By Ty Snowden | Nestled behind the Beaufort County YMCA and Paris Avenue you can take in the beauty of the Cypress Wetlands on Port Royal. This gem is one of the many hidden treasures the Lowcountry has to offer.
Open from dawn until dusk, when you hop onto the path you’ll take a spin on an interpretive nature trail, gaze over the amphitheater and enjoy some nature watching on the Richmond Avenue Overlook. It is absolutely a birdwatchers paradise.
Signs mark the way, allowing you to divulge into the nature that is presented before you.
Beware on your walk, you may come across some of our local pals, also known as alligators. Be certain to not feed them— you can get fined or even do time in jail. Feeding the gators may seem like a good idea momentarily, but it leads to danger for humans and gators alike.
Ultimately, feeding them will alleviate their natural fear of humans, bringing them into civilized life in search of more food. This will result in many of them being harmed and killed in the process of searching for food outside of their natural habitat. It will certainly lead to gators approaching us for a snack, which we defiantly do not want!
Also, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll have the chance to see one of our local Port Royal gators enjoying breakfast or lunch, just like in a few of the amazing photos in this article.
Aside from gators, the wetlands are known for their vast numbers of wading birds. These include many different types that can nearly be spotted without difficulty on each trip to the trail.
You can find herons, egrets, and bittens—all of these fellas have long legs for standing or “wading” in the tall grass and shrub, and long bill for hunting in the marshes. Do not let the ample population of these birds alarm you, actually, the large numbers ensure a healthy ecosystem. The birds presence means there are plenty of fish, crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles and even small mammals to feed on, hence the area is thriving with wildlife.
Not only can you locate birds from the wading family, but birds of prey, as well. These may be a little tougher to spot, but are just as fitting in beauty. Also known as raptors for their superior hunting skills, this gang is made up of hawks, eagles, owls, falcons, kites, and vultures.
The wetlands are especially sacred to this group for a few reasons; nesting, perching, and roosting. The dead trees provide a prime location for eggs to be nestled away, and perching high up in the variation of cypress, live oaks, water oaks and pine trees allows these predators to use their hearing and sight to target their next meal without being spotted.
Along the trail, there’s variety of other animals to enjoy— but these ones are much harder to spot as they are more aware of our presence and may scram at the sight or sound
of an approaching human. The Cypress Wetlands are also home to white tailed deer, raccoons, opossums and even adorable river otters! A few things we spotted on our walk without giving them a fright included box and snapping turtles, green tree frogs, skinks, squirrels, ducks, and geese.
Careful not to disturb the banana spiders, butterflies, dragon flies, and bumble bees buzzing about.
Also, there are three non-poisonous snakes that you may come across on your journey: rat snakes, king snakes, and garter snakes.
The trail does heat up pretty nicely, so be sure to come equipped with water. If you forget, no worries— when you reach The Richmond Avenue Overlook, you can take the stairs up which lead you to some options for food and drink.
Centrally located, there is Pluff Mudd Coffee Company for coffee, tea and other beverages and even bike rentals, just in case you want to journey down to the Sands Beach on two wheels. If you need a bite to eat, The Cracked Egg and Old School Pizzeria are super close to take a quick break before heading back to the car. Parking to start your wetlands tour can be found on Paris Avenue and there’s also a handicapped parking pad behind the Port Royal Police Station that can be used.
Port Royal has so much to offer, and this is one location you must check off the list whether you’re a local or just visiting our part of the Lowcountry.