Brief-Form Post #20: Aerial Tour of Blackwell Swamp at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge!

I am pleased to offer the 20th GBH Brief Form Posts to my website (Less than three minutes to read!). I tend to get a bit long-winded with my routine Posts. I don’t want my enthusiasm for thoroughness and detail to discourage readers. So I will publish these brief Posts regularly.


Brief-Form Post on my August 20, 2023, Aerial Overflight of Blackwell Swamp within the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge!


On August 20, 2023, a friend took me aloft in his Cessna 182. We departed Pryor Regional Airfield, Decatur, Alabama at 7:00 AM under cloud-free but hazy skies. Our flight plan encompassed exploring the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge and cruising the Tennessee River from Guntersville Dam downstream to Wheeler Dam (and Joe Wheeler State Park). I focus this Brief-Form Post on our aerial exploration of one of my favorite on-the-ground destinations: Blackwell Swamp within the Refuge.

I snapped this photo at 7:59 AM over the north end of the Swamp looking south deeper into the Refuge and the Tennessee River (Wheeler Lake). The Swamp stretches roughly three miles from end to end.




I recorded this 0:22 video as we circuited the southern end of Blackwell.


The view below to the northwest reaches across County Line Road (running diagonally from lower left to upper right) separating Limestone County (left) from Madison. The Huntsville Airport appears north of the Swamp at center right.


The summer (left) and winter views from the SW corner of the Swamp signal no indication that we are anywhere but in the wild interior of the 35,000 acre Refuge. No sign of the nearby agricultural fields, the landing and takeoff patterns for the airport, or recreational boats and commercial tugs and barges plying Lake Wheeler. I am sure that a Native American plucked from the 15th Century and placed on the Blackwell shore would have heard, smelled, and felt the presence of strange and peculiar forces. I am grateful that I can still sense the wildness of the refuge.


Summer’s peace and tranquility often include egrets, herons, owls, ducks, geese, an occasional eagle, ospreys, songbirds, frogs, manifold insects, and other teeming wildlife. Nature doesn’t seem to notice a dearth of wildness.

Jolly B


Spring is a season of special joy for me. I appreciate the eternal spring of youth, epitomized here by grandson Sam.


I accept the challenge of distilling these Brief-Form Posts into a single distinct reflection, a task far more elusive than assembling a dozen pithy statements. Today, I borrow a distinct reflection from Aldo Leopold, one of the great minds of conservation, wildlife ecology, and environmental antiquity:

  • A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.


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