Exploring Wetlands Scenic Beauty

Owning an recreational vehicle is the greatest way to explore all of the natural beauty and unique ecosystems that exists throughout this magnificent world of ours. It’s a freedom unlike anything other, providing you and your family with countless opportunities for learning and growth.

In today’s post we’ll focus on wetland areas, an ecosystem often overlooked by the RV traveler.

The Great Swamp Sanctuary at Walterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Great Swamp Sanctuary at Walterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wetlands are highly efficient environments that play important roles, including maintaining water quality, controlling flooding and erosion, and providing a home to at least 35 percent of all threatened and endangered species on the planet.

This biologically diverse ecosystem includes marshes, swamps, bogs, fens, underground aquifers, and wet grasslands as well as mangroves and other coastal areas.

One of the most iconic wetlands in the United States is Everglades National Park in southern Florida. This vast subtropical wilderness of cypress swamps, mangrove forests, pineland, and hardwood hammocks is home to many endangered species, including West Indian manatees, American crocodiles, and Florida panthers.

In today’s post we’ll focus on two protected wetland areas, each with its own unique scenic beauty: Okefenokee Swamp and Congaree National Park.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia & Florida

Haunting. Mysterious. Okefenokee is the largest swamp in North America, a peat-filled wetland in the southeast corner of Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Haunting. Mysterious. Okefenokee is the largest swamp in North America, a peat-filled wetland in the southeast corner of Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Straddling the border of Georgia and Florida is the Okefenokee, the largest blackwater swamp in America and one of the world’s largest remaining intact freshwater ecosystems.

The wildlife paradise boasts an amazing variety of ecological features, from sandy ridges to wet, grassy savannahs and marshes, to narrow water channels and tiny islands floating in the tea-colored water.

Much of the swamp is populated with bald cypress, swamp tupelo and other wetland flora, and the drier upland areas are filled with massive evergreen oaks and towering forests of longleaf pine. While these upland areas are home to wild turkeys, bobcats, white-tailed deer, and Florida black bears, the rich swampland fosters important wetland habitats and breeding grounds for wading birds, alligators, turtles, lizards, and many species of amphibians.

Imagine a place where unusual creatures swim through mirror-top waters and exotic plants sprout from floating islands. A place where thousands of creatures serenade the setting of the sun each day. Picture waters so dark and still that the surface seems to reflect images from another world, another time. It is a world more peaceful and more beautiful than any other place on earth.

Congaree National Park provides a sanctuary for plants and animals, a research site for scientists, and a place for you to walk and relax in a tranquil wilderness setting amidst giant hardwoods and towering pines. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree National Park provides a sanctuary for plants and animals, a research site for scientists, and a place for you to walk and relax in a tranquil wilderness setting amidst giant hardwoods and towering pines. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Almost a half-million acres of wetland, uninhabited by mankind, and still as it was thousands of years ago. Now imagine that this place, this natural wonderland is just a road trip away, a place just off the main road, but light years away from this time. It is a place where you can be guided back a thousand years on a boat, and see the miracle of nature at its best. It is the “Land of the Trembling Earth,” the Okefenokee Swamp.

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Preserving the largest tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the US, Congaree National Park is a designated wilderness area, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Globally Important Bird Area.

This 24,000-acre park is located in central South Carolina about 20 miles southeast of Columbia along the north side of the Congaree River.

Visitors can explore the natural wonderland by canoe, kayak, or on foot by using the over 25 miles of hiking trails and 2.4 miles of the Boardwalk Loop Trail. This park is a great place for animal watching, as it provides an ample habitat for mammals (bobcats, deer, river otters, and coyotes) and amphibians (turtles, snakes, and alligators).

Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter is the only public park in the United States to feature all eight swan species. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter is the only public park in the United States to feature all eight swan species. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tent camping is allowed in the park with a free camping permit required; overnight vehicle camping with the use of a trailer, camper, or RV is not permitted.

Worth Pondering…

Way down south in Okefenokee
The sun goes down
And the air is cool

Okefenokee, Okefenokee
Choowa, choowa, choowa

Come on, Georgia

—Freddy Cannon

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