No, I did not go to Washington D.C. today, but rather to The Great Dismal Swamp, where I explored, by bike, The Dismal Swamp Canal Trail. This relatively new trail is actually the old Rte. 17 that runs through here into North Carolina and other points south. When a new, safer 17 was built, people with vision decided to turn the old tree-lined road into a recreational trail, straight and flat for easy biking. It parallels an older route opened in 1805, that of the canal, which was hand dug by slaves through the eastern edge of the swamp. The Dismal Swamp Canal connected the port of Norfolk with northeastern North Carolina, facilitated decades of lumber extraction, and offered an inland alternative to the unpredictable Atlantic.
Even though I was in a swamp, it was evident that the area is in the midst of a severe drought. However, the edge of the trail offered a surprising number of late summer blooms. There were huge blue swaths of Wild Ageratum (Conoclinium coelestinum), some of it mixed with Goldenrod (Solidago).
Wild Ageratum also offered a nice background to the bolder color of American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana).
There were a couple of wildflowers I did not immediately recognize. I think this is Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) ...
... and this may be Slenderleaf False Foxglove (Agalinis tenuifolia). I hope someone will let me know if my ID is wrong.
I posted a picture of Passiflora lutea for this month's Bloom Day post and noted its weediness. I have also grown Passiflora incarnata (pictured below), which while showier, is just as weedy, but more difficult to pull up.
The Great Dismal Swamp is perhaps better known for its animal communities. There is a sizable population of black bears, as well as over 20 snake species, including all three of Virginia's venomous ones. Fortunately all I saw were birds and a disinterested rabbit.
There are still a few reminders of busier times on the canal. The building below is the house where the toll taker lived. It is right on the edge of the water and the back half will likely be in the water given a strong enough wind. Hopefully some funding will be secured to preserve it, but it is fairly far gone.
These days the canal is used mostly by pleasure boats travelling between the Chesapeake Bay and the sounds of North Carolina.
Sailors in another age would put this swamp's water in barrels to drink on ocean voyages. The acids and tannins from tree bark inhibited the growth of bacteria making it safe to drink long after it was put on board. Even though too many of its trees have been felled, and much of the land that was once part of The Great Dismal Swamp has been ditched and drained for soybeans and tract houses - the water still retains its characteristic strong tea color.