Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween in the Swamp

Happy Halloween from the swamp at the Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center! The swamp is the Rodney Dangerfield of the ecosystem world. There are plenty of myths and misconceptions associated with swamps and we aim to dispell all that we can.

Some of the top "mythconceptions" (we spent all morning working on that one) are:
  1. "The swamp stinks!" False...the water is flowing. Therefore, fresh water is always arriving and organic material that could smell as it decomposes is mostly washed downstream to the Edisto River.
  2. "The water is polluted!" False...if not for the animals depositing wastes into the water or occasionally dying, it is almost clean enough to drink. A shot of chlorine and it would easily meet municipal water standards.
  3. "The mosquitoes are horrible!" False...they don't care for the flowing water (see #1). The parking lot area can at times rival a Red Cross blood drive for pints given per hour, but not in the swamp itself.
  4. "If the mosquitoes don't suck you dry, the quicksand will suck you under!" False...first, see #3 and then refer to #1. There is approximately 1.5"-2" of soft, decaying material on the swamp floor covering hard-packed sand. Unlike the pluff mud of a marsh (flooded grassland), the swamp (flooded forest) floor is relatively firm. However, the hidden cypress knees, flallen logs, and limbs can make walking difficult if the water knee-high or higher.
  5. "The Indiana Jones movies would need to add more snakes if the scenes were shot in a swamp!" know Spielberg would go over the top. However, in reality there are not nearly as many snakes in the entire swamp as in one Indiana Jones scene. The swamp is great snake habitat, but snakes will avoid human contact and can be difficult to locate if the water temperature is not cooler than the surrounding air temperature.
  6. "Noisy kids keep the abundant alligator population well-fed!" False...all child visitors to the swamp are angelic in comportment. Additionally, alligators are cold-blooded animals and require sunny areas for warmth and to aid in digestion. All of the boardwalk, expect for the observation tower at Goodson Lake, is shaded under the tree canopy. Halloween hint: be very quiet at Goodson Lake!
  7. "Lizard Man is real and plays poker with Swamp Thing." False...Swamp Thing doesn't play poker.

One thing we can guarantee that you will see when visiting the old-growth, cypress-tupelo swamp are the ancient trees! They've been here for more than a 1000 Halloweens and have even developed a few scary costumes of their own.

Image by Ron Wright

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