Get Your Swamp Fix

  • Tom Dell
  • October 1, 2015
  • Francis Beidler Forest near Harleyville, SC

    When it comes to landscapes, we in California like to think we have everything – the highest mountains (in the lower 48), the snowiest place, the hottest and driest desert, the most beautiful coastline, the oldest and tallest trees, and so on. We’re also the number one farm state.  But we don’t have swamps.  Marshy places, sure, but I’m talking about cypress trees with Spanish moss, water the color of tobacco spit, and lots of critters that slither, slide, swim, bite and sting.  Nothing like that here.  The “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride at Disneyland doesn’t count.

    ATL 9-15 091
    The cone-shaped projections are cypress “knees” — part of the tree’s root system

    In my experience, there’s no better place to get your swamp fix than this exquisite Audubon Society sanctuary not far from Charleston, South Carolina.  The society preserves 1,600 acres of totally pristine blackwater swamp full of moss-draped bald cypress, tupelo and other trees, plus lots of wildlife.  Birders go nuts here.  On a typical visit, you’ll see people with camera lenses that cost more than your house or mine.   You’ll also see one of the most beautiful slices of nature anywhere.  Don’t miss this one if you’re anywhere in the Carolina low country.

    The highlight of your visit is a 1.75-mile boardwalk that takes you into the heart of the swamp.  Canoe tours are available, too.  Admission is $10, less for kids and for old fogeys like me.  The Beidler Forest is near the junction of Interstates 95 and 26.  For specific directions, go to

    There’s no food or accommodations at or near the forest.  St. George is the nearest town with visitor services, although the Beidler Forest is a nice day trip destination if you’re visiting Charleston.


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