirt trail. 

Proposed itinerary (subject to change):

  • Leave from REI 350 Independence Blvd, Virginia Beach for the Great Dismal Swamp. Drive through the former swamp on the way along route 58, White Marsh and Desert Roads. Mr. Allen Carter, a retired Dismal Swamp refuge forester, will offer participants information  about the most common birds, animals, and plant species that inhabit the Dismal Swamp. The guide will discuss the various human influences that have impacted the ecology and integrity of the swamp, and the techniques that managers are currently using to restore the natural environment there. Special efforts to reintroduce the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and control invasive plant and animal species will also be mentioned.
  • Railroad Ditch. Begin exploring on several short trails to see exhibits on marronage. Observe the damage the Swamp has endured from tornadoes and widespread peat fires. Walk boardwalks safely above the Swamp for spotting wildlife and plants.
  • Lake Drummond. Stop and rest on the pier. Enjoy your lunch on this deck overlooking the beautiful Lake Drummond, Virginia’s only natural lake! (Picnic chairs will be provided).
  • If time allows, we will head to Washington Ditch. Wander briefly on trails largely on boardwalks over the Swamp. Imagine the perils of enslaved workers digging by hand in thigh-deep snake-infested muddy water a shallow ditch from Dismal Town to Lake Drummond. Consider the dozens of lumbering operations bringing shingles and lumber out of the wilderness.
  • Return to Mount Trashmore, Virginia Beach.


– Expert pre-planning services
– Air conditioned/heated new vehicle; this is a “school bus” with bench seats. It is a comfortable “eco tour bus” and not a luxury vehicle with bucket seats.
– Transportation: Departure from: REI 350 Independence Blvd, Virginia Beach > travel to The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge 3100 Desert Road, Suffolk (approximately 45 min ride each direction; total is 1.5 hours total)
– All fees (including gasoline, tolls, permits/admission fee to locations; excluding food/drink)
– Your guided tour includes an expert naturalist guide
–MEET YOUR GUIDE Allen Carter:

– Bring your lunch. Your lunch must fit into a small sandwich paper bag if you would like to store it in the bus cooler. Larger items cannot fit in the cooler. Alternatively, you can pack your lunch into your own “very small” insulated lunchbox with ice pack (ie: the type children use for school lunches). Bring a refillable water bottle filled with ice water. We have a large jug of ice water to refill your water bottle as needed. We recommend (in addition to lunch) that you pack “pocket-snacks” in your pocket or backpack or in an insulated lunchbox – a sandwich, power bars, or something else that is very EASY to snack on while walking outdoors. Please respect our policy: Eating, drinking, chewing gum is not permitted on the bus. 
– Dress for the weather and trail conditions; warm layers, hat, rain jacket, comfortable walking shoes; air-activated heat packs/inserts for your socks and gloves. Long pants tucked into light colored knee highs are always recommended (to protect and see ticks). Wear closed toe shoes. Bring insect repellent.
– Printed/signed waiver (If you forget yours we will have one you can sign on the bus, but it saves a lot of time when everyone prints theirs at home and brings it with them.) Here is the link to the required form:

$20 cash if you’d like to purchase a Nature Bus t-shirt. T-shirts are either light blue or grey. Email us at with your group t-shirt order ahead of time. List people’s names, color choice, and size of t-shirt (sm, m, lg, xl)

Important NOTES  “Know before you go” ~

*We go “light rain” or shine. Please dress for the weather. In the case of light rain, we simply take cover and wait it out. In the case of very heavy rain, extreme wind or temperatures, we will move the tour to the rain date. ALL SALES FINAL/NO REFUNDS for any reasons, including sickness/covid. In this case, please sell/gift your ticket with someone you know. We MUST be notified ahead of time if someone is taking your seat. We need their information (email, cell, allergies, etc).

*PLEASE: Eating, drinking, chewing gum is not permitted on the bus. Please arrive 15-30 min before departure. Save time at check-in by bringing your signed waiver. No restroom on board the bus; arrive early enough to use the rr at REI (opens at 10 am) or Fresh Market (opens at 8 am) before boarding the bus. There is a port-a-potty when we arrive at The Great Dismal Swamp. We cannot wait for latecomers because we must adhere to our planned itinerary. Therefore we must pull away at the exact departure time. We cannot receive telephone/text calls to let us know you are running late because we will driving and using the phone as a GPS.
*ALL OUR TOURS INVOLVE WALKING; GUESTS SHOULD EXPECT VARYING DEGREES OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY. There are 3 large steps to climb to enter the bus. We apologize, but there is no room on board to accommodate wheel chairs or walkers. Our tours require participants to be ambulatory and in reasonably good physical health to manage our nature excursions.

COVID SAFETY MEASURES: We care about the health and safety of those participating in our nature experiences. The bus is sanitized between each tour. Feel free to crack open your window if you prefer. Please stay home if you are not feeling well or have a fever. Federal Law no longer “requires” masks be worn on airplanes, trains and buses. Masks are optional.

    • We look forward to seeing you on the tour! Check out all of the 5-star reviews, so you will be super confident that you will have an amazing experience! You can read these reviews at > click the REVIEWS tab or click this link:
  • Share on your social media and with everyone you know! Let them know you are going on a really amazing tour! Spread the word! See you soon!
  • If you have any questions, please text/call the owner. Suzanne 757-288-9595


Details Price Qty
show details + $805.00 USD   Expired


350 Independence Boulevard, Virginia Beach, Virginia, 23462, United States

  •  April 12, 2024
     9:00 am - 2:00 pm