If you can catch water flowers in bloom, usually around early May, you will see strange things.
John Augustus Hows captured them in his book.
However, there are other things in and around the swamp that he did not include in his pictures of the Adirondacks.
There is typically a cold wind in the air and a patch of snow here and there. Maybe you will spy what looks like pepper sprinkled on the white snow; a cluster of “snow fleas.”
I was a very young lad when my father took me to visit a swamp. I wish I could tell you exactly where it was. It was so long ago and I really was not paying attention to direction. I spent most of my time watching the path for fallen limbs and twigs. I had spent the first five minutes of our hike falling on my face. I soon learned to keep an eye out for things that trip you up.
It was only later in life that I also learned that you had to keep an eye on your surroundings. That is, if you ever wanted to get there again; or on the other hand if you ever wished to get home again. The woods are fun places but you have to respect them.
There are several types of swamp. There is the hemlock swamp which is usually dark and foreboding. Then there is the muck swamp which I always avoid because it is easy to lose your footwear there. But the boreal swamp is a unique place.
First and foremost it looks like a pond and appears to have no outlet. However it must have an outlet because it needs fresh water to keep it alive. You will not detect a current since the water moves out so slowly.
The next thing you notice is that the whole swamp is surrounded by small plants for about twenty feet around the shoreline. This is where the water flowers grow. Mixed softwoods, usually heavily laden with tamarack, surround the swamp.
The swamp flowers are made up of several types. My favorite is the pitcher plant. It holds water just like a pitcher. It is narrow and tall with a collar pulled up behind its neck. My father told me to look inside. Sure enough it held water and other things like bugs. My father said that the pitcher plants ate the insects when they died and deteriorated.
You may find wild orchids, wild iris, and several other species living in harmony on the flat edges of the boreal swamp.
Sometimes you will see Canadian Rhododendron a bit farther in the woods.
If you visit the boreal swamp in summer you will be more comfortable.
However, if you visit the boreal swamp in the spring you will be more pleased.