Less Traveled 2010

Tracy Pou

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Cypress Gardens swamp tour makes a perfect day trip

Posted 3/11/2011 1:05:00 PM

Spring is just around the corner. That means now is the perfect time to start planning an off-the-beaten path day trip to Cypress Gardens in Berkeley County. If you love history, nature, animals and the outdoors, you’ll love Cypress Gardens.

The 170-acre black swamp preserve is situated on rice fields that were once a part of Dean Hall Plantation. Visitors can explore the swamp and surrounding gardens themselves or through guided flat bottom boat tours.

During a recent visit, Gardening Curator Kathy Woolsey took me on a personal tour of the grounds. As we drove along the nature trail that winds through the property, she shared little-known historical facts like how slaves at Dean Hall Plantation hand dug the reservoirs that currently house the black water swamp. We also visited the site of a marked slave grave near the back-end of the property, which isn’t far from the graveyard of the last family to own the Cypress Gardens property. As we talked about the history of the place, I learned there’s much more to Cypress Gardens than the swamp and plants, although those are the property’s major attractions.

Because of the recent cold snap, a lot of the flowers at Cypress aren’t in full bloom. Despite that, the swamp is still a sight to see. The black water provides an amazing reflection of the towering cypress trees. I think the cypress knees are pretty cool too. The root structures help anchor the trees in the swamp and are believed to be a source of oxygen.

Suzanna Atkinson, a Chicago native, says the haunting beauty of the Cypress trees is a major reason why she chose the site for her wedding later this year. “It’s got this spooky kind of historical appeal to it. You look at the Cypress trees and it’s almost like you see the people who lived back in the day when history was made,” she said. “I just love it.”

Speaking of love, visitors are sure to be enamored by the Butterfly House and Swamparium, which also are located on the grounds. And don’t leave Cypress Gardens without checking out the alligators. Don’t worry. They’re fenced in, but they are huge. So much so, that if it weren’t for their occasional blinks, you might think they were artificial. Amazing!

If you’re interested in visiting Cypress Gardens, it’s open year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children. Click here for more information.