Beautiful, but deadly: Why Kampoosa Bog is closed to visitors


TYRINGHAM -- Following a presentation by UMass professor Eric Johnson on Saturday, an older woman stopped me in the parking area of the Tyringham Union Church, where the lecture took place.

Why, she asked, is access to the bog so restricted? Shouldn't taxpayers be allowed to enjoy the beauty of the area?

The response she got was that the Kampoosa Bog is indeed beautiful, untouched by man for the most part for about 10,000 years. But it is even more dangerous.

In 2010, I visited Kampoosa Bog with photographer Ben Garver for a story in The Eagle. We spent a hot morning canoeing in the bog, dodging dragonflies the size of pigeons, listening to the booming of rare bitterns, bumping into submerged roots and watching black leeches undulate sinuously as they swam underwater.

The bog itself has a certain beauty and symmetry to it. And I recall thinking that once we actually entered the bog, it was like a curtain had gone down behind us. We had come to a different world -- a far, far less comfortable world than we are used to in the 21st century.

The leeches were one of the biggest problems. Garver went into the water a couple times to get photos. Every time he got back in the canoe, we had to check him for leeches.

But there is something more sinister in the bog. The islands that dot it look harmless enough. But they sit atop deep, sucking mudholes. And should an unwary traveler step into one, he or she would be slurped down in rapid fashion.

Garver hopped onto one to see what it felt like. I didn't. Somebody had to be able to call for help.

But we eventually made it out. As we canoed back to the retaining pond that is the entrance to the place, I remember hearing a truck drive by, shifting gears loudly. It had been a short trip geographically, but chronologically, we had traveled about 100 centuries.


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