Rainbow Swamp: A Natural Phenomenon in the Lowcountry


Rainbow swamp: A swamp peppered with trees has rainbow colored waterEvery winter in the Lowcountry, this spectacular natural phenomenon occurs in our swamps: rainbow swamp!

What Causes Rainbow Swamp?

The fall of leaves in autumn gives way to them decomposing in the swamp water. As this process happens, tannins from the leaves are released. These tannins give the water its dark, tea-like appearance. An oily substance floats to the surface of the water. When the sunlight hits it just right, an oil slick effect appears. This is called rainbow swamp.

Where to Find It?

You can find this beautiful phenomenon in stagnant swamp water. In the Lowcountry, we have many nature preserves that have a good chance of showcasing this iridescent display.

These photos are of the rainbow swamp found around the Caw Caw Interpretive Center in Ravenel. If you decide to visit, Caw Caw is a Charleston County Park so your Gold Pass gets you in free!

You could also take a stroll through a swamp via the boardwalk at Audubon’s Beidler Forest Sanctuary located outside of Ridgeville.

Or take a longer drive up I-26 and visit one of our national parks! Congaree National Park boasts the largest bottomland forest in the Southeast with ample opportunity to see rainbow swamp.

Rainbow swamp: A swamp peppered with trees has rainbow colored waterWhere have you spotted rainbow swamp in our area?

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Jessie Leslie
Jessie Leslie of Summerville, SC is a hairstylist, a wife, and mother to twin boys. When she’s not in the salon, you can find her outdoors on adventures with her family, trying to keep her household running, serving the community with her church, or in a quiet place reading a book. Jessie loves to encourage families to spend time together. One of her family’s favorite ways to spend time together is outside. In fact, her family became Ultimate Outsiders in July of 2021. This means they visited all forty-seven SC State Parks! Jessie believes we can help each other by sharing our learned life experiences. Motherhood can be overwhelming and downright exhausting. She wants to help moms see the good and have fun! Connected, healthy families build better communities.