Hike the ultra-scenic boardwalk trails at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park in Augusta, exploring a wildlife-filled marshland draped in Spanish moss near the banks of the Savannah River.
There’s nothing quite like a morning hike at Phinizy Swamp. Early morning light blankets the swamp, casting a golden glow on this flat, scenic marsh just south of downtown Augusta. All around, the swamp’s inhabitants awaken. The swamp is suddenly brimming with life, as otters, tree frogs, amphibians, beavers, waterfowl, bobcats, and alligators take to the ground, air, and water as the day begins. Spanish moss blows languidly, draped in tendrils in the riverine forest and catching the breeze from the nearby Savannah River.
Phinizy Swamp Nature Park spans 1100 acres of riverine marsh and swampland, and its 14 miles of unpaved trails offer a beautifully scenic venue for a great bike, trail run, or hike near Augusta. It’s a wonderfully beautiful place for a nature walk, wildlife spotting, and a chance to connect with nature.
This relatively short but ultra-scenic hike explores some of the nature park’s most picturesque places, following an extended boardwalk over the water-filled floodplain of Butler Creek, visiting the park’s visitor center and swamp’s research labs, and following a boardwalk around the rain garden’s glassy pond that’s often frequented by wildlife. This two trail combo makes for a great bird-watching stroll, a short kid-friendly nature walk, or a fantastic early morning running route through a wonderfully scenic wetland wonderland.
Phinizy Swamp Boardwalk and Rain Garden Trails: the hike
The adventure begins at the nature park’s parking area near the silos (view maps and driving directions), hiking eastbound to the Floodplain Boardwalk. The trail soon meets the boardwalk at under a tenth of a mile, following the boardwalk’s curve under a canopy of moss-draped trees.
The trail exits the tree cover, suddenly surrounded by the sun-drenched expanse of the Butler Creek floodplain. The creek meanders below the boardwalk, flowing nearly clear and flooding the surrounding landscape with water. The marsh is lush and vibrantly green, and wildlife tracks wind through the dense vegetation and over the mudflats bordering the creek.
At .1 mile, the boardwalk splits, offering an extension to the left that leads to a covered pavilion. The pavilion offers a perfect place to quietly observe the creek’s abundant wildlife. Fish swim in the creek’s shallows, waterfowl fly overhead, and the occasional beaver or otter scurries and swims through the verdant landscape.
Past the pavilion, the boardwalk climbs in a gentle arc, rising above the water-filled marshland and passing through moss-draped trees. The trail reaches pavement, passing eastbound through the Phinizy Center Campus, home to the park’s research laboratories, visitor center, and ‘Swamp Shop,’ a great spot to stop for refreshments or a park map. Passing the visitor center, the hike follows a path toward the Rain Garden Trail, catching views of the glassy Rain Garden Pond from a wooden overlook.
The hike arcs eastbound around the pond, following a wooden boardwalk through dense vegetation. The pond’s waters and shoreline are home to many wildlife species, including turtles and tree frogs.
The hike reaches the end of the Rain Garden boardwalk at just over .5 mile. Views to the northeast stretch to the Windshear Tower and Distribution Canal, and a chance to spot osprey and hawks circling overhead in the air currents above the park’s wetland cells.
If you’re up for some additional mileage, the end of the Rain Garden boardwalk makes an excellent starting point for an adventure on one of the park’s many other trails. This hike turns around, following its outbound route in reverse and catching a second look at the swamp’s abundant flora and fauna on the return hike. The hike reaches the parking area and silos at just over 1.1 miles, completing the adventure.
Phinizy Center for Water Sciences
While it’s a simply beautiful place to explore, the swamp is also an important asset to the city as well as the research team that studies here. Once a devastated ecosystem, the swamp was revitalized for use as the final treatment of municipal water from the city of Augusta. It’s also home to the Phinizy Center for Water Sciences, a research center for the study of river ecology and water quality, and hosts many educational programs as well. Visit the Phinizy Center website for more information, and to learn how you can help contribute to its outstanding efforts and programs.
More outdoor adventures near Augusta
In the area with daylight and energy to spare? The Augusta Canal Towpath Trail is a wonderfully scenic place for a hike, run, or bike ride, exploring the history and nature that saturates the narrow strip of land between the Augusta Canal and the Savannah River. From the Augusta Canal’s headgates at Savannah Rapids Park, this ultra-scenic trail offers an excellent venue for a stroll through Augusta’s history or a great distraction-free run, spanning over five miles between the two waterways.
Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.
Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.
Free. Love the park? Please consider a donation to help support the park's programs and research.
33.385000, -81.967317 // N33 23.100 W81 58.039