Black River, a nature lover’s paradise
The Black River stretches 54 km, the longest river in Jamaica until it was established that Rio Minho was 92.8 km long. The name ‘Black’ stems from the darkness part of the river bed caused by the thick layer of decomposing vegetation.
“The town got its name from the river; it was first called Gravesend until it was changed by the English to the current name as the name of the river changed from Rio Caobana to the English word Black River. As for the river, you can navigate it for 24 miles just beyond the Lacovia bridge,” explained Lloyd Linton, the owner of Irie Safarie Tour and a wetland biologist.
The river originates from the Cockpit Country, a mountainous region that is predominantly located in Trelawny and which was once a habitat for runaway slaves. From this starting point, which is called the upper morass, it smoothly meanders through several communities like Maggotty, Lacovia and Middle Quarters, a place famous for crayfish and shrimps.
The lower morass, which is in St. Elizabeth, is a rich ecological system of fish, crocodiles and plants. In addition, it has over 100 species of birds, some of which are endemic to Jamaica. In this vicinity, the river is also joined by the YS River, which is connected to the famous YS Fall, a popular tourist attraction on the South coast.
“I started the tour (business) in 1993 after ending my work tenure at the National Environmental and Planning Agency (NEPA), and I used the skills I learnt there to give persons a meaningful and insightful tour,” said Linton. “There is now a swamp buggy tour, which takes persons through the swamp land in a more intimate way.”
In all, the lower morass is about 14,000 acres of swamp land and is home to many tour guides. Linton has a vast knowledge of the area and eager to talk about the tour’s main attraction, the crocodiles. “Here we have the America species of crocodile, which is quite different from the Australian or African crocodile which are both man eaters. Our crocodile is far more docile. As for the lower morass, it is the largest remaining wetland in the English-speaking Caribbean. It is home to about 113 species of plants, some of which are found only in Jamaica and 100 different species of animals,” explained Linton.
He also said that before this area was named a tourist attraction, Black River, the capital of St. Elizabeth, was a thriving economic community due to the sale of logwood. It was shipped to England for making dye, which invariably made the town a large seaport in the 18th century. This success brought with it amenities like electric power which was introduced in 1893, said to be among the first in the Caribbean.
What to carry? Shoes that can get wet, binoculars to view the birds
Who is it for? Adventure-lovers
What to expect? The climate is hot, so wear a hat
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