Sunday, January 22, 2012

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge: The Morning After

December 29th, 2011. Between Christmas and New Year we took an overnight trip down to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge in search of some sun and warmer weather. The weather was a little cool due to a northwesterly wind but it was sunny. The Savannah NWR is located on the east side of the Savannah River in Jasper County, South Carolina, just across the Savannah River from Georgia. We visited Argyle Island that is accessed from Alligator Alley.

We visited the area first in the late afternoon on December 28th and, again, the next morning. These photos are from our visit on the morning of December 29th. It was sunny, but cool, when we arrived so we ended up driving the loop twice.

Trunk gates that controlled water to the rice fields

Looking towards Port Wentworth from a trunk gate at the edge of the freshwater marsh. It was high tide. The canal was full compared with the empty canal the previous night.

Looking south across the marsh just before entering the tree grove on the west edge of the marsh.

Driving through the tree grove. The Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) looks different in the daylight.

A closer view of the Spanish Moss

We crossed a small canal in the tree grove. Looking west over and old bridge railing

A young Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens). We only saw young plants during the drive. These can grow into very large clumps; we saw many on the trip down to the coast.

A cluster of oyster mushrooms, a Pleurotus sp., on a tree in the grove.

Looking north, just after we exited the tree grove.

A small turtle sunning itself in a sheltered spot.

Looking south across the margin canal at the south of the drive, and…

then southeast across the canal.

Cattails, and their reflections, in the calm water of the south marginal canal

On the southern end of the drive. Looking north over the cattails to the marsh, and …

another view, and..

Yet another view. Some trees have managed to root and grow here – mostly on the dikes.

More Spanish Moss. There's a slight jog in the drive from northeast to north about one-half way up the eastern part of the drive. A cluster of tall trees had grown in this pocket and hosted large Spanish Moss plants. The contrast in colors was striking.

Water lilies demarcating the margins of the rice fields. The line runs from the upper left to the lower right, 'rounds the corner' and continues across the field to the left. We saw these repeatedly along the drive. Water lilies – and they may vary by variety - have an optimum depth of water in which they prefer to grow. These lilies are growing at their preferred depth and forming a narrow line following the margin of the rice field that once existed here.

A closer view with the line of water lilies in the foreground

Water lilies, up close. It looks like a flower bud to the right of the plant. Wonder if it bloomed?

Islands of vegetation have developed in some fields

A view across a rice field towards the northern fields which appeared to be drier than those further south.

A bush with a cluster of the plants that looked like miniature trees in the waning light the evening before

A closer view of the ‘miniature trees'

Leaving the ‘wet’ area for the drier fields. The paper mill is in the upper left.

A closer view of the paper mill in daylight

The northern fields near the end of the drive looked dry but the water was hidden by the grasses

And finally, a cypress tree. This was the only one we saw during the drive.

The marsh at Argyle Island was interesting to visit in winter. It will be interesting to return in warmer months to see the wildflowers that grow here.

Click on an image to view a larger image


- US Fish and Wildlife Service: Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

- University of South Carolina, Longleaf Environmental Learning Center: Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides)

- United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database:

- Serenoa repens (Saw Palmetto)
- Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish Moss)

- Southeastern Flora:
- Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish Moss)

- Serenoa repens (Saw Palmetto)

Related post:

- Savannah National Wildlife Refuge: The Evening Before

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