Ghosts of watersheds past

Age of litter
Geologic evolution of a tin can

How old is this marl prairie?

Judging from this upper layer I would say a good thirty years old.

If this were a car, we’d call it a classic

That’s when they stopped making pull tab cans.

The label was too faded to read.

About a week later I ran into this can floating plain as day in the center of a small cypress dome. It was also a pull tab, thus presumably about the same age, but I was shocked to discover in picking it up that its label read as clear as day. And that was one thick can! They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

It didn’t hurt it was protected by the shade.

The aluminum on this can was surprisingly thick

Bottom Line:

I wasn’t sure if I should pick it up and haul it out, or let it stay, untouched, as a mid-1970s archaeological find?

Swamp buggy parade
A south Florida tradition

Everyone loves a parade, right?

In early November there’s a big one in Naples.

The first swamp buggy of Naples?

The parade is an annual tradition in Naples, FL.  Held every fall, it serves as a local reminder that good outdoor weather (after the stormy summer stretch) has finally arrived. (Caveat: we’re still waiting for it this year.) Of course it’s not riding a swamp buggy on asphalt, but getting it tire deep in water out in the woods that that has local hunters and outdoorsman and women moving into high gear.

Or in other words, time to get the buggy out of the garage!

Historical sign from Collier County Museum

Here’s more information on swamp buggies …

Including the difference between a Glades and Palm Beach buggy, for all you swamp buggy connoisseur out there.

Stuck Inside of Oasis
A belated farewell song to a Swamp Scholar

The plight of being a park ranger …

And being stuck in a visitor center.

The song as sung by Bobby Angel

Nobody knew that better than Ranger Rudi.

And nobody knew its history better either.

His secret?

A photographic memory and reading a lot didn’t hurt. But mostly it was his penchant for delving into deep conversations about with anyone he met.

The original lyric sheet (as sung at the Brass Tap)

History was never a closed book with Ranger Rudi.

You rarely saw the man without a book in hand, dog eared at various spots. His pursuit of history has been a life-long never ending quest.

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Life on the Tamiami
Why 40 + 8 = 50 when naming Fifty Mile Bend

About 8 miles west of Forty Mile Bend …

Is another curve in the road.

Tamiami Canal reverse flows at Fifty Mile Bend

Technically, doing the math, it should be called 48 Mile Bend.

But we round up in the Big Cypress Swamp.

Thus it is known as Fifty Mile Bend. Turns out it’s also a hydrologic divide, sending water at that point both west and east, and yes I’ve seen it with my own eyes (as documented in the video above). What a kind-hearted canal to feed water in equal doses to the Everglades and Big Cypress.

Next step: Convince the regional water managers to do the same.

birds eye view

Remember When
Kirby Storter in Summer 2017

Everyone remembers 2017 …

As the Year of Hurricane Irma.

Kirby Storer Boardwalk, looking south

But even before Irma struck,

The swamp was already filled up …

Thanks to 20 inches of June rain.

Same boardwalk, looking North

It was the wettest winter since 1995.

Both year’s the Trail overtopped

End of boardwalk

At the Collier, Dade and Monroe Tri County line.

Summer of ’87
And why it feels like just yesterday

It seems like just yesterday …

That the cicada brood emerged from the ground.

As seen in Maryland …

Or rather, make that two yesterday’s ago.

The last one I missed, back in 2004.

But rewind the clock another seventeen …

And I was still in high school: It was the summer of 1987.

In the Summer of 2021

I feel like a cicada in a way …

Leaving me to wonder, if any of the cicadas feel me?

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Dike is in control
And why the Lake plays second fiddle

There’s the Lake Okeechobee we see …

And then the ghost of how it changed over time.

Chart of current Lake O level

In our modern day view …

We tend to focus on Lake stage and quality.

But that misses the bigger picture why the perimeter dike was built and how it changed water management on both the inside and outside of the 143-mile long earthen hill.

Cross sections (i.e. side views) of Lake O under pre-drainage and current conditions looking (1) West to East (top) and (2) North to South (bottom). Look at how much land has dropped south of the Lake. The black band shows the current “normal range” in the water table compared to the “cross hatched band” that shows historic pre-drainage levels.

How much has Lake stage changed?

For starters its 10 feet lower than its pre-drainage state (circa 1880) when it naturally flowed into the sawgrass plain and southward into the Everglades.

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Dry roots and socks
Soggy socks are common in the swamp

Pond apple forests are a common sight …

In the center of cypress domes.

As seen in early May

What isn’t common is to see their root exposed to open air. Usually they are flooded with at least some water, and as much as 2-3 feet by summer’s end. Personally, I prefer photographing them in their more natural flooded state, even if that also means me getting my socks wet.