September Sunrise Okefenokee

September 6, 2013 at 4:56 am (Dragonflies and Bugs, Georgia, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Photography, Uncategorized) (, , , , )

First Light, Okefenokee

First Light, Okefenokee

The Honey Prairie Fire of 2011 consumed a beloved part of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge – the Chesser Island Boardwalk.  Two and a half years later, its rebuilding is nearly complete.  People who have been on the boardwalk before the fire tell me it was like walking through a tunnel of trees.  Now the vista is open, and heretofore unseen wetland pools shimmer with white water lilies and redroot.

Shelter #1 and boardwalk

Shelter #1 and boardwalk

Cypress and bay skeletons will be reminders for years to come of the awful power of fire.  But if it weren’t for fire, there would be no swamp.  Only six inches deep in many places even in wet years, the “prairies” are tinder-dry in times of drought.  Thunderstorms fed by summer humidity may produce lightning, but no rain, and the accumulated peat bottom burns.  Hence the swamp is periodically scoured.  Otherwise it would fill in and become a shrubby forest of pines and hardwoods.

Skeleton forest

Skeleton forest

The destruction is reminiscent of that wrought by hurricanes – except these trees aren’t bent and broken so much as they are black and bereft of branches.  Some trees are attempting a comeback, notably cypress with odd green poodle cuts, and loblolly bays that managed to escape the flames.  This is probably what it looked like in 1969 when the boardwalk was built, following the fire of 1955.  Fifty-six years’ of tree growth were consumed by this last fire.  But the magnificent cypress will come back.  They always do.

Owls Roost Tower

Owls Roost Tower

One small cypress grove, replete with Spanish moss, avoided damage – and it guards the injured Owls Roost observation tower like elders in council.  The bottom of the tower succumbed to the flames, but the original structure still rises high for a view of Seagrove Lake and the surrounding swampland.

Greenbriar berries (blaspheme vine)

Greenbriar berries (blaspheme vine)

Blaspheme vine (greenbriar) welcomes the new sunny perches.  It is laden with gorgeous fruits that look like grapes, but none of the muscadine (wild grape) I’ve seen have any fruits at all.  My mouth waters looking at these imposters, but they are hard and probably sour, though they are an important food for wildlife.  As you can imagine, these vines form immense tangles, and anyone unlucky enough to bushwack through their wicked spines and boobytraps will be cussing up a storm before they’re done.

Ferns

Ferns

Textures of greens and blues and rusts and creams are the living landscape here.  Early morning is an amazing time to be on the boardwalk.  The sun rises through a veil of mist, and you might hear the hoarse “cronk” of a great egret in the distance, or the chitter of a white-eyed vireo.  We do not see gators, though a deep bellow emanates from the tall grasses.  The usual dragonflies dart about – eastern pondhawk, blue dasher, golden-winged skimmer.  A lone Carolina saddlebags perches high on a tree, waiting for its prey.

Carolina Saddlebags

Carolina Saddlebags

People who remember the old boardwalk may be a bit disappointed, though, because the two spurs that meandered away from the main trail were not replaced, and the path is straight and not winding.  In the current fiscal climate (which has been going on for several years before the sequester), aesthetics are sacrificed.   The burned posts remain as a testament to what was.

Yet, there is a potent beauty in this scarred landscape.  It is regenerating.  It is healing.  It is beautiful.

Orb spider web

Orb spider web

Sunrise at the end of the boardwalk

Sunrise at the end of the boardwalk

Note:  The Chesser Island Boardwalk is not open to the public until October 12 – for the Okefenokee Festival held at the refuge’s Folkston entrance.

Images and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre.  Feel free to reblog.

www.CindyMcIntyre.com

www.photoartgal.smugmug.com

Advertisements

2 Comments

  1. liampitts said,

    Such a nice collection 🙂

  2. JohnSmart said,

    can someone tell me how to contact heif neuzz?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: