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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Economic Recovery via Huntin’, Fishin’, and Eco-Tourism

Earlier this summer I read a news release that cited a recent report by the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) that said Americans who engage in outdoor activities annually contribute $646 billion in direct consumer spending to the U.S. economy.  This spending on outdoor activities and products supports 6.1 million jobs and generates $80 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue each year.

According to the OIA study, for every dollar spent on gear and vehicles, an estimated four dollars is spent on trips and travel, including guides, outfitters, lodges and many more small business owners.  So whether you prefer hiking or hunting or fishing or boating or some other form of eco-tourism, getting outside and into nature is good for your body, your soul, and our national economy.

So, speaking of eco-tourism … that was my rather obtrusive segue to begin talking about our kayaking excursion last week.  We spent last week in Lewes, Delaware, visiting family.  Lewes is right at the mouth of the Delaware Bay, and immediately south of it is where the Delaware barrier island beach towns begin.  Between the beach towns of Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island is Fenwick Island State Park where Coastal Kayak is located.

I’m happy to give Coastal Kayak a plug here, because this was the second tour that we’ve done with them, and both experiences were loads of fun and very educational.   They don’t just rent kayaks and turn you loose; they provide guides knowledgeable in both kayaking and in the ecosystems that they are showing you.

Last year, we did Coastal’s Salt Marsh tour in the bay on the west side of the barrier island near Fenwick.  It was a great experience, so, this year, we decided to try their Bald Cypress tour.  For the Bald Cypress tour, Coastal provides the kayaks, a guide, and transportation to Trap Pond State Park, about 40 minutes west of the beaches.  Trap Pond is the northernmost natural stand of bald cypress trees in the United States. The 90-acre pond was created in the late 1700s to power a sawmill used during the harvest of large bald cypress trees from the surrounding swamps. The Federal Government later purchased the pond and surrounding farmland during the 1930s, and the Civilian Conservation Corps developed the area for recreation. In 1951, Trap Pond became one of Delaware's first state parks.

That's me, paddling through the green ooze at the boat launch.
The water last Friday was a homogenous, opaque, bright green algal soup in the little cove where the boat launch was located.  But after we paddled to the open water of the pond, the water cleared up as much as it could.  The water in the pond is naturally going to have a  reddish-brownish tint, like tea, because the cypresses leach tannins into the water.  If you've ever canoed or kayaked in the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey, the tint of the water would be very similar.

As with much of the U.S. this summer, there are drought conditions in inland Delaware, so the water level in the pond was much lower than normal.  You can get a sense of how much lower the present water level was compared to normal by looking at the exposed base of the bald cypress trees.  The trees should be submerged up to the level where the trunk begins to taper upward.  The water looked to be at least 18 inches lower than normal.

There were several blue herons along the banks in the distance keeping an eye on us.  We also saw tons of turtles basking on logs and rocks throughout the pond.  From what I could figure out, I think all of the turtles we saw were Northern Red-bellied Cooters (which I had never heard of until I looked on the internet to try to ID the turtles that I photographed).  Their carapaces are about 12 inches, slightly domed and olive in color.

My wife and daughter paddling.
One of the streams that feeds Trap Pond has trail markers to guide canoeists and kayakers who want to explore further back into the swamp.  We were only able to get about 300 yards up the stream because the water level was too low for the kayaks to pass through any farther.  About 100 feet up the stream from the pond, we startled a blue heron perched in a nearby tree; he then proceeded to loudly scold us as he took off and flew about 20 feet over our heads with his 5-foot wingspan.  Very cool, with a sort of pre-historic vibe.  It could easily have been mistaken for a pterodactyl patrolling the swamp.

When you are vacationing, a side trip like this can really give you an appreciation for ecosystems other than the one that you are most familiar near your home.  I am unquestionably a Do-It-Yourselfer, particularly when it comes to home repairs/improvements.  But for a couple-hour kayak trip like this Bald Cypress tour, enlisting the services of a reputable guide who can really open your eyes to an otherwise unfamiliar ecosystem will be worth every penny.  If you don’t try a guided eco-tour, you never know what you might miss.


  1. Awesome writing. Your picture looks like the late great Joe Strummer! Any relation?

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    so it will be a better information’s for me. Try to post best informations like this always