Natural wonders just a step away at Phinizy Swamp

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Families looking for a little adventure might find it at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park.

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Mia LaPonzina, 4 (left), stands with Lacey Norwitch, 5 (center), and Mikayla Norwitch, 3, as they look out over part of the swamp during their nature walk.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Mia LaPonzina, 4 (left), stands with Lacey Norwitch, 5 (center), and Mikayla Norwitch, 3, as they look out over part of the swamp during their nature walk.

The 1,100-acre park offers plenty of opportunities to explore wildlife both independently and with guided tours.

“You never know, as far as animals, what’s going to happen,” said Ruth Mead, senior education specialist for the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy, which oversees the park.

The free, guided tours are offered on the first Saturday of the month, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Trained volunteers will take guests on a 2.5-mile walk, pointing out everything from cattails to beaver dams.

“You can sometimes see a beaver swim but mostly they’re noctural,” Mead said.

Tour guides will help decode the sounds of the swamp, as well, such as the call of a woodstork or the croak of a tree frog.

“We might look for tracks, because some of the animals are nocturnal,” Mead said. “We can’t promise that you’re going to see (animals), but you can see evidence of a lot of things.”

The varieties of fish are difficult to see, but if you look into the water you may see some of the snakes. Black racers, green, ribbon and rat snakes are all common in the swamp.

Night hikes are held a couple of times each year on a full moon. The park comes a little more alive at night, Mead said.

Frogs and owls are calling, katydids are singing, beavers are swimming, and sometimes you can see a deer play.

“You never know what you will see,” she said. “It’s beautiful because you look at the swamp in a whole different light.”

Mead said she is still planning the next full moon hike but expects it to be held around July 10.

The park is open sunrise to sunset every day, and tours do not need to be guided. Informational signs are posted throughout the park for those who want to explore on their own.

The trails are also available for biking, hiking, jogging and walking your dog. Just please make sure dogs are on a leash, Mead said, and that you clean up after them.

A visitors center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.

For more information about the nature park, visit naturalsciencesacademy.org.


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