Water Drop

Half or full way island?
A brief history of Planation Island

Technically speaking,

Plantation Island isn’t an island, or is it?

Plantation Island, looking south to where Halfway Creek spills into Chokoloskee Bay

Chokoloskee a little further off coast, on the other hand, is an island. It’s located in the background of the photo to the far left and pretty close to the mouth of the Turner River where it empties into Chokoloskee Bay. Chokoloskee is a shell midden that dates back to the coastal empire of the Calusa Indian Tribe that dominated south Florida in pre Columbian Times. Believe it or not, it’s maximum elevation is nearly a whopping 20 feet above sea level. That’s higher than most if not all of Naples. Up in 1953, Chokoloskee was a true island community. The only way to travel back and forth to the mainland was by boat. That changed with the construction of the Chokoloskee Causeway that provided an overland route (visible as a thin sliver in the photo above).

Another view of Plantation and Chokoloskee Islands

Compare that to Plantation Island that was built along the banks of Halfway Creek in or around 1968. How did Halfway Creek get its name? Answer: By merit of its location about halfway between Turner River (Chokoloskee) and Barron River (Everglades City). As for its height, my guess is its just a few feet above sea level, or a solid 10 feet lower than the island the Calusa built. And if you consider its surrounded by a creek and mangroves on all sides, despite being on the mainland I think its designation as an island holds up.

Self-named strand?
The answer may be lost to time

Do you ever wonder …

How and why things got their names?

As seen looking Northeast

Case in point is Kirby’s strand. Why Kirby Storter and not someone else? I can only imagine he loomed large in his day. How else could he have succeeded in being honored with both a strand and boardwalk in his name. Yet he wasn’t a titan of industry as was Barron Collier, although he worked for the latter as a carpenter and electrician, as well as overseeing construction of Tamiami Trial. If I were to guess, it was probably during that stint that he looked at one of the groves of cypress trees that the Trail intersects and decided that he wanted to name it after himself. Naming something is the easy part. The real trick is making a name stick.

My hunch is that had something to do with a map that overtime became accepted as fact. I never knew the man, nor does anybody living today. But I know the strand and it wouldn’t feel right with any other name.

Talking Tree
Firelight Radio presents

Welcome to Firelight Radio …

Where we tune in to the Nature Folk Movement (NFM).

Firelight Radio is available on Apple Podcasts and Podbean

What exactly is the NFM? It’s the feeling that wells up into our hearts and minds when we gather around a campfire — the crackle, the glow, the aroma and the strumming. Here at Firelight Radio, we’re campfire inspired and guitar guaranteed. You’re always gonna hear a little crackling and you’re always gonna a little strumming. It’s where we get back to what’s important in life.

On today’s episode, we talk to a tree.

Actually, it’s the tree that does most of the talking.

Swamp of inches
High and low ground explained

Small variations in land elevation …

Translate into large variation in plant composition.

Can you see the high ground? Hint: It’s green.
Here’s a closer look at a pine island
Water is retreating into the lower-lying domes

A vertical range of just 2.5 feet differentiate the Preserve’s major vegetation communities.  More than the Everglades which is mostly buried under peat, differences in elevation, hydrology and plant communities in the Big Cypress are related to undulations in the underlying bedrock (Lodge, 2010).  The underlying bedrock is irregular, and both exposed at the surface and buried by as much as 10 feet of soil and organic matter.  Hammocks and pinelands are typically found where bedrock is at or near the surface.  Cypress strands form where bedrock undulations are deepest and marshy sloughs where bedrock undulations are shallower. 


Rolling Swamp
And why the canopy doesn't lie

Swamps are flat and low …

Making it impossible to see a good view, right?

Big Cypress National Preserve’s Mullet Slough

That might usually be the case, but not in the Big Cypress Swamp. The reasons? The swamp ecosystem is full of mountain ranges of linear-running cypress strands and rolling hills of cypress domes. And yes, those strands and domes are actually places where the land dips (and water stays longest), but the canopy couldn’t be more clear: the swamp is a uniquely undulating terrain. And it’s not just from the sky that you can see the effect. The best vantage is probably best from the ground, in a marl prairie where the vista to the horizon is clear and the distant mountain ranges (strands) and hills (domes) abound. Or is the better view from the domes and strands themselves? Walking in the trees are dense at first, until it opens up and there you are — at the bottom of the tallest trees (the mountain tops) looking up.

More about the photo above: The deepest spot is the hole where there are no trees. As for the highest ground, that would be the green area in the middle that looks lower than everything else. The land in there is called a hardwood hammock and is actually dry all year round compared to the rolling (and flooded) hills of cypress around it.

Watersheds of south Florida

Lesser known sloughs
But just as important as Shark River

The Everglades top flow way?

Answer: Probably Shark River Slough.

The swamp has multiple flow paths

But if you hop the fence (actually it’s a levee) into the Big Cypress Swamp, the sawgrass plain gives way to a labyrinth of cypress strands, open marl prairies and pine island high ground. Major flow ways include Fakahatchee Strand, Mullet Slough, Okaloacoochee Slough, Turner River, Sweetwater Strand, and Gum Slough to name a few. Lostmans Slough is in Big Cypress National Preserve but it’s on the Everglades side of the Pinecrest picket fence. It’s actually not a fence, but discontinuous archipelago of remnant Miami limestone.

The map above isn’t exactly as the ecosystem still flows today, but more a peek back on how it might have worked prior to levees and canals. Did you know Lake Okeechobee use to flow into the modern-day Big Cypress National Preserve. My favorite flow system actually isn’t shown. It’s called Devils Garden, located on the eastern fringe of the Immokalee Rise. Depending on the season, it received flows from the Upper Caloosahatchee to the north, Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades to the east and discharge from the Immokalee Rise to the west and discharged south into Cowbell Strand. Sounds more like an Eden to me.

Just a tree
And why that's good enough

When is a tree …

More than just a tree?

Available on Apple Podcasts and Podbean

Answer: It’s true, some trees are more famous than others. South Florida’s most famous tree may be at the “Lone Cypress Tree” at the shores (or what used to be the shores) of Lake Okeechobee. Or there may be a stately Royal Palm Tree or Royal Poinsettia Tree that really stands out in your mind. In the neighborhood across the road from where I live there’s a Ficus like no other tree I’ve ever seen. It has multiple trunks — a solid dozen of them — and consumes what appears to be the better part of an acre. But really in my book a tree is a tree and worthy of a second look, especially if it’s doling out a nice patch of shade.


Florida’s 70° Rule
For measuring summer and winter

People winter in Florida, as in the verb.

We call them snow birds.

Naples enjoys 3 weeks of winter to 20 weeks of summer

To them, without a doubt …

Winter the noun does not exist in south Florida.

Major caveat: To us “year rounders” the thermometer couldn’t be more clear. We go by the 70 degree rule. What is the 70 degree rule? You know it’s a cold day in Florida when the daytime high doesn’t rise above 70° F. We call those day “winter.” On the other side of the coin, you know its a hot day in Florida when the nighttime low doesn’t drop below 70° F. Going by the 70 degree rule, Naples averages 18 days of winter and 130 days of summer. As for the rest of the days, us “year rounders” call those spring and fall; or in the parlance of the northerners, “– that’s ridiculous, it’s all summer!” Well, not if you’re a Florida weather connoisseur.


Two Floridas
One's mild and the other is less mild

How much colder is …

Naples from Gainesville, Florida?

Comparison of high and low air temperatures in Gainesville and Naples, FL

Answer: In terms of daytime lows dropping below 50 degrees, Gainesville has already recorded 15 compared to zero in Naples. In fact, there’s only been six nights in Naples that even dropped below 60 degrees. That’s not including wind chill. Nor does it factor in that you are also wearing shorts.

Interestingly, Naples and Gainesville are in the same neighborhood when looking at daytime highs. It’s the nighttime lows that separate them. But that’s splitting hairs really. Everywhere in Florida has a mild winter compared to most of the rest of the United States.


“Warm” Thanksgiving Wishes
And why the company matters most

You know it’s cold in south Florida …

When daytime highs don’t rise above 70° F.

The chart above shows Naples FL’s
daytime highs and nighttime lows
forecast for this Thanksgiving
and Thanksgivings past.

By that metric, South Florida was graced with three (3) consecutive Thanksgiving Days of winter-like (i.e. at or below 70°F) cool for the Thanksgivings of 2012, 2013 and 2014.  The past seven Thanksgivings have been warmer by comparison. The good news: this year’s won’t be too warm.  A daytime high of 80 sounds perfect to me. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone everywhere and remember it’s not about the weather — it’s about the company!