Flea Bite Creek – short on fleas, big on other critters

Even in an area where the streams and bodies of water have names such as Squirrel Creek, Four Hole Swamp and Smoke Pond, the name Flea Bite Creek stands out.

It’s difficult to determine how long ago the creek got its unusual name, which seems a bit of a misnomer today as there are few, if any, fleas along its banks. But given the sandy soil found in the area, near Cameron, S.C., in Calhoun County, less than an hour south of Columbia, it’s possible the irritating parasites once inhabited the locale in abundance.

Standing on a bridge over Flea Bite Creek, with a view of algae-covered water, thick cypress trees and a great deal of brush along the banks, it would seem a more appropriate name for the stream would be “Snake Bite Creek.”

Another possibility is “Gator Gulch.”

But back 250 years ago when the region was being settled it’s likely nearly every lake, river and swamp in South Carolina was filled with snakes, venomous and otherwise, meaning this sluggish stretch of water wouldn’t have stood out had it been host to cottonmouths, copperheads or king snakes.

Not only that, there’s something to be said for a foe one can see, and avoid, even if it’s a six-foot snake, rather than one the size of sesame seed that jumps in an unpredictable manner.

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The allure of ‘impervious and quaking swamps’

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“Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps.”

-Henry David Thoreau

A winter swamp isn’t without beauty, but nothing matches the splendor of a wetland in spring and summer.

As temperatures reached the mid-60s this past weekend, area swamps showed visible signs of coming to life. Turtles swam beneath the surface, cottontails scampered about and a Cooper’s Hawk eyed a potential meal.

In one small puddle hundreds of tadpoles, newly hatched and not more than a quarter-inch long, swam herky-jerky in the shallow clear water while their parents’ croakings filled the evening air with a pleasing melody.

Most of the plant life has not yet awoken from the winter slumber, so the bluebirds and cardinals that flitted among the brown grasses and dried cattails presented a striking contrast.

And the pale purple of wild violets edging up along the water’s edge offered a glimpse of the beauty that will soon explode in the coming weeks, evidence of nature’s rejuvenation.

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