During the fall and winter, the largest wetland serves as a roosting site for many species including herons, egrets, wood ducks, and hooded mergansers. This habitat and the preserve it created is critical for the protection of wildlife and is an incredible example of the restoration of wetlands.
With its trails and elevated boardwalks winding through the Rookery and individual wetland sections, the Cypress Wetlands has become not only a model to inspire other regional stormwater improvement projects but a working functional organic laboratory, a Port Royal treasure and an educational and incredible “must see” destination for visitors and residents alike.
The ecological value of the wetland became even more important in 1999 when a severe drought dried up the cypress swamps far inland where the egrets nested. The egrets that formerly just roosted at the Cypress Wetlands now saw it as a nesting area. Out in the middle of the wetland, where the water is deeper, a handful of great egrets built their nests in the old button bushes that had been growing there for decades. The next year there were a few more egret nests and the next year even more.
In 2000 Town officials began working with local ecologists to develop a management plan for this wetland, one that would involve deepening some sections and creating islands which could become future rookeries. The islands and open water areas you see today are the outcome of this work which was completed in 2002.
The habitat management work done in 2002 caused the rookery of nesting wading birds to thrive. For the next ten years the trees planted on the main island were covered with nesting egrets, herons, and white ibis.
In 2012 the boardwalk was built allowing the public greater access to the wetlands and better viewing opportunities to watch the nesting birds. Birders and wildlife photographers from across the eastern United States came to this area specifically to observe and photograph the wildlife at the Cypress Wetlands rookery.
Ten years after the rookery islands had been created, things changed. Non-native tallow trees proliferated transforming the island into a dense forest where racoons could live and hide. The number of egrets nesting on the main island decreased significantly. Fortunately, the old button bushes, the same ones originally used by the first nesting egrets, continued to provide a place for the egrets and anhingas to nest.
First annual Birthday for the Birds event.
In October of 2019, the Friends of Port Royal Cypress Wetlands, a 501c3 organization, was formed to support the ongoing work, preservation, and education of the community about this Town of Port Royal treasure. We invite you to join with us and become a Friend of the Wetlands with your donations.
Beginning in the Fall of 2020, nearly 20 years after the first management project was planned, it was time for active habitat management to occur once again in this wetland. Stands of trees were planted on the islands so they will again be attractive to nesting birds, open stands of water were created by removing dense land bridges while keeping the old, mature button bushes, and where possible, open water areas were deepened.
In October, 2021, the founding member of the FOPRCW, Pete Richards, was recognized by placing a monument and plaque at the wetland's amphitheater.
December 9, 2021
FOPRCW receives T-Mobile Grant
The Friends of Port Royal Cypress Wetlands are awarded the T-Mobile Hometown Grant from T-Mobile. The $38,832 grant, along with matching funds from the Town of Port Royal and FOPRCW, will be used to upgrade and renovate the boardwalks and observation areas surrounding the main wetlands. Over 4,000 organizations across the United States applied for the Hometown Grant, and FOPRCW was one of only twenty-five recipients of the grant, which is awarded quarterly by T-Mobile.
Thanks to the Friends fundraising campaign held in the summer of 2021 along with the funds received from the T-Mobile Hometown Grant, the Friends worked with the Town of Port Royal, Port Royal Ace Hardware, and A&A HDZ Construction to complete a two-phased renovation project of the wetlands, The project included:
- Repair and replace over 500 boards on the boardwalks surrounding the wetlands
-Construct a covered pavilion over the observation platform off of Richmond Avenue
-Installation of a pathway from Paris Avenue down to the Amphitheater
-Install new stainless steel cable railing on the main boardwalk
-Replace the top rail of the boardwalk handrail system with an angled 2 x 8 to deter people from placing drinks on the railing
-Update and replace the stormwater management educational sign located at the amphitheater kiosk
-Update and replace the trail map of the wetlands located at the amphitheater kiosk
April 30, 2022
Birthday for the Birds
After taking a year off due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the 8th annual Birthday for the Birds celebration returned to the Cypress Wetlands!
November 2, 2023
The Friends commissioned Cathy Pender-Emmert to conceive and create a life-sized alligator sculpture that was then filled full of trash that was collected from the wetlands. The purpose for the sculpture is to bring awareness to the amount of trash that is dumped into our wetlands and waterways, and just how harmful it is to the environment and the wildlife that live here.