Cypress Gardens, a 170 acre preserve in Monks Corner, was on our list of places to visit when we first visited South Carolina in January 2016. Unfortunately, it had been completely destroyed in October 2015 by the “thousand year flood.” Promises to reopen over the next three years were changed as setbacks to repairs came with Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Tropical Storm Irma in 2017 and the January snowstorm of 2018.
At long last Berkeley County has overcome the weather and bureaucratic delays, reopening the park in April. After giving them a few weeks to work out the kinks we’ve now had our first excursion there and fittingly, it started raining as we pulled into the parking lot.
Not deterred we started with a guided boat ride through the black water swamp to get a feel for the park layout. It was neat being down close to the water surface and another time I’d take the self-guided (paddle yourself in a small flat bottom boat) so I could stop where I wanted.
Plants are being allowed to come back on their own but the management actively is removing the thriving duck weed and creating compost from it.
We saw a few alligators including some under a year old, snakes and song birds. Hopefully wading birds and other wildlife will return as the landscape heals.
A few small islands throughout the swamp had cultivated flowers. I don’t know if these somehow survived all the weather events or have been recently planted.
Walking trails around the swamp and into the woods, a butterfly house, a combo aquarium/reptile center, and numerous gardens round out the attractions.
Charleston’s Ravenel Bridge is part of the landscape seen from the back of Magnolia Cemetery. The Cooper River runs under the bridge and creates the marsh that edges the cemetery, which is just barely above the level of the river.
A storm was predicted for the morning I was there but the clouds drifted higher before anything dramatic looking happened.
It had been our intention to be at a different pond when the sun came up but between getting out the door a few minutes late and a truck ahead of us that was indecisive that didn’t happen. I don’t think our original destination could have been any prettier than this. Unless there was a bird, or two, in the water.
Donnelley Wildlife Management Area, SC
Like many plantation homes in the south the front of Grove House faces the water where all traffic would have originated when the house was built in 1828. This is a view of the back of the plantation house, taken from the Live Oak lined drive.
I’ve photographed this pond many times throughout the seasons. Today’s version is summer green with a recently fallen tree in the foreground. The pink Elephant Ears on the far side of the pond and the little island to the right are a nice highlight in all that lushness.
Elizabeth Street is the main entrance of the Aiken-Rhett House , making it appear more modest than it is. Many Charleston streets have the houses arranged this way, with the narrow part of the house facing the street. This was done to maximize space, not reduce taxes as the myth is often told.
This house is a little unusual as it sits at an intersection so there is no house immediately to the right and that it encompasses a “townhouse complex” that includes several outbuildings which indicate the original owner’s wealth. The orange color is also not the norm.
Wide piazzas on the first two main levels of the house run the length of the building. Below is the first level, with one of the enormous windows open, which serves as a door from the drawing room onto the piazza. Manipulating the breeze was essential to comfort during Charleston’s humid summers.
Large windows with shutters were used throughout the buildings, including this one that housed the kitchen, laundry, and slave quarters.
The property, encompassing just over one half acre per Charleston County records, runs all the way from Judith Street on the piazza side of the house to Ann Street.
A privy stood in each back corner of the property. The photo below was taken from inside one of these little buildings.
At one time the entrance from Ann Street was lined with a row of Live Oaks, making a stately entrance through a gate for the horse drawn carriages. Horses were stabled along with their carriages in the building on the right below. Additional slave quarters were overhead.
The Aiken-Rhett House is a historic museum in downtown Charleston, SC. Last renovated in the 1850s the house is full of well crafted details, many you have to crane your neck to see. The back stairwell is crowned by a ceiling medallion three flours up.
Most of the rooms are big, with high ceilings. This drawing room sported one of many large chandeliers in the house. The gigantic mirror and its gilding would help reflect the light into the room.
This metal chandelier had a simpler ceiling medallion. but the room was well decorated with crown molding and carved woodwork.
Ringed by these serious faces, this light fixture was never upgraded from gas fuel, even though the house was occupied by Aiken descendants into the 1970s.
Light was enhanced in the home’s art gallery with a skylight that had its own ceiling decorations.
The four sides of the skylight have windows to capture light indirectly, protecting the art work. This image taken out a window on the second floor shows the skylight from the outside.
Brown Pelicans are attracted to Shem Creek by the commercial fishing activity and are often seen cleaning up behind the boats as they clean their catch. Other times they drop into the creek and fish on their own.
Shem Creek also hosts a Kayak/Stand Up Paddleboard rental shop and a public boat ramp for those with their own equipment. This pair of paddlers wasn’t paying much attention to the Pelicans gliding by. I’m not sure how that would be possible.
Pelicans will land on anything and everything. Their sheer size (between 4 and 11 pounds) always makes them stand out. I liked this shot with the colorful hulls in the background.
Shem Creek – click image for larger viewTaken with my new 20mm lens, 3/24/2018.