Our Blue Ridge Mountains get most of the attention this time of year. But there is another natural resource you don’t want to miss this fall — swamps. To get your adventure started, here are three North Carolina swamps for your list.
What is a Swamp Anyway?
Swamps. The word conjures up images of dark slow waters, mosquitos, otherworldly creatures, and gnarly cypress trees. For centuries, North Carolina’s swamps were in fact places of myth, places where people went to disappear.
If you want mystery, you will find it in swamps, along their creeks, river bottoms and wooded lakes across North Carolina. By one inventory there are at least 542 swamps in North Carolina.
North Carolina’s Swamps: Where You Go to Be Amazed
Today, we have a greater appreciation what these unique ecosystems bring to our state.
Swamps are actually forested wetlands – places with still or standing water, where the ground stays wet most of the year. They are critical to the health of our environment. They filter and purify wastewater, moderate our floods and protect coastal areas during storm surges.
But there’s more. Swamps are home to a fascinating array of rare and endangered plants. And they are teeming with unusual birds, butterflies, frogs, salamanders, snakes, and small mammals.
Here in North Carolina, particularly in the east below the fall line, we don’t simply have swamps — we specialize in them.”Bland Simpson
Are you an active outdoor adventurer? Try a trail that meanders through a swamp, pocosin or riverine wetland. Just be sure to wear close-toed, water-proof shoes or boots. Or perhaps you’d rather paddle a slow-moving black river swamp — habitats where snakes, alligators and ancient cypress trees await.
Is history is your passion? Come and learn from the North Carolina swamps. Whether logging, moonshine or the Underground Railroad, these secretive wetlands have stories to tell.
Are you into birds and butterflies? Go swamping and check a few specimens off your list. North Carolina swamps are home to hundreds of bird and butterfly species, and many more pass through our wetlands every fall as they head south for the winter.
And then there’s the photos. There are few habitats so photogenic, few places with this wide array of plant and wildlife. Bring an extra camera battery. One won’t be enough.
With hundreds of swamps to visit, start by putting these three on your list.
1. The Great Dismal Swamp
The Great Dismal is a world-famous swamp shared between North Carolina and Virginia. Once covering over a million acres, the current 112,0000-acre swamp is protected as a refuge and park. It’s a family-friendly place full of adventure and educational opportunities. Delve into the swamp’s contribution to the Underground Railroad, or learn how George Washington attempted to drain the swamp. You can even hike the canal or kayak along its black tea-colored waters.
2. Black Water Preserve
Managed by the Nature Conservancy, the preserve is a must-see destination for tree-lovers and paddlers alike. The Black River is home to a swamp of eastern bald cypress, the fifth-oldest tree species in the world. Of particular interest is the Three Sisters, where the oldest bald cypress can be found. If you want to visit, access the river at Beatty’s Bridge (Bladen County and Pender County).
3. Green Swamp Preserve
Also managed by the Nature Conservancy, the Green Swamp Preserve is a National Natural Landmark in Brunswick and Columbus counties. A fabulous place to hike, this 15,907-acre swamp is known for its rare and endangered plans and wildflowers. This rich wetland is home to 16 species of native orchids and 14 different carnivorous plants, including the Venus Flytrap. The preserve is equally important as a habitat for migrating birds.
Interested in exploring the North Carolina swamps near you? Find interactive maps and more at NC Wetlands.