In 1763, Washington and several partners formed a company called Adventurers for Draining the Dismal Swamp, and the General Assembly of Virginia empowered them to construct canals and causeways through private land without being subject to suits for damages. The purpose of the undertaking was to harvest lumber while the swamp was draining and to farm the land once it became dry. Early developers including Washington showed little interest in the digging of a canal for boat traffic between Chesapeake Bay and Albemarle Sound, a project that was accomplished a generation later. Although Washington acquired land in the area and helped to finance some draining, his interest waned by about 1783.
Today, the area is still heavily wooded and is the home to numerous species of rare birds and poisonous snakes. Hunters and fishermen prize the area.
You can read about the Dismal Swamp, in Washington's own words and handwriting, by going to "The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799." The fastest way to find material related to the Dismal Swamp is to go to the Search by Keyword page. Type in Dismal Swamp in the search box and go to the drop-down box below and select "match this exact phrase." Press "search" and you will get access to 49 matching documents. These materials were recently added to this Web presentation, and the 65,000 documents available complete this project.