Pocosin tour promotes uniqueness of Pike County

Published 7:18 pm Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ninety-something people know much more about the Pike County Pocosin today than they did yesterday. And with that knowledge comes a deeper appreciation for Old Mother Nature and greater pride in Pike.

“This is a fantastic area and so interesting,” said Phoebe Porter. “This is my first time to the Pocosin and I’ve been impressed. This area needs to be promoted. It’s so unique and a real asset to Pike County.”

John Frank Deese of the Whitetail Institute conducted the tour that was sponsored by the Pike County Chapter of the Alabama TREASURE Forest Association.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Deese said Troy University owns the 17 central acres of the Pike County Pocosin and the surrounding 207 acres are owned by Alabama Forever Wild.

“Forever Wild owns 165,000 acres in the state and, with lease land, the total comes to 227,000 acres which seems like a lot but it’s only 1 percent of the total land area of the state.”

The first written description of the Pike County Pocosin was penned in 1858 and stated that the Pocosin was a small scope of country of peculiar appearance, with a luxurious growth of a swamp surrounded on three sides by a ridge of snow-white sand that seemed to have been heaped up by the tides on the seashore.

“The word ‘pocosin’ comes from the North American Indians of the Delta Region and means, ‘swamp on a hill,” Deese said. “The Pike County Pocosin is different in that it’s aquifer fed by a big spring out of the ravine.”

Deese said there are 348 different plant species in the Pike County Pocosin, including azaleas and mountain laurel.

“You wouldn’t expect to see mountain laurel in Pike County but it’s here in the Pocosin,” he said. “You also wouldn’t expect to see Arkansas oaks here.

They are only in four or five locations in Alabama, none in Mississippi and a few in the Florida Panhandle, Georgia and Arkansas. So Arkansas oaks are rare but they’re here.”

The Pike County Pocosin tour participants were invited to hike a short distance to the edge of the deep ravine where the vegetation near the bottom stays green year around because of the moderate and constant temperature and the sand at the bottom is the same as the sand on the top.

Deese pointed out bluejack oaks, Indian grass and other vegetation that thrive on the poor, sandy soil of the Pocosin.

On the trailer ride through the Pocosin, the “tourists” paused to pick sparkleberries and admire a large patch of lichen.

Deese directed the tour group to a gopher tortoise burrow.

“The gopher tortoise is a vital part of the Pocosin,” he said. “The male gopher tortoise can build up to 35 burrows and the female will build up to four burrows. About 250 other animals use those burrows – snakes, gopher frogs, gopher crickets – a lot of animals depend on these burrows.’

The female gopher tortoise lays its eggs outside the burrow and the temperature of the soil determines the sex of the eggs.

That fact caused mumbling among the tour group, an indication that they were listening and interested.

“The Pike County Pocosin is an outstanding natural area,” said Mark Kelly. “It reminds me of the Spanish Trail near DeFuniak Springs. It’s a place that we need to promote because it is unique to Pike County.”

Deborah Davis, president of the Pike County Chapter Alabama TREASURE Forest, said the tour was a great success and expressed appreciation to all of those who worked so hard to make it a success and to all of those who showed interest in the Pike County outdoors through their participation.