On May 2, hundreds of kayakers and canoeists from across the East Coast launched their vessels into the Dismal Swamp Canal’s cool, calm waters, which will serve as the pathway for Paddle for the Border, an annual 7.5-mile paddling excursion to the Virginia/North Carolina border.
The event celebrates the canal’s rich history, which dates back to 1763 when George Washington’s land company first surveyed the swamp before commissioning the waterway’s construction. The canal is now part of the Intracoastal Waterway.
The colonel from the Corps of Engineers leads the way, but as paddle blades cut through the canal’s peaceful waters, Mother Nature steals the show. Native strands of the majestic Atlantic white cypress can be seen, as deer, river otters, and the occasional black bear romp in their natural habitat.
June 6 brings cyclists to town for the Chesapeake Criterium, a great opportunity to see top-level bike racing up close (and it’s free to spectators).
There are races in all United States Cycling Federation categories. A free children’s race is held at 12:45pm for those with their own bikes and helmets. (bikereg.com)
Spring and fall are prime times to catch the Atlantic migration and to find the more than 200 species of birds that nest in or near the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
The 8-1/2-mile Dismal Swamp Canal Trail is a great place to find glimpses of the Swainson’s warbler and the Wayne’s warbler, two of the most secretive and least-seen birds in North America.
Majestic bald eagles, graceful great egrets and other birds are waiting to be found in the refuge. Individuals and groups can schedule guided birding trips. (757-986-3705)
Chesapeake is also part of the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail that offers birding opportunities in other parks in town. There is also a 2-1/2-mile footpath through Bells Mill Park with a beautiful overlook of the southern branch of the Elizabeth River.
Gather your gear and head to Chesapeake.
Chesapeake Tourism: visitchesapeake.com