It was an overcast day with the threat of rain but off we went, grandchildren in tow, on a boat ride through the Green Swamp. Our boat was equipped with a an electric motor so it was very quiet which we hoped would not disturb all the river creatures. We rode along the Shallotte River in which parts are only as wide as a boat. We had to maneuver over fallen trees and cypress knees, and around branches and beaver dens. This is still a pristine area and the Shallotte River Swamp Park group has done incredible work trying to keep it that way. There are alligators, river otters, snakes and beavers in this small secluded swamp – we were lucky enough to see the flipped tail of an otter and a few spiders. We heard a baby alligator (it might have been a bullfrog because they sound similar), but didn’t see him. We were told that the alligators had never seen humans before in this secluded area and were very afraid of us. That was very comforting to our 5 year old granddaughter!
There was a very large cypress tree thought to be over 300 years old by an arborist who had been brought in to help in the building of this park. It seems like they can bore a very small hole into the trunk to check the age of a tree. There were lovely ferns growing on many of the trees – so green because of the recent rains. At home we call these Resurrection ferns because they are so brown until a rain turns them a beautiful fresh green. Thankfully, we’d had a good bit of rain so the river was pretty high, making it easier for the boat to glide through and over all of the obstacles.
Bonnie, our guide, was an encyclopedia of facts about this serene spot. She knew each bend in the narrow river and pointed out things we would have missed. She showed us a beaver den, a fishing spider, and she spotted the river otters who surfaced behind us! The children all wore life vests as the river is 6-8 feet deep in places when the river is high. When they were excavating along the bank, they found a wagon wheel that was determined to be over 200 years old. That’s the place that is thought to be where George Washington crossed the river on his visit to Gause Landing on April 17, 1791. President Washington was making a tour through the southern states and had breakfast at the Gause plantation which was right up the road. April is such a lovely time of year, the weather cool and so many flowers blooming. I hope he enjoyed it!
Looking up in the trees, you can see resting places for the people using the zip wires which crisscross the park. The company tried not to interfere with nature and Bonnie said that she sees many creatures early each day on her first test ride to make sure all is well before she takes guests. The beavers are always hard at work so she has to double check to make sure they haven’t gnawed through a tree which would block the way down the river. She loves her job and being out in this quiet but active part of the river. She calls it her dream job!
We especially loved seeing nature at work. Some of the trees had broken off, perhaps from age or storms, and other small trees had taken root in the old stumps. There were lots of water bugs doing busy work across the tops of the water. And although it was very quiet, you could hear the voices of birds, and bugs and who knows what else! Every once in awhile, you could hear a car passing over the bridge nearby. But that noise doesn’t seem to bother the beavers who have built a den on one side of the bridge and a dam on the other! It was a special adventure to take with our grandchildren who love exploring!
Happy memory making,
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