There’s more to see than alligators, bears and panthers

One of the most common questions I hear, either on the phone or on the trails, is “What will we see?” or “Which trail is best to see wildlife?”

Red-shouldered hawks at CREW Marsh Trails

The answers: Sadly, we can’t predict what you will see and, all three trails are different.

Bird Rookery Swamp is our most visited trail system, and for good reason. You can walk less than a mile and see alligators, wading birds and the occasional otter or bobcat. Sightings of alligators are almost guaranteed.

This means that, when choosing a trail system to visit, people often overlook Cypress Dome Trails or CREW Marsh Trails.

A large alligator at Cypress Dome Trails

There are alligators at the Cypress Dome Trails, but you’ve got a pretty long hike if you want to see them. At the CREW Marsh Trails, people seem to think that bears, boars, bobcats and panthers will be out there all day, just strolling by. And, if they don’t see large animals, there is disappointment, a feeling that is sometimes vocalized as “We didn’t see anything.”


For me, the marsh trails are my favorite. It’s the first trail system I visited, and the first trail system I worked as a volunteer. It’s the first trail system Brenda took myself and my three kids to during their Spring Break a few years ago. It’s the trail system that my youngest daughter loves to hike and my oldest loves to go trail running.

What do we see there?


Butterflies, dragonflies, red shouldered hawks, palm warblers, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, a giant beehive, lubber grasshoppers, wildflowers and, right now, swallow-tailed kites. And that is only a small fraction of the flora and fauna that is there.

Two of our volunteers, Jane and Laurel, recently spent a day cataloging all of the plants, birds, dragonflies and butterflies they saw at CREW Marsh Trails. It’s a great example of how much is there on the trails, so much more than bears or boars or panthers or alligators.


Feb. 2 CREW Marsh Trails Observations from Jane Wallace and Laurel Rhodes

Butterflies                                                            Birds

White Peacock, 30+                                          Cardinal

Pearl Crescent, 30+                                        White eyed Vireo

Carolina Wren

Phaon Crescent, 30+                                       Cat bird

Black Swallowtail, 3                                         Common Yellow Throat

Ceraunus Blue, 1                                            Red Shouldered Hawk

Monarch, 1                                                       Great Egret

Barred Yellow, 2                                              Dragonflies

Great Southern White, 3                                Pond hawk, female

Gulf Fritillary, 3

Zebra longwings at CREW Marsh Trails

Flowering plant lists:


Caesar weed, Urena lobata

Chocolateweed, Melochia corchorifolia

Red Tasselflower, Emilia fosbergii

White headed broom, Spermacoce verticillata


Native plants

American bluehearts, Buchnera americana

Blackroot, Pterocaulon pycnostachyum

Blue mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinum

Blue-eyed grass, Sisyrinchium sp.

Carolina wild petunia, Ruellia caroliniensis

Carolina wild petunia at CREW Marsh Trails

Carolina willow, Salix caroliniana

Chapman’s goldenrod, Solidago odora var. chapmanii

Climbing aster, Symphyotrichum carolinianum

Coastalplain hawkweed, Hieracium megacephalon

Cow pea, Vigna luteola

False pimpernel, Lindernia sp.

Fewflower milkweed, Asclepias lanceolata

Fog fruit, Phyla nodiflora

Fourpetal St.j Jhn’s-wort, Hypericum tetrapetalum

Leavenworth’s tickseed, Coreopsis leavenworthii

Netted pawpaw, Asimina reticulata

Pennyroyal, Piloblephis rigida

Pine Hyacinth,  Clematis baldwinii

Pine hyacinth at CREW Marsh Trails

Rabbitbells, Crotalaria rotundifolia

Rice button aster, Symphyotrichum dumosum

Roserush, Lygodesmia aphylla

Rosy camphorweed, Pluchea baccharis

Roundpod St. John’s-wort, Hypericum cistifolium 

Rusty lyonia, Lyonia fruticosa

Saltmarch fleabane, Pluchea odorata

Showy milkwort, Asemeia violacea [formerly Polygala grandiflora]

Snow squarestem, Melanthera nivea

Sowthistle, Sonchus oleraceus

Spanish needles, Bidens alba

Twinflower, Dyschoriste sp.

Walter’s viburnum, Viburnum obovatum

Water cowbane, Tiedemannia filiformis [formerly Oxypolis filiformis]

Wax myrtle, Myrica cerifera

Whitetop starrush , Rhynchospora colorata

Yellow buttons, Polygala rugelii

%d bloggers like this: