ark is the entrance way to the OKY swamp, 438,000 acres of breath taking black water. A gorgeous mile of boardwalk has been built to allow visitors a true taste of the swamp. Tick seed black-eyed Susans are blooming everywhere & water lilies abound. Another pileated woodpecker teased us. Maggie was beyond excited & Edward expected her to plunge off the walkway into the water at every turn. The swamp hollies are filled with red berries & the cypress trees are nearly drowning in Spanish moss. Although the cypress are conifers, they drop their needles in the winter (wish I could google that!) which makes them appear to be dying.
The 2007 wildfire that was started by a down power line, roared through here for three months burning over 600,000 acres. The area was devastated again in 2011 by a lightning strike. That fire burned for over a year, torching 315,000 acres. An 80 ft. section of the boardwalk that burned has yet to be rebuilt & many of the surviving trees are blackened from the fire. Not sure how anything survived but the place is still lovely.
The young naturalist that guided our tour of the swamp was fun & knowledgeable. We were graced with a sunny day & the gators were everywhere warming themselves. The boat was able to get quite close to them. They really are impressive & do have a lovely smile.
Flocks of hundreds of white ibis were amazing when they took flight. We were able to get close to immature little blue herons, which are white with limey green legs. Great white egrets & blue herons croaked their strange calls when disturbed. We heard a barred owl, but could never spot him. The birders on the boat were calling out other birds as they were spotted, but we only knew the red shouldered hawk.
Cypress trees grow very slowly, an inch per 20 years! The big ones in the swamp escaped the early 20th century logging & are thought to be between 500-700 years old! Slightly painful to know Gram’s father had a cypress sawmill.
Black bears are most commonly seen in the campground but have been scarce since the weather turned cold. Other blessedly scarce creatures are the thousands of mosquitos & black flies present in warmer months. The Trading Post has the largest collection of mosquito gear I have ever seen!
On a more personal note, we have been able to get our cable to work! It is the only way to get our weather fix! No connectivity is a weird thing. We miss being in touch with our peeps.