Washington’s Southern Tour of 1791

George Washington was the first president of the newly freed 13 colonies of United States. Washington’s life is filled with legendary and epic accomplishments. He was known for his prestige mannerisms and politic genius. Born on February 22, 1732, in Wakefield County (a colony in Virginia) to Augustine and Mary Bell Washington. Today we will honor our First President’s birthday by discussing his grandiose Southern Tour and his famous stop at the Gause family home in Ocean Isle Beach.

Historical Marker Credits: NC Highway Marker Program

From the very beginning, Washington was never a man to stand still at any moment of his life. The East Coast is littered with historical markers due to his vast traveling. Even Brunswick County had a small encounter with Washington during his Southern Tour of 1791.  But who or what brought him to a small coastal town on the border of North and South Carolina?

Southern Tour Map Credits: MountVernon.org

George was known as “the man of the people”, and loved to make public appearances. Washington wished to express his gratitude for the support he had received from the colonies during the Revolution War and his unanimous win to be the First President of the United States. He is the only President to win the election unanimously twice!  Plus he wanted to build the new nation’s strength in unity, and build confidence with the people of the newly founded government. So he decided it was best for him to travel to all 13 colonies. 

A sketch by Robert D. “Danny” Rickets of President George Washington leaving Philadelphia on his 1791 Southern Tour. Credits: Caswell County Historical Society

First, he would visit New England and the middle states from October 15th to November 13, 1789. After a small winter break at the short-lived capital Philadelphia, he then started his Southern tour in March of 1791. This tour was partly delayed due to NC had not yet ratified the US Constitution.  North Carolina became part of the United States, on November 13, 1790.

March 10th, 1791 Southern Tour Itinerary Credits: Library of Congress

Washington was very intrigued to visit North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. He had never visited these three states before. Along the way he visited many established cities; Mt. Veron VA, Fredericksburg VA, Richmond VA, Petersburg VA, Charlotte NC,  Halifax NC, Greenville NC, New Bern NC, Salisbury NC, Salem NC, Wilmington NC, Camden SC, Charleston SC, Columbia SC, Georgetown SC, Augusta GA, Savannah GA. This was over a 1200 mile round trip.
Washington reached Wilmington NC on April 23, 1791. The first president was greeted by a parade of decorated ships, and finely dressed southern belles that filled the balconies of Front St. While he was staying in Wilmington there were many speeches and ceremonies held in his honor. He left on April 26th and began his journey to Charleston SC. Along the way, on April 27 he made a small pit stop to the William Gause Jr plantation.

Washington’s World Interactive Map. Credits: Mount Vernon.


William Gause Jr had met Washington during the Revolutionary War. They were very good acquaintances, and often exchanged letters. William was a Revolutionary war hero himself and unfortunately lost his leg for the cause. Washington traveled 14 miles out his way to visit his friend.

Rice field. Credits: NCpedia

The Gause family were known for their rice plantations by using the Bald Cypress swamps that surrounded their manor. The family also played a huge part in the turpentine industry. Turpentine, tar, and pitch were key to shipbuilding in the 18th century. Our little Brunswick County was the shipbuilding mecca for the 13 colonies and exported their turpentine surplus to around the world. They had bled pine tree forests dry to produce tar, pitch, and turpentine. The turpentine industry was so large in the 1700s that it almost cause the extinction of Longleaf Pine trees in NC.

North Carolina turpentine distillery, 1884. North Carolina Collection, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library. Credits: NCpedia

If you ever take our Swamp Eco Boat tour we do discuss the Gause’s family history, Washington’s visit, and impact to the surrounding area. Unfortunately, the family has no living relatives, and the manor no longer exist.  There is a popular belief that the manor had burned down, but no one is exactly sure as to what happened to the home. However, there is a small tomb for John Julius Gause Jr. (the nephew of William Gause Jr.) located off NC 179. The family’s tomb had suffered many years of abuse by vandals and has been recently restored in 2015. Washington’s small visit helped put the spotlight on Ocean Isle for a brief moment in history.

The Gause’s tomb. Credits to JR Robinson.

Please check out our sources below for further information from the experts. If you have comments, questions or concerns then leave them on our Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, or TripAdvisor pages, and we’ll answer! Come back in March as we discuss who will be returning to the swamp this spring.



(n.d.). Retrieved from http://markers.ncdcr.gov/markers.aspx?markerId=D-70

Bingham, W. L. (2016). George Washingtons 1791 Southern Tour.

George Washington’s 1791 Southern Tour. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/the-first-president/george-washingtons-1791-southern-tour/

Image 1 of George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence: George Washington, March 10, 1791, Itinerary for Tour of Southern States. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/resource/mgw4.100_0421_0422/?sp=1

Leonard, T., & Leonard, T. (2014, June 19). NC provided turpentine to the world. Retrieved from https://www.newsobserver.com/living/liv-columns-blogs/past-times/article10335020.html

Naval Stores. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncpedia.org/naval-stores

Our History. (2017, June 28). Retrieved from https://bricklandingcc.com/our-history/

Rsf. (1970, January 01). Caswell County Historical Association. Retrieved from http://ncccha.blogspot.com/2007/03/dudley-gatewood-house.html

StarNews, D. B., & Correspondent, D. B. (2016, October 19). Search is on for Brunswick grave of Revolutionary War vet. Retrieved from https://www.starnewsonline.com/news/20161023/search-is-on-for-brunswick-grave-of-revolutionary-war-vet

Website design and web development by Mango Web Design http://mangowebdesign.com. (n.d.). Naval Stores. Retrieved from https://northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/naval-stores/

Birdy it’s Cold outside!

Welcome back, Folks! This week we will be finishing our 2 part series about backyard birds and their adaptation to winter on the East coast. Plus learn how to make a Feeding Garland for your woodland friends.

As we discussed before, migration for many animals is a dangerous trek. Often times juvenile or sickly animals do not make it to their destination. Instead, the majority of the animals will stay in their surrounding area and will hibernate (mammals), brumate (reptiles), or adapt (some mammals and birds). Backyard birds have evolved with amazing abilities to keep themselves home all year round, let’s explore their physical and behavioral adaptations.

Future of Animal Migration. Credits: Nature Conservancy

Have you ever worn a down jacket before? If you have then you know those jackets will keep you quite warm. Just like the downy jacket birds will use their feathers as a coat for themselves. For example, often times you’ll see Cardinals turn into red puff balls on extremely cold days. By puffing themselves up it creates space between their feathers and skin which allow them to trap their body heat. Some birds produce oil from their “uropygial gland” to waterproof their feathers.

Male Cardinal using feather jacket. Credits: All about Birds

But what about their feet? Birds have scaly feet to help reduce body heat loss. Plus they have the amazing ability to regulate their legs and feet temperature separately from their bodies. They do this by constricting their blood vessels in their legs to minimize the need for heat in their feet. Birds will tuck their feet underneath their fluffy bodies on extremely cold weather. I guarantee you’ll see these birds sunning themselves on a warm morning.

Bird Feet Identification. Credits:Mayeriment Gardens

During the winter days, it is essential for our backyard friends to acquire as much food as they can. It takes a lot of energy for birds to maintain their core temperature, especially once the sun goes down. Some birds can build a small fat reserve for insulation and energy. Chickadees will have up to 10 percent of their winter body weight in fatty storage. They build up their insulation by feasting during the autumn, humans aren’t the only ones who will gorge themselves during the fall season.

Chubby Chickadees are so cute. Credits: Journey North

This is the best time for you to put out bird seed and fill your birdbath for amazing sightings and help your local feathered friends. Feed your aviary friends sunflower seeds, peanuts, popcorn, berries, and dried fruits. Be aware you might attract some furry squirrels or impish chipmunks looking for a fat filled breakfast. One fun way to decorate your trees and feed the neighborhood wildlife is by creating a Feeding Garland. Follow these simple steps.

Feeding Garland

Est time: 30-45 mins Prep Time: 5 mins


  • Raw Cranberries


  • Unsalted Peanuts


  • Unflavored Popcorn *Do Not use butter flavored or salty popcorn. Plain popcorn kernels are best for our little friends.*


  • Scissors


  • Large sewing needles


  • Hemp String or Fishing Wire


  • Wreath Frame (optional)


  1. Put cranberries, peanuts, and popcorn in 3 separate bowls. Arrange bowls so they are accessible for everyone.
  2. Measure hemp string or the fishing wire to whatever length you like. Then cut the string at the desired length. Suggestion: 2 arm lengths.
  3. Take one end and tie a simple knot. Thread the other end with a needle. * Make a small loop, leaving a tail. Pull the tail thru the loop and firmly secure the knot. *
  4. It does not matter what order you go in. Take a treat and pierce it with the needle. Push food onto the string and pull thru toward the end with the knot. Be careful piercing treats or you will prick yourself. Try piercing the food in the center to prevent them from falling off the string too easily. Repeat process until you fill the string with goodies. Suggested sequence of treats: Cranberry, peanut, popcorn
  5. Leave enough room to be able to create a knot and remove needle. Tie a simple knot at the end.
  6. Go outside and string the garland around your favorite tree. If you have a wreath frame then string the garland around the frame. Hang wreath on a door or tree. Make sure the placement of food is not too near windows or reflective surfaces. Leave a bowl of warm water nearby, so our friends can have something to drink.

Check out additional information from experts about our backyard birds survival skills. If you have any questions or concerns follow the links here to ourFacebook, Tumbler, Twitter, or Instagram page and we’ll answer! Check out next month’s blog as we discussGeorge Washington and his visit to NC. Visit our other blogs for Part 1 of this blog and about our wetlandreptiles amazing winter adaptation.


Where do all the birds go?

Fee-bee! Hey Sweetie! Cheer, cheer, cheer! Birdie, birdie, birdie! What magical tweets to hear on a cold winter morning! Sometimes I’ll find myself transfixed on birds while opening up the Swamp Park’s storefront. I’m lost in meditative thought, while my eyes are glued on my colorful tweeting friends. Just for a moment, you’re peering into a whole diverse society. The Cardinals, show off their bright red winter jackets. The Chickadees are bouncing from ground to feeder, ensuring they sample the finest seeds. The Woodpecker is knocking feverishly against a long needle pine, to awaken their next meal. The Blue Jay calls a constant loud Jeer! This brings the attention to their friends, that awesome suet has been found.

Credits: The Spruce

But wait why are they still here? Don’t all birds migrate during the winter? Why do they stay? How do they keep warm when the air temperature is below freezing? What foods do they need to eat? We’ll be answering all those questions in a 2-part blog series. This first blog will be about migration and our wetland fowls that visit our park. The second part will be about backyard birds as to why they stay, and their winter adaptations.

Migration is where an animal will relocate themselves during certain times of the year for food, mating, and climate reasons. Sometimes migration can be short-term or a long-term commitment for animals. Yes, some birds will migrate from the northern hemisphere to warmer southern hemisphere. For example; the entire population of Bar-tailed Godwits will begin their non-stop trek from Alaska to New Zealand during Alaska’s winter months. They don’t just make this trip once, but twice a year! This long journey is really dangerous. Often times, the weaker Godwits will not make it to the final destination.


At the Swamp Park, we have a variety of migratory waterfowl, who visit us every year, such as the wood storks, herons, and gulls. Wood storks are tall white birds with black flight wings and a large heavy bill. Wood storks will fly from Florida in the spring, and travel up the east coast reaching to the southeastern part of NC for the summer. These storks will make a home in our swamp during this time. They are often found on top of our cypress trees. During their stay, they’ll find mates, and begin a family. They’ll lay their eggs at the bottom of the cypress tree usually situated on top of a mud island. Once the young mature, the wood storks will leave us in autumn and go to Florida for the winter.

Pair of Wood storks Feeding in Shallotte River Swamp

What is really amazing is the relationship between alligators and wood storks. Wood stork’s eggs are highly sought after by scavenger predators like the raccoon, and possums. The alligator really enjoys eating tasty small furry mammals. Since the wood stork’s eggs bring a lot of traffic, the alligator will patrol the perimeter of the mud island. How cool is that! The alligator will provide some protection while using the stork’s eggs as bait! As a precaution the wood stork will build their nest at least 5 ft away from the water’s edge, so they don’t become gator food. We have other species of herons, and gulls that will also make these visits to our park for the same reasons. We’ll discuss more them in our future blogs. However, we do have one waterfowl that stays with us, wood ducks.


The wood duck is unlike most other waterfowl in the sense that they nest high in tree cavities or built boxes. They have very strong claws, which allows them to perch on trees branches. In January they’ll begin to pair and produce two broods (a family of young ducklings) in one year. It is the only North American duck that will do so. Wood ducks have been known to nest as far as a mile away from water, but they typically will nest directly over the water. The female will lay anywhere from 6-16 eggs. They have also been known to “egg-dumping”. This is when a female will lay some eggs in another’s nest and having other females raise her brood. After one-day ducklings have hatched, they will jump out the nest and find their way to water. The mother will call for them, and she does not help in any way. Ducklings can jump out from the nesting hole higher than 50 feet without any injury.

Wood Duck Box on The Swamp Park Hiking Trail

This time of year, it is very important to do maintenance on any wood duck boxes. At the Swamp Park, we have a total of eight boxes. We will empty, clean, and remove any old nest from the boxes. Wood ducks are unable to make their own cavities and provide their own nesting materials. Once the old material is emptied then we will provide new nesting materials (straw)  in the box. We will check the overall structure of each one and be sure our predator guards are in good condition. We will clear up any low branches that may be too close to the box, this will help to prevent predators as well. The boxes will then be ready to go for spring ducklings!!

Also below are additional information from experts about our visiting migratory birds and wood ducks. If you have any questions or concerns leave a comment on our Facebook, Tumblr, or Instagram page and we’ll answer! In next week blog, we will further discuss our backyard avian friends and how they adapt to the chilly months. If you like this blog about our bird friends then check out our blog about reptilian winter survival adaptions.



New Youtube Channel

Hey Folks!

Since y’all had liked our icy alligator video so much, we made an update video of our chilly friends. Check out our new Youtube channel! Don’t forget to hit that Subscribe button! Both videos are down below! Would you like to learn more? Follow the link below! This will direct you to our blog about how reptiles have adapted to the winter season.



Wetland Reptiles Surviving 2018’s Sub-freezing Winter!

Oh, Father winter, how you constantly remind us of the season!  You’ll probably find yourself all bundle up, and sipping on hot cocoa while the world outside has a bitter chill. But what do animals do when winter arrives? Don’t they have a nice cozy home with central heating? Aren’t they all snuggled up, and sleeping under a snow tip pine tree with an open lit fire?  

Good questions! Most of us assume that all wildlife sleeps through the winter months until spring. This is true for some mammals like groundhogs, bears, and bats, but not everyone is dreaming throughout the long winter nights.  

For the month of January 2018, we will discuss the variety of animals in our swamp, and their clever adaptations during this chilly season.  PLUS, this week’s topic will be about our reptilian friends.

Reptiles are vertebrate animals that include snakes, lizards, turtles, and alligators. They tend to have dry leathery scaly skin and lay soft-shelled eggs on land. They are cold-blooded. These animals rely upon the sun to increase their body temperature and stimulate their metabolism (ectothermic).   

There are so many interesting facts about alligators! So for this week, we will focus on alligators’ adaptations during the winter. Tune into our future blogs for more “mind-blowing ” facts about alligators.  Here at the park, we know for a fact alligators LOVE to sunbathe! Take a look at our photographic evidence!

Some Lazy Gators!

Be a Fearless Turtle!

Where does one gator begin or other gator end?


When alligators aren’t sunbathing, they’ll spend the other half of their life in water. They can live in water temperatures as low as 40-degrees F.  So, what happens when the water or air temperature is too low for them to be active?   Alligators will go into a state of brumation. This is where a reptile’s metabolism slows down dramatically and will go into a lethargic state. Often during this time, an alligator will stay at the bottom of a body of water. An alligator can hold its breath underwater for 1 to 24 hours. If they need to breathe, then they’ll slowly surface and peak their nostrils at the top of the water.  Just like in this photo:

They are just doing enough to keep their nostrils above water!

They’ll keep the rest of their stationary body suspended in the water. Sometimes alligators will burrow deep in mud holes along banks of the water, for added warmth. During this time alligators will not be apt to eat because of their slow metabolism. An alligator can become very sick if they have food left in their stomach.  The food becomes stagnant and rots, instead of being properly digested. Since digesting can take a lot of energy for an animal to process, sometimes maintaining body temperature will take all of an animal’s energy.  At the end of this blog, there will be a video link to our Facebook page. Check it out! The video showcases the park’s alligators surviving the first brutal snow storm in NC of 2018.  

Let’s shift our attention to turtles and their adaptations during the winter. Turtles will also brumate like their cousins during the colder months. However, there are some key differences in how they maintain their body’s temperature and energy. Turtles will remain underwater and stay alert to changes in sunlight.  They’ll monitor the light so they can surface on warmer days to sunbathe.  Often, they will stay underneath the icy water at 3 to 4 months at a time. Since the water is cold and dense, it can be hard for a turtle to surface and to breathe oxygen. But don’t worry the turtle has adapted to their icy surroundings!  To maintain their minimal oxygen levels, turtles will slowly paddle around underwater to keep their blood vessels flushed. This eliminates the need to surface and to breathe with their lungs. What’s amazing is that the turtle’s most vascular area on their body is in their – butts. That’s right, turtles breathe oxygen through their butts and the technical term is called cloacal respiration.

Swim on butt breathers! Swim on! 

Yep, you guessed it, like their cousins, lizards, and snakes will also go through brumation.

Oh me o my a Skink!

Be careful where you put your hands!

Often snakes and lizards will burrow themselves into their dens and wait out the colder days. They will make themselves at home in rocky crevices, caves, rodent holes, underneath trees, rotting logs, and sometimes they’ll sleep together in groups. They will creep out of their dens on warmer days to sunbathe.  

If you ever find yourself taking a walk on our hiking trail on a warm winter day, stay alert! You might see some sunbathing reptiles.  Also, check out the links below for further information about reptile brumation from experts.  If you like this blog then check out our blog about birds and how they survive the winter months If you have questions or concerns please ask us on our Facebook, Tumblr, or Instagram and we’ll answer! 

Swamp Park’s Facebook Page Video: 

“Alligators in Ice!” https://www.facebook.com/shallotteriverswamppark/videos/767656473434331/ 

Video Link: 

Herd, T. (2012, February 25). American Alligator in Winter. Retrieved December 20, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0wdtipM5WU 


AT, Denise. “When Do Snakes Hibernate?” Snake Protection, 28 Nov. 2014, 06:29 pm, www.snakeprotection.com/snake_bite_blog/view/1074/when-do-snakes-hibernate-. 

“Brumation.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/brumation. 

Litzgus, Jacqueline. “The Secret to Turtle Hibernation: Butt-Breathing.” LiveScience, Purch, 25 Nov. 2017, www.livescience.com/61018-turtles-breathe-through-butt.html. 

“Lizard Hibernation.” All About Lizardswww.the-lizard-lounge.com/content/library/behavior/hibernation.asp. 

“Loyola University New Orleans.” Where Do Alligators Go In Winter? | Center for Environmental Communication | Loyola University New Orleanswww.loyno.edu/lucec/natural-history-writings/where-do-alligators-go-winter. 

Feb 27, 2014 — by Natural Selections, in Canton, NY. “Natural Selections: How do turtles survive a winter underwater?” NCPR, 27 Feb. 2014, www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/story/24195/20140227/natural-selections-how-do-turtles-survive-a-winter-underwater. 

“Preparing Reptiles for Winters Sleep.” Reptiles Magazine, www.reptilesmagazine.com. 

“Reptile Brumation.” South Carolina Aquarium, 25 Apr. 2017, scaquarium.org/brumation/. 

Meet Tommy Turtle

Tommy Turtle

Tommy Turtle is an Alligator Snapping Turtle who calls the Shallotte River Swamp Park his home.  Tommy Turtle visited us last year when we were building the swamp park, taking up residence in the retention pond we built by the Birthday Party Activity Center Building.

He immediately developed a liking for Sea Bass heads, coming to him fresh off the OIFC charter fishing fleet.  Apparently, he has awakened from his Winter nap and is ready for some dining on our area’s best-eating fish.

The charter captains need to get to work fishing as Tommy is hungry!  Although Tommy Turtle prefers the heads, the filets will be available at the Ocean Isle Fish Company and the Fish & Wing Company in Shallotte.  Think about Tommy as you dine.

Who Needs a Groundhog Anyway

We all know about Groundhog Day. This cute, little furry critter crawls out of his hole and peaks around looking for his shadow and promptly crawls back in. But, has anyone ever introduced you to Sammy and Sally? No, well let me be the first. Meet Sammy and Sally Snake, Shallotte River Swamp Park’s very own weather forecasters, and SssSssseriously cool creatures.



Sammy and Sally have been in brumation during the winter. What is that? Well, it is a similar state to hibernation. Cold-blooded animals like snakes brumate during the cold weather months. Their body systems slow down-eating, drinking, etc. stops or nearly stops. When temperatures begin to rise, snakes will leave the protection of their homes in search of a nice, sunny area to warm their weary bones and grab a bite to eat.


Sammy Snake

It has been a bit lonesome around here this winter without our friends Sammy and Sally. But, here at Shallotte River Swamp Park, we have it on very good authority that spring will be here before you know it. How do we know this? Well, Sammy and Sally have been spotted peaking from their homes recently. So, again I say, who needs a groundhog anyway? Shallotte River Swamp Park has some SssSssseriously cool weather forecasting snakes. Oh, I nearly forgot to mention in the anticipation of Spring, we are OPEN now on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays by reservation.

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