We love Cypress Gardens in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. No! It is NOT like the one in Florida with the fancy water shows and thrilling rides, but it suits our family perfectly! Cypress Gardens is much smaller, not showy, less tourista! You can find it on the outskirts of the sleepy little town of Moncks Corner, which also hosts a fantastic seafood restaurant called Gilligan's, an old Charleston favorite which preceded the television show by decades, and a Trappist monastery. In my childhood, we spent a few weeks every summer at Short Stay, a Navy recreation camp on a man-made lake near Moncks Corner.
We first visited this lovely blackwater swamp in June 2004 on our first trip to Manning to see my parents and their new home. That was when the old "church" made out of wood and stucco still stood, a relic of the movie set of The Patriot. (Several movies were filmed here: The Swamp Thing and The Notebook). Anyway, the first time my parents went here my mother exclaimed, "Oh, look at that old Spanish mission!" She started snapping photographs left and right until they past it and realized it was only a facade! Unfortunately, the "church" is no mas for a severe thunderstorm blew it down. All that is left are some pylons sticking out of the water. However, you can find other props from the set like the eight portable cypress tree trunks and the under-swamp bridge for the scenes of horses walking through the swamp (which is next to impossible to do in real life). The other interesting trick was that the film crew lowered the level of water (easily done through a dam that prevents the swamp from drying out every summer) to make the Spanish Mission island bigger.
I was going to launch into a history lesson, but you can find a much better version in this fifteen-minute online video.
David was almost twelve and Pamela fifteen on our first visit. I remember him sighing and reflecting, "I could live here," during the boat ride on the swamp. The water is clean even though it looks black as ink. When the needles fall off the cypress trees, they sink to the bottom and slowly release tannins (used to tan leather, which we studied in The Brendan Voyage and Amos Fortune, Free Man). The bottom of the shallow swamp is black, and that color gets reflected off the surface. Look carefully in the second photo and you will see an alligator gliding in front of us!
The first friend we made was Woody, the wood duck. He lived in the Butterfly House. We were saddened by the news of his death in 2007, marked by this memorial stone. On our most recent visit with my sister-in-law, we were delighted to meet a juvenile wood duck, whose lost his mother when a car ran over her! It will be exciting to see him mature on our next visits!
The Original Woody
Woody the Younger
In July 2007, we took our nephew Antonio (Patty's son) to Cypress Gardens and he loved it, too! Two weeks ago, we met Tammy's high school friend Lisa (and her husband Johnny and baby girl Leilani). Patty and Javier had their chance on Tuesday, but a light shower during the swamp tour prevented me from filming or taking pictures. Below is a video of photographs and film clips of our swamp tours.
We were fortunate to have visited before the crocodiles made their curtain call! The county can no longer afford to keep the crocs in style, so they had to find a new home for them. Johnny enjoyed hanging out with the crocs, which reminded him of his school mascot--not some goon in a suit--a real live crocodile that they kept well-fed. When we brought Patty and Javier, the closed doors to the reptile exhibit saddened me, but I did not shed any crocodile tears . . .
Here are some photobuckets organized by theme!
Flora and Fauna