The Riddle of the Carolina Bays

Writer Kevin Krajick and photographer Cameron Davidson went slogging into largely unexplored territory to report and document this story. The confusingly named bays are not ocean inlets, nor are they confined to the Carolinas (though that is where they lie thickest). They are eerie wetland depressions scattered across the Eastern coastal plain from southern New Jersey to northern Florida. Most are perfect ovals, ringed by ridges of sand as high and dry as their interiors are low and swampy, and they are largely impenetrable, surrounded by or even filled with walls of shrubs and tangles of thorny plants.

Today, perhaps only 10 percent of the original bays remain--over time loggers and farmers have drained these sites to cut old trees or plant crops. But field scientists investigating the survivors are discovering extraordinary refuges for a wealth of rare, little-studied plants, amphibians and birds, some found nowhere else.

Following in the footsteps of these intrepid ecologists, who are engaged in projects from inventorying butterflies to collecting microcrustaceans, Krajick and Davidson have created a portrait of a virtually unknown natural phenomenon in America.

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