The Great Dismal

A Carolinian's Swamp Memoir

By Bland Simpson

With a new epilogue by the author

208 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 39 illus., 2 maps, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4752-7
    Published: September 1998
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-6706-8
    Published: November 2000

Chapel Hill Books

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Just below the Tidewater area of Virginia, straddling the North Carolina-Virginia line, lies the Great Dismal Swamp, one of America's most mysterious wilderness areas. The swamp has long drawn adventurers, runaways, and romantics, and while many have tried to conquer it, none has succeeded. In this engaging memoir, Bland Simpson, who grew up near the swamp in North Carolina, blends personal experience, travel narrative, oral history, and natural history to create an intriguing portrait of the Great Dismal Swamp and its people. For this edition, he has added an epilogue discussing developments in the region since 1990.

About the Author

Bland Simpson, who teaches creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is author of Into the Sound Country (with photography by Ann Cary Simpson) and The Mystery of Beautiful Nell Cropsey. A member of the Red Clay Ramblers, an internationally acclaimed string band, he has collaborated on such musicals as Kudzu, King Mackerel & The Blues Are Running, Diamond Studs, and Fool Moon.
For more information about Bland Simpson, visit the Author Page.


"Beautiful writing by someone who knew this famously forbidding tangle of canals and legends from childhood."โ€”Annie Proulx

"Simpson has written a most interesting personal memoir of his romance with the swamp.ย It is rich with the place's history and with stories of people who have lived in or near the swamp."โ€”Robert Pittman, St. Petersburg Times

"Simpson has given us a jewel of natural and human history."โ€”New Yorker

"An engaging portrait."โ€”Publishers Weekly

"Indians, lumbermen, hermits, fugitive slaves, swamp rats, canal builders, and bird watchers have all enjoyed the slightly sinister beauty of the Great Dismal. Mr. Simpson's book, part history and part travelogue, entices the reader to join them."โ€”Atlantic Monthly

"Nature-writing at its best, classic in its fervor, sincere in its integrity, transfixing in its gem-like language. Simpson reveals to us by the sheer power of his prose the importance of preserving places like the Swamp, and of the joy of visiting them."โ€”Christian Science Monitor