Monday, January 30, 2012

Celebrate World Wetland Day February 2, 2012

When was the last time you went on vacation and got your feet wet?  If you’re like me, its not a vacation unless you do get your feet wet – riding the waves at the beach, swimming in a pool, wading in a creek, kayaking a river – but when was the last time you went on vacation and got your feet both wet and muddy?  Sound like fun?  Sure does to me!  Wetlands can provide interesting experiences where one can immerse themselves in the beauty of nature in all 50 states across America.   

February 2, 1971 marks the date of the adoption of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Every year, this organization provides a theme to help connect people around the world with wetlands, and this years World Wetlands Day theme is “Wetland Tourism: A Great Experience.”

According to the US Geological Survey, “at the time of European settlement in the early 1600's, the United States had approximately 221 million acres of wetlands, about 103 million acres remained as of the mid-1980's.  Even today, all of the effects of these losses might not be fully realized. ”   Today there are many groups and agencies interested in preserving wetlands.  Many have begun to realize the importance of wetlands because of the ecosystem services they provide - the benefits people receive from ecosystems on the planet.  From holding back floodwaters – one acre of wetlands can store about 1.5 million gallons of water – to water purification, groundwater replenishment, sediment and nutrient retention, habitat diversity, recreation, and millions of dollars worth of products for humans to enjoy. 

Here are just a few of easy access wetlands across North Carolina that you can visit:

Bluff Mountain, Ashe County - This Nature Conservancy preserve is accessible through a locally based eco-tourist guide, Kim Hadley.  Email Kim at to schedule a trip to this incredible site.

Boone Greenway – view a constructed stormwater wetland at the Clawson Burnley Park.  This wetland provides habitat and purifies stormwater before it flows into the New River.

Haw River State Park- the headwaters of the Haw River and Cape Fear River Basin.

Walnut Creek Wetland Center - Located on 59 acres of undeveloped floodplain near downtown Raleigh, the Center offers greenway trails, and low cost educational programs for school age children. The center includes a 6500- square-foot facility with two classrooms, a conference room, and a library. The building also has a large deck overlooking the wooded areas of the Walnut Creek wetland.

Dismal Swamp State Park - Camden County NC
It's a swamp! Lots of wetlands as well as the inter-coastal waterway canal running in front of the visitor center. Miles of hiking trails as well as an accessible boardwalk.

Merchants Millpond State Park - Gates County NC
Millpond and surrounding wetlands and swamp. Visitor center overlooks pond, hiking trails, canoe rental for the pond and canoe in campsite along pond and Bennet's Creek and associated wetlands.

Jockey's Ridge State Park  - Nags Head NC
Eastern US tallest Sand dune, back side of the park butts up to Roanoke Sound with its associated salt water estuary. Public parking lot with soundside access.

Goose Creek State Park - Beaufort County NC
Boardwalk from visitor center leading into a large wetland habitat as well as access to Pamilco River via a swim beach and boat ramp.

Cliffs of the Neuse State Park - Wayne County NC
90ft cliffs over looking the Neuse River, Parking lot and overlook on top of the cliffs. Hiking trails to base f the cliff where you can hike or fish along the river or explore associated floodplain and wetlands along the river banks

Hammocks Beach State Park - Swansboro NC

Bear Island, undeveloped barrier island with trail leading from ferry dock on soundside to beaches on the Atlantic Ocean side. island has campgrounds , bath house and snack bar all open seasonally. Lots of programs promoting sea turtles, kayaking the estuaries and small islands in Bogue Sound. Ferry to island operates April - October

Fort Macon State Park - Atlantic Beach NC
Historic fort open to the public. Beach access parking with guarded swim beach and a second access point along soundside for fishing and bird watching in the salt marshes.

Whether you’re at 3,500 feet elevation or at sea level, you can explore wetlands across our great state of North Carolina.  Next time you have an opportunity to take out the binoculars and view the world up close – get out there and get your feet wet, maybe muddy too!

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