The inspiration for this post was without question, the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Since April 20, 2010, the ongoing environmental contamination brought on by the spill has shed light on wetland ecology. Since swamps make up a vast percentage of that ecology, I thought it was high time for some swamp appreciation.
Here are some big, impressive swamps throughout America that all in all, make for some very fine road trip attractions. Time to get swampy people.
Great Cypress Swamp
Great Cypress Swamp is in south Delaware and Maryland, on the Delmarva Peninsula. Home to a fragile population of copperhead snakes, the swamp was once a National Park target under the leadership of current Vice President Joseph Biden.
Mingo National Wildlife Refuge
The 87.7 km2 Mingo National Wildlife Refuge is as good a reason as any to visit the “Show-Me” state of Missouri. Migratory birds populate the park and notable residents include bald eagles and peregrine falcons. The 1.6 km Boardwalk Nature Trail is a good introduction to the refuge.
Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge
The prototype Louisiana wetland area, Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge is a short drive west of state capital Baton Rouge. This is pure bayou country, with creatures that range from river otters to opossums, coyotes to bobcats.
Reelfoot Lake State Park
Northwest Tennessee is home to Reelfoot Lake, a brackish, swamp-like body of water that forms the lynchpin of a terrific state park.
Okefenokee Swamp is a National Wildlife Refuge that spans a considerable portion of Georgia and Florida. At more the 1,770 km2, the park is a massive habitat for alligators, turtles, snakes, black bears and even some giant carnivorous plants. Cool!
Great Dismal Swamp
The name is a bit of a downer but in truth, not too long ago there was reason to be pessimistic about Great Dismal Swamp’s future. In the 1970s the pulp and paper industry was set to decimate this marshy enclave of the Coastal Plain in Virginia and North Carolina. Thankfully, the swamp is now a 449 km2 National Wildlife Refuge.
Big Cypress National Preserve
Visitors to Miami can always take a detour from the usual attractions to explore Big Cypress National Preserve. The enormous park covers almost 3,000 km2 and borders the Everglades. Nine endangered species live here, from the West Indian manatee to the eastern indigo snake. Avid hikers can access Big Cypress via the Florida National Scenic Trail.
Honey Island Swamp
Honey Island Swamp is in the easternmost corner of Louisiana. Many scientists and environmental activists believe it to be the most primeval and pure marshland left in the United States of America. Home to a mythical swamp creature, this pocket of the Creole State is a wondrous place.
Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
No swamp list is complete without mention of Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The marshland in New Jersey, believe it or not, is National National Landmark and the first federal wilderness inscription in U.S. history. A major bird, mammal and amphibian habitat, Great Swamp is a relic of a huge prehistoric glacial lake.
One of the most important national parks in the U.S. park system protects a fragile and vital ecosystem. Unfortunately, despite designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve and a Wetland of International Importance, Everglades National Park is still under severe strain because of human interference and the meteoric growth of South Florida. In the face of lobbyist, corporate and political pressure to further develop and harm this precious 6,110 km2 subtropical wilderness, people need to champion the Everglades now – and hopefully pay the park a visit.