Friday, November 13, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

"Rain, rain, go away!" is a simple sentiment. However, as with much in this world, nothing is that simple.

With school budgets tightening and field trips being severely restricted or banned, it was a quiet spring and has been a slow fall at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest when it comes to visiting school groups. The sunny, mild weather of September and October has given way to rain and cooler temperatures this week. Both grant-sponsored school groups (80+ students each) scheduled for this week canceled due to the rainy weather. "Rain, rain, go away!"

Last week, we began painting an internal, cross-swamp boundary line. We began on the north side of the swamp and moved southwest. The tract of the swamp we were painting was clear-cut prior to its purchase by Audubon South Carolina, so we moved through areas alternating between thick blackberry bushes and open cypress/tupelo stands that were left as buffers around creek channels. Overall, the water level in the swamp has been very low, so the majority of the work was done on dry land. However, the thick vegetation ensured that our progress was infinitely slower than it would have been through an open, mature forest. As you can see in the image, we stopped painting just before reaching the wettest portion of the transect. This week's rain will fill all the creek channels, which will go swimmingly (pun intended) with the cooler weather! "Rain, rain, go away!"

However, as we noted at the beginning, nothing is that simple. The Four Holes Swamp watershed is not associated with an incoming river system. Therefore, water in the swamp is nearly 100% rain-generated flowing off the land into small creeks, into larger creeks and eventually into one of the many braided-creek channels in the swamp. All the water within the boundaries (purple line) of the swamp's watershed flows down slope to the Edisto River just upstream from Givhans Ferry State Park. Visitors to Francis Beidler Forest expect to see water when they walk the boardwalk through the old-growth, cypress-tupelo swamp. "Rain, rain, go away (after distributing a sufficient quantity of water to maintain the health and beauty of the swamp)!"

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