The Dismal Swamp Boardwalk Project was completed and dedicated by Elizabeth City State University in the spring of 1994. The wetlands property, consisting of 639 acres, was acquired by the University from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The half-mile long boardwalk and observation tower were constructed with Title III funds, and its primary function is to provide access to a wetlands wilderness area for use in research and educational activities.
Evidence from geology and fossil plants indicate that the Dismal Swamp began forming at the close of the Pleistocene Ice Age around 12,000 years ago. The last great ice advance of the Pleistocene was coming to an end, and the climate slowly began to warm. As the glacial ice melted, sea levels which had dropped about 300 feet below present levels, was raised rapidly for the first several thousand years. As sea level rose, so did the water table, and wetlands formed along flooded stream valleys, gradually extending inland to the present western margin of the swamp. Sea level reached its present elevation about 3,000 years ago, and by that time peat was developing throughout the entire wetlands area. Trees making up the forests gradually changed, as the climate warmed, from northern species, including jack pines and spruces, to the present day cypress-gum associations. The forest groups of today have been fairly stable for the past 3,500 years.
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