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Secrets of the Swamp Junior Curator Trip

May 2, 2017

During spring break 2017, eight Junior Curators from NCMNS, along with leaders Melissa and Megan, embarked on a four-day trip into the swamps of the Roanoke River. After departing on Sunday, we canoed about 6 miles to the first platform, Barred Owl Roost, which was situated in the middle of a stunning cypress swamp with no land to be found anywhere near the platform. We managed to catch a crappie fish that first day, and also reflected on the beautiful scenery by writing poems inspired by our favorite parts of the swamp. That night, we discovered that Barred Owl Roost was aptly named, because we could hardly sleep for the raucous calls of the barred owls (or swamp monkeys, as we affectionately called them) all around the platform.

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Our camp on Barred Owl Roost platform.

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Robbie and his crappie!

The next day, we headed out early and took on our longest day of paddling, almost 10 miles. We added yet more snakes to the fifteen we had already spotted on a single beaver dam the day before. We also saw a beaver, as well as a river otter and its pups. Once we arrived at Cow Creek Platform, our next stop, we went swimming in the freezing water, and then dried ourselves out in the hot sun. Another highlight of the whole trip was the night paddles we went on, where we would simply drift on the river and look at the stars and listen to the owls. It was those times where some of us felt the closest to nature.

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Paddling upstream!

On day three, we got the opportunity to explore some side creeks since the next platform we were paddling to, Cypress Cathedral, was only a couple miles away. Although the winds battled against us, we did manage to paddle far enough upstream that we caught sight of a barred owl hunting crayfish, and we also spotted a cottonmouth. Then, that evening, after another swim and a dinner of ramen stir-fry, we were heading out to go on a night paddle when we noticed a strange, dark shape in the water near the dock. When we looked closer, we realized it was a rare two-toed amphiuma (Amphiuma means)! Catching the amphiuma was a feat due to its slippery, slimy skin coating, but we managed it, and it was definitely a highlight of our trip. That night was a great night for wildlife, as we also caught bowfin (Amia calva), which is another exciting find!

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Two-toed amphiuma

On day four, when we headed back to civilization, we were all so sad that the trip was over, but were also really looking forward to finally showering. There’s nowhere like the swamps of the Roanoke River, and many of us are looking forward to returning soon!

~by Olivia Slack, Junior Curator

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Linda Saah permalink
    May 3, 2017 4:48 pm

    Wow! Sounds like an amazing trip! Fantastic write-up–enjoyed reading about all of the exciting highlights!

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