How cautious do you have to be when exploring a swampy area in the summertime (Minnesota, USA)

Hi there, I am currently moving to a more swampy area of Minnesota in a few months, and I was wondering if its alright to go exploring out in the swamp, even with a summer craze full of Unfriendly Arthropods and diseases and such. I told a friend this and they said it was so risky to explore a swamp in the summertime and told me it was a horrible Idea, so thats not the greatest since I was really counting on this great wildlife area near me to go exploring in for new observations, since I love aquatic life. Anyway, the topic is, How cautious do you have to be while exploring a swampy area in the summertime? Maybe This is a dumb question and you should never go exploring in a swamp, but since there are so many wonderful naturalists on here I’m just open to any advice you might give for me to go out exploring, rather than from a non-naturalist friend.
I hope my question was clear, any answers are appreciated!
Best wishes, The Christmas Leech.

I spend pretty much all summer exploring swamps in a similar climate and ecoregion a bit east of Minnesota in NY state. I’m sure they mean well, but I’m not sure what your friend is on about. There are the usual risks associated with any watery environment, but in terms of unfriendly arthropods and disease you’re mostly just looking at high densities of mosquitos and seasonal biting flies, problems which are not necessarily restricted to swamps. A nice thing about swamps is that you’re much less likely to pick up deer ticks there than in upland environments. Depending on the type of swamp you’ll want to keep an eye out for Poison Sumac so that you can avoid touching it. Some of my favorite swamps are full of poison sumac and I manage to move around in them without getting myself a rash. Lastly there are some wetlands (not truly “swamps” but may be colloquially referred to as such) with floating peat mats on top of deeper water or muck, which you can actually fall through into, though in most peatlands the substrate is actually much closer to the surface and this is not a realistic scenario.

In the middle of summer, swamp (and marsh and fen and bog) days are the best days. Some of the richest biodiversity you can find in this part of the world.


Not sure about Minnesota, but I pretty much live in wetlands here in British Columbia every summer for work. Sometimes wearing waders, sometimes not. Never had any issues beyond bugs and bears.


Thanks so much! That really helps! Yeah my friend isn’t much of an animal buff as a I am but still means well, so I was just making sure, its only natural for me to be cautious. I’ll be on the watch for poison sumac, Thanks a lot!

That’s great news, thanks!

Depends exactly what you mean by “swamp” (The technical definition refers to wetlands dominated by trees and/or shrubs, but in normal speech it can be used more broadly for all wetlands.)

I’m in Ontario so similar habitats. Some wetlands can be really challenging to navigate - cedar swamps are full of deep hidden holes, tripping hazards, and perfectly arranged sticks for stabbing you (be prepared to make unbelievably slow progress walking through these habitats). Some bogs, fens and marshes have mats of floating vegetation that you don’t want to fall through. Drier sedge marshes can have deep streams or beaver channels that are totally hidden from above. So nothing unsafe exactly, but I would take it slow and let someone know where you are going, at least at until you are more familiar with the landscapes you’re dealing with. And don’t be afraid to get your feet wet - in my experience the most dangerous thing is doing precarious balancing acts on logs, handing on to trees, etc. to avoid stepping in water

Ticks are no more present in wetlands that anywhere else, and biting flies are not dangerous, regardless of how distressing they can be at times.


I spend as much time as I can in swamps/bogs/fens in northern Minnesota. Like anything, if you just use common sense and you should be fine. Take it slow until you get comfortable with it. Let someone know where you’re going. If it’s a large place, make sure you have compass/map/GPS, whatever you need to find your way back. Like I said, common sense.

When most people hear the word “swamp” or “bog”, they imagine muck and mud, leaches, etc., so of course they’re concerned for you. But in reality, you will find floating mats (like walking on a trampoline), spruce/tamarack/cedar forests thickly carpeted with sphagnum moss, orchids, carnivorous plants, and yes mosquitoes. It’s true that you may get wet sometimes, but it’s only water.

For the record, there is no Poison Sumac in northern MN. That’s mostly limited to areas around Anoka County.

Where in the state will you be?


Thanks for the info! I will be around Southern minnesota, around 30 mins towards the twin cities.

The “Swamp” is a large expanse of marshes, water plants, and trees all sticking up from underwater, however there are land foot paths surrounding these areas. I’m pretty sure our area is not that hard to navigate, since its right next to the road, and plenty of signs and footpaths can lead you back to the outskirts of the area. Hope this helps.

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I’d probably carry hiking poles (to probe for footing and balance with) and have a plan (dry socks, well wrapped up) for getting home wet if you decide to push your luck getting to something interesting.

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Don’t worry, I’ve already thought up those scenarios, I’ve got plenty of common sense. ;)

Oh, sorry. When I read your original message, I must have assumed northern MN. You won’t find bogs in southern MN. Good luck!

Thanks! (I think?)

Find out from creditable sources what the “local dangers” are and how to mitigate them (ticks, crocs, poachers, whatever)… carry a rudimentary first aid kit, have enough battery in phone to call for help if needed (maybe a battery pack in reserve to charge from if needed, which can also extend iNatting time as a bonus!), make sure someone knows where you are going and when you’ll be back, and ideally do it with a buddy, 2 sets of eyes and brain are far safer than one…


Thanks very much for the advice, I’m not new to exploring the wilderness, but thanks for the help anyway. I almost always go with a buddy, and I take all the common precautions while exploring any new place.
Should have been more clear with the question, It was more about what you might encounter, animals and plants, and others. But thanks for the reminder!

I mean, there’s no particularly dangerous animals - mosquitoes and blackflies are probably about the worst things you’ll find. (Correction- they’ll find you.) Also Poison Ivy and various thorny briars (Rubus and Ribes in particular)- I wear pants to avoid these scratching my legs. Depending on your area, ticks may or may not be a serious issue. I generally check immediately after a hike for ticks.

People freak out over going out in nature because they don’t spend enough time in it, I suspect.

Sadly that may be true. I always wear pants ;). I don’t think ticks are a big problem in my current area, (and the area I’m moving too is only a few minutes away) since I’ve never gotten ticks in this area of Minnesota, but I have in other places around the state.

My recommendation is just to wear long sleeves, pants tucked into your socks, and thick-soled hiking boots. That way you’ll decrease the chance of getting bitten by mosquitoes, and having ticks latch on to you.

I know that, thanks! I wear large muck boots when I’m going anywhere in the rough wilderness, (ant to be honest this swamp isn’t in the middle of nowhere), I hope that’s good enough! One Thing I should add most people go to the walking trails along the swamp in the wintertime or fall, because thats when the bugs are not as bad, But I’m an animal guy, and going to a frozen-over marsh in the dead of winter isn’t Ideal animal-finding conditions…

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Gee I don’t know, you could find some interesting tracks in the snow . . . I think you can safely say any MN wetland is pretty tame compared to more southern climes. Have fun!