Monday, September 20, 2004

Swampland Pt. I

I like swamps. I like them a lot. In fact, I've even parlayed my enjoyment of swamps into a career of sorts for the last eight years, if you include a stint in grad school. Augusta has a nice swamp in the form of the Phinizy. I'm not positive, but I have to assume the Phinizy is named after John Phinizy, the first Italian-American mayor of an American city. He became mayor of Augusta way back in 1837. I suppose it's possible the swamp was named after other Phinizy's, like Jacob (John's son, I believe), who had something to do with the railroad. But as there appears to be literally no information anywhere about this, I'll go with my story.

The Phinizy is pretty chopped-up and messed-with, but at its best its a fairly nice bald cypress swamp. Y'know, the tree with the swelling at the bottom of the trunk and the "knees", which are used to obtain oxygen during high water, around the base (that's Taxodium distichum L. if you're into scientific nomenclature). The most intact remnant is partitioned off as the Phinizy Swamp Nature Center and has trails, an interpretive center, and nature programs. You can find more information about the nature center HERE. But there is a large area of swamp outside the nature center. This un-nature center region is a noted body dump, which makes sense given its Italian namesake. Hey, I'm kidding. Too much Sopranos. Anyhow, I've heard that pilots in small aircraft report any activity they see in the swamp to the police as a matter of course. Makes you want to go, eh?

The easiest way to get into the outer reaches of the swamp is via Lover's Lane. Yeah, no kidding. This is a photo of the area around Lover's Lane and is technically Columbia Nitrogen Rd. But Lover's Lane leads right off of it and past a swell NutraSweet factory. As you can see, it's a nice area and lives right up to its name. Bring your little honey down to Lover's Lane and park for a romantic evening by a swamp filled with psychopaths on one side and the aromatic smell of artifical sweeteners on the other. Why not throw on some mood music, maybe Einsturzende Neubauten's "Drawings of Patient O.T.", just to ensure you seal the deal? Ironically enough, Lover's Lane pretty much dead ends and a rutted dirt road leads into the swamp.

The periphery of the swamp (and maybe a large part of the swamp itself) is/was farmland. Some of the land looks to be abandoned and chunks have been reclaimed by mother nature. On a few tracts just beyond the swamp you might see a lonely tractor tooling around and, cutting through one section, there is what appears to be serious road construction. I don't know what the plans are or if the construction will be the death knell of a large part of the swamp, but I can tell you that the work isn't moving very fast.

There are certainly some interesting things to be found in the swamp. Slowly sinking into the mud just off a dirt road is a safe with the door blown off. One day I also came across a whole bunch off weird looking computer equipment that someone had tossed into the water. As if that isn't enough, the ghosts of dead televisions haunt the hollows and swales in packs. However, the best parts of the swamp by far are the old farmhouses and structures that remain. But, that's going to have to wait until next time, when I post Pt. II of Swampland.

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