Swamp critters watched Saturday as hundreds of humans invaded their home - Phinizy Swamp Nature Park - to celebrate the 31st anniversary of Earth Day.
With the sun high and bright, the swamp, off Lock and Dam Road, was awash with color from the electric green of the darting dragonflies to the yellow band of the ring neck snake.
This visual feast was a treasure chest for the children that spent the day running the trails.
Mark Thrailkill and his 4-yearold daughter Angelica set off down Beaver Dam Trail for the Nature Scavenger Hunt. Angelica, with her turquoise sunglasses, was searching for cypress knees and cattails - part of her hunt list.
But her favorite experience of the day was petting a 3-year-old alligator brought in for the event by the Savannah River Ecology Lab.
"He didn't bite me because the lady was holding him," Angelica said.
The experience taught her something new.
"On his leg, he felt squishy, but on his tail, he was hard," she said.
Whitney Boettcher, 9, of Hephzibah, saw an alligator, too, but that one was out in the park near the Beaver Observation Deck, which was conspicuously absent of beavers.
Her 4-year-old sister Ansley was not impressed by the alligator. She was mesmerized by the footlong scarlet king snake that curled around her thumb as it slid through her outstretched fingers.
"He was, like, soft - not slimy," she said. "And he stuck his tongue out at me."
The Phinizy celebration was one of several in the area and according to Morgan Rawson, 3, this was the place to be for Earth Day.
As she toed the dirt with her yellow galoshes painted to look like bumblebees, she summed up her experience: "It was awesome."
Earth Day was founded in 1970 Gaylord Nelson, a former governor and senator. The first year, the day rallied more than 20 million Americans to get involved in what has come to be known as the environmental movement.
Phinizy Swamp Nature Park, operated by the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy, is open to the public Saturdays and Sundays from dawn to dusk. Summer hours will expand to weekdays, noon to 8 p.m. For more information, call (706) 828-2109.
Reach Lisa M. Lohr at (706) 823-3332.