What is a swamp?

Renė Sankauskienė

A swamp is a wetland having excessive moisture. It is overgrown with specific plants loving moisture and has acid soil. The plants grow, wither, die and are decomposed forming peat beds. There are two versions to explain how the Šepeta Swamp was formed: (1) this is a bogged lake, or (2) it is the result of excessive moisture accumulated in a depression situated on the watershed between the rivers of Šventoji and Lėvuo. Now there is an opinion that the Šepeta Swamp is a raised bog with low bog sites at its margins. It lies at 119-111 metres above the sea level.

The Šepeta Swamp, as many other nature formations, is braided with legends. The most popular legend is about a sunken church. Such writers as Kazys Inčiūra, Juozas Baltušis, Jozef Weyssenhoff and Nijolė Jankutė described this swamp in their literary works. Before the WWII, a scholar Kazys Brunza and his colleagues described it as an industrial peatbog in their book “Šepeta”. Peat of this swamp was supposed to be an alternative source of fuel for the future. Lithuania had only timber for fuel. Even before 1922 the naturalist Tadas Ivanauskas proposed to leave the Šepeta Swamp as a nature reserve, because this site was notable for dwarf birch overgrowths and such rare birds as willow grouse. However, its geographical position and high quality decided its fate: it became an industrial peat bog.

The Šepeta Swamp is mentioned for the first time in the book by A.Koreva published in 1861 (Материалы для географии и статистики России. Виленская губерния. - Санкт Петербург, 1861 /The material for geography and statistics of Russia. Vilnius Province. Saint Petersburg, 1861/). It contains also the map of Kaunas Region, where the Šepeta Swamp is marked.

People knew of its good use from the olden times; they like hunting in the swamp, collecting mushrooms and berries. They used peat moss in building their wooden houses as insulation material placed between the logs, or to keep vegetables and fruits for winter.

Today the peat is used as a fuel or making various substrates for gardening. The company AB Durpeta manufactures great variety of products known not only in Lithuania but also far away beyond its boundaries. A rather big settlement with a school grew up at the swamp. The successful operation of the enterprise provides work for many people.

This natural wealth will serve people still many years. Moreover, under the peat bed, there is a deposit of sapropel that can also be used for various purposes. The environs of Šepeta are rich in clay that was used to make bricks or throw pots. The time will show how we are capable to use this present settled down by the nature.