Swamp, Alligators, and Turtles
With some trepidation, I joined a group of friends at the end of October to paddle Merchants Mill Pond in North Carolina. Though it was an easy 2-hour drive to this beautiful state park from Williamsburg, my concern was about the alligators who live there! This pristine park is the northernmost habitat for alligators, which live in only two places in the world: China and the Southeast United States.
Researching extensively before I agreed to go, I was assured that the alligators don’t like people and move away when approached. Since temperatures were getting cooler, they would most likely be hibernating, so I put on a brave face and joined the fun. I’m glad I did—we saw no alligators, but enjoyed lots and lots of turtles sunning themselves.
The visitor center had good exhibits about the history of the Mill Pond and the flora and fauna in the area. The prettiest hiking trail had been damaged by hurricane Matthew and was temporarily closed, so call ahead if you plan to hike. The pond, stream, and swamp felt far removed from civilization for a contemplative wilderness experience.