Spring is Here

March 24, 2014.  It’s a late Monday morning start, and I don’t get to the swamp until 10:30 AM. I missed the first official day of spring here, March 20, because the swamp has been flooded for much of the past week. This has been a wet month in the park, with twelve days of […]

Heron Rookery

March 18, 2014, continued. Terri and I soon arrive at the heron rookery and find the great blues already setting up house and perched by their stick nests, all located at the tops of the tallest cypress or tupelo. As far as heron rookeries go, this is not a large one, and we count no […]

A Paddle in the East End

March 18, 2014.  Since the swamp has been flooded for most of month, I decide to take Terri Hogan, the park’s resource manager, for a kayak paddle up Singleton Creek and Running Slough that feeds into Bates Old River at the park’s “East End”. I wanted to check out a great blue heron rookery in […]

Essay: Big Tree Park, part 2

Because we are built close to the ground, relative to a tree, our attention is drawn to the tree’s girth. The tree’s height is hard to visualize, especially in a closed-in forest where it’s hard to get a complete view of the tree when standing back from it. This makes it harder for us to […]

Essay: Big Tree Park, part 1

In 2013 the park initiated a big tree survey to find potential state and national champion trees, as well as to relocate and appraise the status of current champions. The principal investigator is University of South Carolina geography professor Dr. John Kupfer. The last official big tree survey at Congaree was done nearly twenty years […]

Slime Molds ?

February 27, 2014.  Today’s weather is almost a repeat from three days ago, and again I stay out in it for most of the day. I’m back at the Weston Lake Boot area to resume my tree measuring. The largest sweetgum I find today is 15.2 feet in girth and 120 feet high (the uppermost […]

Muck Swamp Cypress

February 24, 2014.  This is a beautifully crisp, blue day with late winter temperatures. I end up spending most of the day in it, measuring trees while they are still bare. I start out determining the heights, using a laser rangefinder, of some of the tall, slim bald cypress in the muck swamp near the […]


February 22, continued.  On the way back to the visitor’s center I turn some nice large logs, short and manageable, and hit pay dirt with the marbled salamanders. Just about every log has at least one salamander under it, but one log has two and another, four! Hiding under another log is a small, slender […]

Big Tree Hunt

February 22, 2014.  It’s predicted to be another nice day in the swamp. At home it is 40º at 7:00 AM, with a high expected of 70º. There are lots of cars in the parking lot when I arrive at 9:00. Today I began a champion tree search in one of my assigned compartments, “Weston […]

Rusty Blackbirds

February 18, 2014, continued.  After admiring the persimmon, I spot movement back in the partially-flooded oak flats behind the tree and see a flock of 150 plus rusty blackbirds feeding in the leaf litter. Unlike some other leaf tossers – robins and hermit thrushes – rusties don’t mind getting wet and will wade almost to […]