The title of this post sounds a bit like an oxymoron – Beautiful Swamp. Swamps aren’t beautiful, are they? They are muck and quicksand, alligators and snakes, and hordes of creepy, crawly, slimy things that go bump in the night. Picture actress Adrienne Barbeau running away from the Swamp Thing – that half man, half plant monster – in that infamous boob baring movie of the early 80s. Or, how about Lizard Man – that seven foot, green, scaly monster with glowing orange eyes – first spotted in 1988 in the Scape Ore Swamp in Lee County, South Carolina?
Me? I love swamps. I’m particularly partial to Four Holes Swamp, which is the area in the lowcountry of South Carolina, where I live!
Really cool name, isn’t it? No one knows for sure how Four Holes Swamp got its name. One theory is it was named Four Holes because there were four boiling bottomless holes that once existed here, but are now gone. Others say that the term four holes represents some sort of crossroads, maybe land depressions, where water collected. Some say pioneers created four holes (dry passageways) to get through the area in their travels.
Four Holes is matrix of blackwater creeks and water sloughs that wind through four counties between Columbia and Charleston to make its way ultimately to the Atlantic Ocean. Constantly fed, largely by springs, the swamp water moves slowly and relentlessly seaward.
About 1/3 of the 45,000 acres of Four Holes is owned by the National Audubon Society and make up what is known as Beidler Forest. It’s named after Francis Beidler. Beidler apparently had purchased the land in 1890, intending to harvest the cypress. But, a trip to Yellowstone National Park caused him to change heart and he became a conservationist, preserving the land for his entire life. In the 1960s, his heirs sold the land to Audubon and the Nature Conservancy.
Beidler Forest touts itself as the largest virgin blackwater cypress-tupelo swamp forest left in the world. Most of the Bald Cypress trees there are about 1,000 years old and the oldest known tree in the forest is 1500 years!
On a stroll there, you might encounter barred owls, river otters, migratory fowl, spotted turtles, beautiful songbirds, and yes, even alligators.
It is a truly amazing place. And, it’s right here!
There is so much more to tell, but it is impossible in one post. I’ll just have to write a series. In the meantime, please click on the www.beidlerforest.blogspot.com link to see some fantastic pictures and learn more about the swamp forest.
I’ll end this post with a poem about Four Holes Swamp, written by Shelby Brown. I stumbled upon it one day while googling “Four Holes” and I just loved it. She has given me permission to reprint it here. Bill and Shelby Brown’s website is www.cartoonsoup.com.
The Wizard Man – A Frightening Rhyme
By Shelby Brown
Four Holes Swamp is big and dark and wide
With alligators, snakes, frogs and gnats it is well supplied.
Only the people who have lived there all their lives,
Know where to be and not to be, at night, when the swamp cries.
Most folks think sight is the thing that helps keep danger away,
But in a swamp it is hearing that may keep you alive to see another day.
In the daylight the swamp is a quiet place with beauty and wildlife all around.
It is in the nighttime that the swamp comes alive with movement and with sound.
This is the time to listen carefully to every little noise you hear.
A frog chorus often fills the air, but this is not a sound to fear.
It is the soft ones that your ears have to strain to hear at all,
That cause your breath to stop and your stomach seem to fall.
A movement on the mud bank about twenty feet away,
Followed by the little splash of water…now that makes you pray.
The tiny twig that broke just above your head,
A possum or a snake, the difference could mean you’re dead.
These were the sounds that people could hear on most any night.
Then they heard something that almost stopped their hearts with fright.
So low and quiet it was, that people were not sure they heard it at all.
Folks sat outside and listened every night for the new swamp call.
They talked every day about what this sound could be.
Did it come from outside, or up from swamp water, too black to see.
Some said the new sound had a rhythm and a beat.
Others said for sure it was a voice coming up from the deep.
These frightened folks decided this had to stop—and soon.
So the plan was made to go in at the next full moon.
They said good by to their families, those forty two brave men.
With lights and guns, they met at the water’s edge…ready to begin.
The sounds they heard now were known to them since childhood.
As they went deeper and deeper into the black- water wood.
Hours passed as they went deeper into the swamp than most had ever been.
Then, they heard it, and hair stood up on their skin.
All lights flashed to the big cypress tree where they heard someone call.
When out came this strange little man, smiling with joy at the sight of them all.
He whirled and ran to the nearest canoe,
And plopped himself between its two-man crew.
I’m a wizard man from the land up around Ochonee,
And only came down to fetch me a bald cypress knee.
It is needed, you see, for my conjuring recipes.
But, I’ve been lost for weeks under these swamp loving trees.
Indeed, my bag of tricks and ruby stick refuse to work to any degree.
So please, give me a ride away from here, for I’m in a fix as you can see.
So it was that these kind souls rescued him from Four Hole Swamp that night.
And deposited him on firm land just as the morning began to light.
The wizard man was happy to be on his way,
But turned and cast a magic spell he wanted to say.
“To Bald Cypress trees with strange knees, and all wild things that live herein.
Shall all remain for thousands of years, just as you’ve always been.”