Back in April, Belle and I went to Columbus County to visit some family. While we were in the area, we took some time to explore the Green Swamp. The 17,000-acre preserve is comprised of a diverse ecosystem made up of longleaf pine savannas and swamps. With a one-mile in-and-out hiking trail, it is a great place to see wild orchids and Venus flytraps.
The History of the Green Swamp
Long before the American colonies, semi-nomadic Native Americans roamed the swamps of Brunswick and Columbus Counties. The Waccamaw and Cape Fear Indians continued to hunt in the area well after the arrival of European settlers in the 1720s. These Siouan tribes are believed to have been river-dwellers who farmed on pocosins or high-ground “islands” within nearby swamps.
Before 1770, the swamp started carrying the name of early settler and landowner John Green. Over the years, the name of the area gradually changed from “John Green’s Swamp” to “Green’s Swamp,” eventually becoming the “Green Swamp.”
North Carolina sold more than 170,000 acres of the swamp to Stephen Williams, Benjamin Rowell, and William Collins in 1797. Some of the wetlands were drained for agriculture, but the rest was used for logging and mining peat.
In 1904, commercial logging began in the Green Swamp. The logging industry transformed the historic longleaf pine savannas and pocosin wetlands into loblolly pine plantations.
The Green Swamp was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974. Shortly after, Federal Paper donated more than 16,000 acres of their landholdings to The Nature Conservancy for preservation. Since then, The Nature Conservancy has purchased additional lands.
The Preserve Today
For the last 40 years, The Nature Conservancy has focused on restoring the longleaf pine savanna to its former glory. Their hard work is paying off. Today, portions of the preserve are longleaf pine savannas. They feature a diverse understory, including orchids and insectivorous plants. The rest of the preserve is a dense pocosin.
This unique ecosystem supports a variety of rare native plants and wildlife. The Green Swamp Preserve is home to more than 14 species of carnivorous plants, the American alligator, red-cockaded woodpeckers, fox squirrels, and Hessel’s hairstreak butterfly.
Visiting the Preserve
The Green Swamp includes both a preserve and game lands. The preserve offers a variety of activities, including hiking, birding, and picnicking. Pets must be on a leash. Regulations vary for the game lands; please check the rules before your visit.
Located in Brunswick and Columbus Counties, the preserve is open daily from dawn until dusk. Admission is free.