This past week, I spent a couple of days looking at potential conservation projects in Moore County. As a result of the impending merger of the Sandhills Area Land Trust with Three Rivers Land Trust, the organization I work for, we have begun taking on some projects in the new service area. As a local girl born and raised in Robbins, Moore County is not foreign to me by any means. However, looking at land – especially in southern Moore County – is definitely a new venture.

Although much of northern Moore County is very similar to the Uwharries where I already have been working, southern Moore County is definitely Sandhills habitat. For conservation of riparian areas, this in many cases means we are looking at Sandhills swamps. Though there are wetlands in the Uwharries, certainly bogs, there aren’t a lot of what I would call swamps. There are a few in Anson and Stanly Counties, but not quite the same as where I was this past week. I’ve been in some thick places, but the locations I was at this past week were a different kind of thick. My arms and legs show the scratches and scraps of dense underbrush and briers with more thorns than I am accustomed to for sure.

Making it through this brushy area to the swamp in the middle was no easy task. But the beautiful wetland that emerged and seeing the tea-colored black water of the Sandhills was a surprisingly worthwhile experience. Our what must have sounded like thunderous approach solicited a response from a barn owl even in midday, who hooted at us several times to get out of his hideaway.

There are some great water resources in what I would call the Sandhills portion of Montgomery County and in Moore County. Drowning Creek is a fantastic stream with high water quality. Much of this stream still shows you that you are on the dividing line between Uwharries and Sandhills, with longleaf pine mixed among mountain laurel on the same property. Rocky outcrops along the stream can even still be found on the same site that has predominantly sandy soils in the uplands. Mill Creek and McDeeds Creek are also high quality waters and feed into Crystal Lake near Vass, an area you may remember that I paddled last summer. This lake in the upper end has a fantastic swamp forest you can paddle through.

I did spend a couple of days last week in the Uwharries as well, along the Uwharrie and the Little Rivers, where many favorites are in bloom. Tiarella, Catsby’s trillium, dwarf crested iris, spring beauties, atamasco lilies, bluestars and more are showing off their pinks, purples, whites and blue hues right now. I’m still learning some of the species of the Sandhills, as we found a nice little white violet of some sort on our exploration, but I wasn’t familiar with what species it would be. The Sandhills swamps did house another familiar flower we have in the Uwharries in bloom – golden club. It’s a great time of year to be outside, and though I know I will always spend time in the Uwharries, I look forward to exploring more of the Sandhills area as well.