Remarkable Nature Places: Beidler Forest
The National Audubon Society’s Francis Beidler Forest, located in Four Holes Swamp, SC – less than an hour from Charleston – contains within its 16,000+ acres the largest remaining stand of virgin Bald Cypress and Tupelo Gum swamp forest left anywhere in the world. Here, 1,000-year-old trees and native wildlife abound in a pristine sanctuary that has been untouched for millennia.
A 1.75-mile self-guided tour along the boardwalk trail allows visitors the chance to safely venture deep into the heart of the swamp… to experience the peace and serenity that have characterized the area for centuries… to hear the sounds of bird and bug and breeze that have echoed through the trees for ages… to take a relaxing and informative walk back into time… to see a swamp the way nature intended.
A swamp is a flooded forest. There are many different types of swamps, but one thing they all have in common is trees in the water, for at least part of the year.
Largest in U.S. — 17 feet in diameter, Cat Island, LA
Largest at Beidler Forest — 10 feet in diameter
Oldest Known — 1600 yrs, Black River Swamp, NC
Oldest Known at Beidler Forest — 1500 yrs (2nd oldest in the world)
Largest in the U.S. 8 feet in diameter, Kinder, LA
Largest at Beidler Forest 5 feet in diameter
Oldest Known at Beidler Forest?? Most over 18’’ are hollow
Despite much research, cypress knee function remains a mystery. One thing is certain – knees grow in response to the presence and depth of water. A Bald Cypress growing on dry ground will have only a few small knees, if any. One in deeper water will have taller knees. Generally, the trend we find is the older the tree, the more gnarly the knee.
• NO turtle can leave its shell.
• NO venomous lizards exist in South Carolina.
• NO venomous snakes with lengthwise stripes in South Carolina.
• NO such thing as a Hoop Snake or Pilot Rattlesnake.
• NOT all snakes in the water are venomous.
• Milk snakes do NOT milk other animals.
• Coachwhip snakes do NOT chase and whip people.
• Copperheads are NOT female rattlesnakes.
• Of 38 snake species in South Carolina, ONLY 6 are venomous!
• Glass Snakes are legless lizards and should be called Glass Lizards
How would you have described a swamp BEFORE your visit here? Look around. Smell the air. Notice the lack of bugs? Is the swamp what you expected?
|“Buggy”||Mosquitoes prefer not to lay eggs in flowing water.|
|“Snakey”||Most snakes prefer to sit still on a log, and of all the water snakes, only the cottonmouth is venomous.|
|“Gatory”||Alligators prefer deeper water and sunshine, not the shallow and shadowy channels in a swamp.|
|“Smelly”||Abundant plant life acts as an air filter. Plus, periodic floods help to flush decaying material.|
|“Muddy”||The swamp floor is mostly hard-packed sand.|
|“Polluted”||The water that flows through Beidler Forest is some of the cleanest in South Carolina due to miles of filtration and percolation.|
|“Evil”||Walking through a swamp is a peaceful and relaxing activity.|
|“Spooky”||No monsters or mythical creatures have been reported…yet.|
Since 1979, Breeding Bird Censuses have been conducted on two 20-acre plots on the sanctuary. One is located in the old-growth stand, the other in woods cut in the 1960’s. Routinely, the old-growth plot has been found to contain some of the highest densities of nesting songbirds per acre for forested habitats in the eastern U.S.
The diversity of tree species, the variety of tree ages, and the multi-layered structure of the forest cover found in the old-growth stand all work together to provide spectacular habitat for birds of many species.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that, despite their nesting success here, many species are in decline due to habitat loss in their summer breeding grounds, along their migratory routes, and in their Central and South American wintering grounds.
• Canoe and Kayak Tours – Accompanied by one of our trained guides, let us take you through the heart of the swamp on a peaceful paddle for either a 2- or 4-hour trip. Bring the whole family to experience close encounters with wildlife. It’s a wonderful trip for great photography!
• Night Walks – See the forest under a new light. The swamp is particularly active when the sun goes down. Walking beneath a moonlit sky guided by an Audubon naturalist, we listen to the music of the night and search for nocturnal animals.
• Other Walks and Events – Scattered throughout the season we have a slew of great activities including bird walks, swamp stomps, flower walks, and social events. Ask the staff at the visitor center for more information.