Saturday, July 30, 2005

Blessed With Bogs

In South Carolina, we -- some of us, at any rate -- relish our swamps. Different people enjoy them in different ways. Duck hunters don waders and gleefully ply the mire. Naturalists and nature guides in flatboats chronicle the wonders of primitive creation. As for me, I treasure the thought of exploring dark, snaky swamps, but in reality I never get to do that. However, I take an interest in the names, locations and histories of our swamps.

In lower Lexington County (my own stomping grounds), for example, is Bull Swamp. I've never clarified the legacy, but there has to be a story there. In Berkeley County is the pleasantly dubbed Daisy Swamp -- although the name derives not from flowers but from a corruption of the name of area landowners: Deas. Hell Hole Swamp in the same area long has been called “a hell of a hole,” but there are conflicting ideas as to the name’s origin. According to some, moonshiners secluded in the swamp concocted such vile potions that their customers, after a few pulls at the jug, thought they surely were in hell. A more sinister suggestion points to the fact that in a certain area of the swamp, no trees will grow -- allegedly a sign that Satan has cursed the ground.

By one listing, South Carolina has more than 500 swamps. Some are protected areas. One of my favorite places on the planet is Congaree Swamp National Monument, a vast riverside domain only 20 minutes south of the state capital. Four Holes Swamp in the Low Country includes the Francis Beidler Forest, now managed by the Audobon Society.

Carolinians have taken special pride in their swamps ever since the Revolutionary era. Col. Francis Marion, the Patriot guerrilla hero, used formidable bogs as hideaways from the British and was branded, quite appropriately, the “Swamp Fox.”


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