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Explore the Timucuan Trail State & National Parks  
 
   
 
 
The Environment


Salt marshes
The most prevalent plant community paddlers will encounter is the coastal salt marsh. Salt marshes are beds of rooted plants that develop along the shorelines of estuaries where wave energy is low. To the casual observer, a salt marsh looks like a monotonous expanse of grass and water. In reality they are a highly complex and intricately balanced ecosystem, fragile yet also very resilient. In terms of biomass production (animal and plant) salt marshes are one of the richest ecosystems on earth. Another fascinating aspect of salt marshes is that they are an environment in constant motion. As the tides rise and fall, fish, birds and other animals move in and out of the salt marsh creating an exciting symphony of sight, sound, and motion.

Maritime Forests
Upland areas and larger islands are dominated by an environment known as Maritime Hammock Forests. This environment gets its name from “Maritime” meaning “near the sea” and “Hammock” meaning “shady place.” This type of forest is dominated by a mixture of hardwood trees such as live oaks, slash pines, holly, hickory, magnolia, and southern red cedar. Two species of palm trees are also common; the tall sable palms and the lower growing saw palm. Very little light penetrates to the maritime forest floor so wildflowers are not abundant. However vine-growing plants are common and wild grapes grow prolifically reaching high into the forest canopy.

Freshwater Swamps & Creeks
Freshwater swamps are formed by underground springs that discharge water at a slow and steady flow creating creeks that eventually empty into brackish estuaries. The dark color of these creeks is the result of plants and decaying matter turning the spring water brown, much the same as when one puts a bag of tea into a glass of water. The pungent earthy smells of fresh water creeks and swamps are the smell of life ending and beginning it it’s grand cycle. Paddlers will observe huge cypress trees, fragrant native azaleas, and brilliantly blooming lilies, orchids and bromeliads along the creek banks. Freshwater swamps and creeks abound in animal life and the lucky paddler may encounter turtles, raccoons, otters, alligators and endless varieties of birds.