One and only

What’s the most famous river in south Florida?

That would be Everglades Nat’l Park’s Shark River Slough.

It’s not actually a river though, even though it has the term “river” in its name – thanks to the original explorers who ran boats up the mouth of its estuarine channel to its interior freshwater source … and even though it has been coined the “River of Grass” by Marjorie Stoneham Douglas (the modern-day matriarch of the rally cry to restore the Everglades) in her landmark book of that same title.

It is a slough!

A slough is sort of like a river, but without a channel, or rather a very wide channel, and filled with grass, or a special type of grass, called saw grass, which actually isn’t a grass at all, but rather a sedge, and either way its more than just a monoculture of Cladium jamaicense (as the botanists call it), but rather an assemblage of subtropical wetland flora.  

So is it a wetland?

Sort of but it flows, in a broad expanse of water called sheet flow through an aquatic labyrinth of Lilipution mountains and valleys that we call the ridge and slough landscape, which is also punctuated by bay heads, tree islands, and occasional cypress domes and pine uplands on its outskirts.

Did I mention the Rocky Glades?

Suffice it to say that there is no place quite like it – or as Marjorie Stoneham Douglas would say – “There is only one Everglades” … even if on a recent trip to Belgium I was struck by he similarity of their High Fens (Hautes Fagnes) to Florida’s famed flowing marsh, (or was I just homesick)?

Does the Hautes Fagnes have rivers you ask?

No, but it is the headwater source to quite a few – nine to be exact – one of which is the Vesdre, which is dammed at its upstream source (as shown below).

But are any of them like the “River of Grass?”

Not a chance, there’s only one Everglades.

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