Three Sisters Swamp

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Kayak among the world's oldest bald cypress trees

The Black River in eastern North Carolina is one of the few waterways left that hasn’t been cut by man. Nestled deep in this pristine river is Three Sisters Swamp, home to hundreds of ancient bald cypress trees, many more than 1,000 years old. A tree called Methuselah, or BLK69 by its official name, dates back to at least 364 AD and has been verified to be the oldest tree in eastern America. Scientists believe it isn’t even the oldest tree in Three Sisters, it’s just one of the few that has a solid core that allows for accurate age analysis. The trees here are so old that many are flat-topped from storms and hollow from rot. They have survived because of the undisturbed nature of the river system and the pristine water conditions. The Black River has been designated as Outstanding Resource Waters by the North Carolina Division of Water Quality, and the Nature Conservancy has been protecting important tracts along the Black River since the ancient trees were discovered some two decades ago. The river flows nearly 70 miles through Sampson, Pender and Bladen counties before emptying into the Cape Fear River near Wilmington. The area is remote and water levels provide a challenge for kayakers. Guided trips are offered by Watersmyth Kayaking based in Wilmington and also through Sampson County.

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