Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Francis Beidler Forest (Swamp)

We had the chance to walk the boardwalks at Francis Beidler Swamp.  This is about 17 miles northeast of where I lived in SC.  I've been there many times, beginning shortly after it was completed, way back in the 1970's.  It's owned and managed by the Audubon Society.  The people were friendly, but frankly, I was really disappointed by the interpretive signage. 

In the same way that national TV news is dumbed down and told with little content or meaning, the interpretive signs in this forest were simplified to the point of being platitudes.  They had cool laminated interpretive booklets that you got to use on the hike, but after reading one or two entries, it was just something to have to tote along back to the visitor center.  For instance, they had a frequently asked question section, and one question was "How deep is the swamp?"  Their answer was that the depth depended on the season, but they didn't go on to tell you that winter was the dry season and the swamp is low, while later in the summer the water comes up.  You might remember that from our Everglades Blog Post. There were a lot of things that were sort of half-done, or done with cutesy figures, signage, and errors that just didn't work for me.

Anyhow, Four Hole Swamp is a spectacular example of a  Cypress-Tupelo Swamp.  Bald Cypresses and Tupelo Gum trees are the predominate tree species.  It's about 16,000 acres, and has about 1,800 acres of old-growth forest.  There's a two-mile long boardwalk through the swamp that allows you to transition from the dry upland area all the way out and onto a lake in the middle of the swamp.  

The water in this swamp is moving, heading downstream to the Edisto River, which you might remember from earlier posts (bottom right of this map).  In many places, you could see the slow movement of the water.

In October 7, 2015, they had a record 1000-year flood event.  Those of you in water resources will remember that that's a flood of such an intensity that you'd only expect one every thousand years.  With climate change, a lot of events like this will likely become more common than statistically expected based on historical records.

You can see a bit of the mix of trees in the forest.

 You might remember and recognize the broad buttresses of the cypresses and also the Cypress knees.  The Tupelo Gum also have buttresses, but no knees.

Here's a nurse tree, like we saw in the Mahogany Hammock in the Everglades, but here with mostly mosses and ferns growing on it.

Trees leafing out in Spring.

This is a Carolina Anole lizard.  Like many lizards, they change colors to camouflage themselves, but also in response to heat and stress. The brown ones are usually chilling out, while the green ones are hunting or doing more active activities.  This little guy was about 4 inches long. I've seen them up to about 10 inches long.

This gum tree has been riddled with holes by a sapsucker, a kind of woodpecker.

Here's a close up of the holes.  Its tough to see in this picture, but there is sap dripping out.  The woodpeckers eat the sap and bugs that are attracted to the sap.

More cool pictures to show you how it looks....

Native Americans used to make canoes out of the hollow Cypress logs.  This stump and fallen log are about 3 feet across.

Here's the Carolina Anole in green color.

Not an exciting picture of a squirrel, but these were real squirrels that make their living eating things in the forest, not mooching at bird feeders and garbage cans.  They seemed more muscular, somehow.

A young Cypress tree leaving out for spring.

Pollen swirls in the water.

This wouldn't get by me, or by my students peer-reviewing their own presentations.  Notice that the author tried to show different depths of water, but used the inch symbol instead of the foot symbol.

Decomposers breaking down the old to make the new.

This is how the lake looks.   This water might remind you of our Colleton State Park Blog entry.

A picture showing the transition from standing water to wetland to dry upland.

This is a Crested Night Heron.  We made our visit during mid-day, and there was not a lot of wildlife active.

More pollen swirls and knees.

This sign frustrated me a lot.  There was an adjacent sign that encouraged the visitor to preserve and protect swamps (that's good).  But this one tells us that one of the reasons is because the swamp grows valuable hardwood timber.  I guess we should cut all the trees in the swamp to get that valuable resource?  Love the swamp, love the boardwalk, wish they'd spend some time on the interpretation.

And finally, obviously, this is a picture of a tree knot in the shape of the famous Four Hole Swamp Deerabbit, the result of years of breeding rabbits and deer down in the deep swamp.  Tastes like chicken :-)


  1. Beautiful pictures! I'm not so sure about the more muscular squirrels. The squirrels in Westchester County, New York seem to work out regularly, do yoga and invest in other ninja-esque training to maintain their upper hand against squirrel-proof feeders.