Dry season bailout

Have you ever turned your head away for a few moments, only to return to see that everything has changed?

That’s exactly what’s happened to me here in the Big Cypress.

Out of nowhere water levels have dropped to the bottom of the barrel.

Preserve wide stage is a solid 8 inches below its normal late February norm, as based on the 15 year average.

All summer we were running above the average.

Fay gave us the big rain day bounty, but one storm does not make a summer wet season. A wet streak in early October had our summer sheetflow lapping up at the shoreline of the mesic pinelands – our high ground – up until the start of the dry season.

In theory, that was our water in the bank for the dry 6 months to come.

No rain and 4 months later water levels have sunk to the last and lowest of our wetland habitats – our pond apple swamp forests.

Now we’re a few inches away from having that summer bounty completely spent!

To be sure we still have some low-water refugia pools. They stay wet even when the swamp apple forests go dry. 

And the canals are still holding water. The visitors love it because it’s easy to view the wildlife, but it’s never a safe mix to have wading birds and gators congregating close to motor traffic.

Our only bailout now is the blue sky above. 

Here’s to hoping blue skies turn gray and a dry-season continental front is on the way.

Otherwise it’s a long (and dry) wait to mid May and the start up of the wet season.

By the way, the photos were taken on Groundhog Day when the wetting front was still flooding up at the edge of the cypress domes. Three weeks later it’s a long — and often fruitless  — walk into the domes to find water.

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