A DAY TRIP TO BOTANY BAY PLANTATION

By Ray Ward.

The road is still dirt. I’ll use that as my excuse for not recognizing the

turn and zooming on past. After I’d passed Eddingsville Road and Main’s

Station, I knew I had missed the turn to Botany Bay. I am seventy years old

and the kind little lady at Main’s felt comfortable calling me “Sonny”.

“Sonny, you jus ben gon a lill to fah. Tun rite rund un go bke to da Allen

AME cut. Das du plas.”

Whimbrel

Her soft West African Gullah dialect was enough to make the whole trip

worthwhile. Think Sooliman Roghe and Sierra Leone.

Forty or so years ago some fishing buddies and I had been down Botany

Bay Road several times. We were going to Cap. Ron’s to put the boat in, a

22 foot Aqua Sport, head down the creek to Frampton Inlet and out to

Deveaux Bank to fish. The road was washboard rough but beautiful and

cool with its canopy of live oaks. It’s all still there- ruts, trees, beauty.

Cap. Ron’s is to the right at the end of Botany Bay Road. In our fishing

days we could only turn right. The left side of the road, heading toward the

creek and ocean, seemed mysterious and entry was forbidden. Today the

mystery is gone and entry is open. The washboard ruts are still there for

good reason.

On April 6, 2013, I turned left off of Botany Bay Road and for my first

time entered the nearly 5,000 acres Botany Bay Plantation Wildlife

Management Area. Just at the entrance is a small but adequate information

kiosk where a map, complete with background information is available.

Some of our Coastal Master Naturalist Assoc. folks had already checked in

and others were on the way. Bill Johnson, our guide for the day, was waiting

for us at a parking area % of a mile away. A new smoother road led through

more pine and oak forest, then open fields to the parking area on the edge of

a marsh.

Bill Johnson is a DNR employee who one day is running a tractor to cut

brush, the next day he may be giving kayak lessons and perhaps the next

day he is leading a tour of the marsh, estuaries, and front dune of Botany

Bay Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area. A Ph.D level, Bill

conies across as a happy man who loves his work.

As a gathering of a dozen or more Master Naturalists with guests we

began our tour over a short path through a pine, oak ,myrtle, underbrush

forest and then onto a man made causeway across the marsh. Typical of

Master Naturalist walks, our progress was not fast. Bill and others led us

into a discussion of local history, history of the causeway, water flow in the

marsh, crabs, grasses, birds, critters, and other topics. As the morning

passed we made way for more and more day trippers. After all at the end of

this trail is a beach, a public beach.

Before the beach there is a narrow strip of maritime forest/dune area.

This maritime area is of special interest because it displays the natural

intrusion of saltwater. The sight of big, old live oaks and lots of palmettos

dead or dying is sad but it is natural. And here as much as can be, things are

left natural.

Once through the area of salt water intrusion, we were on the beach.

There were the day trippers, many of them, not natural but they have their

needs and rights. The beach itself is natural, has some bone yard

characteristics and many seashells especially whelk.

Bill dismissed us midday as a group and as smaller units we explored the

beach, its whelks and patches of mud/peat. Eventually we ambled back the

marsh path and several of us made out way to the volunteer’s house for a

quiet, pleasant place to have our packed lunches.

Bess Watson is the volunteer’s coordinator at Botany Bay. Bess gave us

permission to make use of what had once been a caretaker’s house for the

private owners. A gentle sea breeze and a shady spot in the yard made an

inviting place to relax and chat with fellow naturalists. Fossils, bones, skins,

colonial and Indian artifacts have been gathered in the volunteer cottage.

You can imagine the lively discussion these items generated at the ending of

our visit. Like children with new electronic devises, adults with old stuff.

Yes, the road into this fantastic gift, Wildlife Management Area and

Heritage Preserve is still dirt and washboard rough. There is a good reason

as I said before. There are 4687.5 acres and over two miles of beach that

attract lots of attention and lots of use. The whole thing is somewhat fragile

and must last from now on. Maybe a little roughness will discourage those

who do not care and remind the remainder of us to handle with care.

What a day. What a place.