Big Cypress Swamp

Loved for its cypress trees and misunderstood as a watershed, the swamp has one foot in the shade and one foot in the sun and both feet planted in our hearts. | Greater Everglades | Kissimmee | Okeechobee | Caloosahatchee | River of Grass | Big Cypress Swamp | Rainfall

Intro - The watershed that wasn't

By Robert V. Sobczak

In the modern era, we've come to know the Big Cypress as a watershed. But what if I were to tell you, use of that term for the Big Cypress is as new as the preserve. Yes, that's right, the day Big Cypress National Preserve was established in 1974, it was dubbed a watershed - it's own watershed, a watershed separate from the Everglades and the Lake - and has been thought of in that pristine, almost utopian way, ever since. But the truth is the Big Cypress is only a watershed because its original "other sources" of water were drained away, or diverted.

Bob's short history of the L-28

What were those sources? Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades definitely flowed into the swamp. If you don't believe me, just read the Buckingham Report from 1848. And prior to the destruction of the Ft. Thompson Falls and drainage of the Upper Caloosahatchee Basin (Lake Flirt, Lake Bonnet and Lake Hicpochee), the swamp was fed water through groundwater seeps from the Immokalee Rise.

The rainfed swamp we know today was once fed by upstream water sources

So yes, in a way the Big Cypress we know today is a rainfall-sustained ruins of a pre-drainage cathedral of of headwater flows, now largely collapsed (by drainage). That doesn't make the swamp any less special. In fact it makes it more interesting than we knew. And it also points to our need to steward water. The sky provides the Big Cypress with a bounty of water. But it needs help, our help, to make sure its clean, connected to its remnant headwaters where possible, and help it spread out.

Key hydrographs updated weekly

And the swamp needs fire, too. Every square inch of flora and fauna in the swamp depends on a regular return interval and dosage of flood and fire. Those are the two forces that give the swamp its distinctive mosaic of habitats. The cypress may look "old as the hills" but they are actually holes -- although it is incorrect to call it a homogenous swamp.

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More correctly stated, it's a malleable swampy mosaic that's semi-fixed in time and space. Or as we like to say around here:

So goes flood and fire, so goes the swamp.

Recent Blog Posts

cypress strands

Major Swamp Flowways
Roberts Lakes and Gator Hook Strand

From the ground …

It can all look like a bunch of cypress trees.

Strands are the cypress-tree equivalent to the sloughs in the Everglades

But higher up, from 500 feet, the mosaic really starts to pop, or become transparent as we sometimes say. And by transparent we mean all the habitats really jump out, and none more than the giant strands where the cypress grow tall and spread out. Not that the mosaic doesn’t pop from ground view, too. Or do I mean water view? Soggy socks is a badge of honor in the swamp.

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About the view: The liquid heart of a cypress strand, as seen during the summer wet season.

Ugliest canal you ever saw
The swamp abhors a straight line

There’s something about this canal …

I’ve never liked.

Who says gators like canals?
This one got thwacked on the head
by a high-speed boat

Maybe it has something to do …

With it cutting off California Slough.

Maybe it has something to do with it …

Stealing water from the adjacent swamp from below.

It’s a tough life
being a cypress dome
right by a canal

The only good news:

Latest word is that this canal may get filled in, at least partially.

That’s better than the status quo.

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Tidbit: The L-28 Interceptor is an arm of the Greater L-28 network of levees, canals and structural controls.

water table

Rise and fall of Swamp
And why its the norm (but it won't last)

The swamp falls …

and rises (sometimes from the ashes).

A look at the previous four water years

It’s called the water cycle, and more specifically — the wet and dry seasons. Unlike Up North on the continent where they have four traditional seasons, the swamp has two, meteorologically speaking at least. So, in the way of a quick review: Last wet season got off to a slow start. The water table didn’t bottom out until mid June in some places, usually a reliably rainy (if also soaking in and rising up) month. Compare that to this year’s rainy season which — thanks the Big Rain Day (BRD) this weekend — is off to a fast start. Or rather normal. The blue line (current condition) is tracking very closely with the long-term norm (white line). In summary: The swamp rises and falls. Currently it’s rising. And looking back, has there every been a 9 month span that the water table tracked so closely to the long-term normal — I wonder? If so, it isn’t a trend I expect to last.

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Swamp tidbit: A vertical elevation of just 2.5 feet separates the swamp’s low-lying wetlands from its natural high ground.

Big Cypress BOUND
Bobby Angel's 3rd Studio Album

I could have done it on a podcast …

Or even sent out a fancy press release.

Bobby Angel’s campfire concert in the heart of the Big Cypress, and release of his 3rd studio album

But when it came right down to it, I really couldn’t rationalize announcing the release of my new album Big Cypress Bound any place other than at a campfire concert event in the heart of the swamp. This album was a long-time coming as much as it happened all of a sudden, really in the course of a week, without me even understanding what was going on. The catalyst? Let’s just say a domino fell. And then another. And then one more. Before I knew it I had 11 songs.

More about the album, directly from Bobby Angel’s press agent (i.e. that’s basically Bobby Angel wearing his agent hat):

About the Album: Big Cypress Bound is Bobby Angel’s third studio (some say “campfire”) album. Big Cypress Bound picks up where The Green Album and New Pangaea left off, and this time with a twist: Could this be the singer/songwriters last album in the flooded countryside of the giant trees that he’s called his home for the past twenty odd years? Pivotal to answering this question is the interpretation of the term “bound.” The some 11 songs on the album (and the interviews afterwards) explore his connection to the Big Cypress and what may lie ahead. Or is it just a yearning for a simpler way of life? As usual, Bobby Angel lets you be the judge.

More about my albums: (1) In the Nature Folk tradition, I weave story telling into my songs. Thus the songs are separated by interviews about the song where I tell what the song is about. (2) My albums are YouTube playlists. As you’ll see below, you can either listen to the full album front to back or pick out individual songs and interviews to listen, too. Just like an old vinyl record if you remember those days.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy!

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Bobby Angel Tidbit: Bobby Angel’s highest grossing (i.e most views) song is Ballad of a Florida Panther.