You can’t understand the water without looking at maps. And not just GIS. All good maps are an artform.

How To: Visit every spring
And why its better than the beach

Of Florida’s 720 springs …

33 are first magnitude (orange).

Florida’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd magnitude springs

Another 342 are second and third order. Most of them are located where the Floridan Aquifer is exposed at the surface (shown in green above), or only shallowly submerged, thus allowing pressurized groundwater to wormhole its way to the surface. By definition, a first magnitude spring discharges at least 64 million gallons per day (100 cfs), or about 2.5 Fenway Parks (i.e. filled to the top of the 37.5 ft Green Monster). Silver Spring is currently flowing at about 20 Fenways per day. Not bad for a 65 ft diameter vent. Beach, spring, swamp or spring — it’s hard not to argue that seeing a spring isn’t the most impressive sight, and should be on the top of any tourist’s bucket list. As for seeing all 720, my recommendation is to start with Silver Spring or Weeki Wachee and go from there.

Napkin Sketches
Art of drawing State Road 29

When all else fails …

Grab a napkin and sketch it out.

Sketch of the Big Water Fix for SR29

The reason? Nobody reads any more. And if they’ve heard it once they’ve heard it a thousand times. And more than likely they’ve seen the boring satellite imagery more than once. But your sketch? I guarantee they’ve never see it before, and in all likelihood will give it a second look. Other advantages of hand-drawn sketches? It forces you to think things through, and also gives you the advantage of not having to draw to scale, and yes — if you’re really creative — you can even hide some buried treasure in there, too.

The purpose of this map is to show the major features of the Big Solution for fixing the Barron River Canal. In a nutshell, and if I’ve heard this once I’ve heard it a thousand times (mostly me saying it): “The only solution is the big solution, but it works for everyone.” And by everyone, I mean upstream Immokalee and the surrounding agricultural lands and also the downstream public lands including Big Cypress National Preserve, the Panther Refuge, Fakahatchee and Everglades National Park. I would write more, but I can see I don’t want to bore you.

Or in other words, just look at the sketch!


Old and New Everglades
How the past informs the future

This image is oldie …

But a goodie.

Pre and Post Drainage Everglades

I‘d always seen the images of the pre and post drainage Everglades side by side, and with all the looking back in forth it inspired me to superimpose them overtop of each other and toggle them back and forth. In a nutshell, there’s no going back to the pre-drainage. But that doesn’t mean we simply ignore the pre-drainage system. Understanding it helps us frame the possibilities and limitations of modern-day water management and restoration efforts. Also, the new mantra in the Everglades isn’t about looking into the past, but ahead into the future. Increasing attenuated water flows across the landscape is our best bet locally for battling back and keeping a balance with sea level rise.

One big caveat about this animated map: It doesn’t get the Big Cypress right. For one it cuts it in half and two, it doesn’t properly show the flows. Sounds like a new project. Stay tuned!

Watersheds of south Florida

Major Rivers of the US
And the watersheds that feed them

Watersheds famously …

Don’t obey jurisdictional lines.

Major Rivers and Watersheds of the United States

The reason? For one, most (or many) jurisdictional lines are straight whereas watersheds and rivers — at least in their natural state — abhor straight lines. Many a squiggly state line actually follow along the path of a river. The top of Kentucky, the bottom of Indiana and Ohio and the side of West Virginia are each formed by the Ohio River. Probably most famous in that regard is the southern boundary of Texas, as delineated by the Rio Grande. Mexico and Texas aren’t so much separated by the river as they are united by the Rio Grande Watershed (orange). The same principle applies on the northern boundary with the Red River. It flows north into Lake Winnepeg which is part of the larger Saskatchewan Basin that flows into St. James Bay.

Morale of the Story: Rivers and watersheds go hand in hand, and yes, they will cross over jurisdictional lines.

Swamp Gazetteer
Hydrologist's Handbook

There’s better maps out there …

Or are there?


And more importantly: Can you find them in a pinch? Introducing the Big Cypress Gazetteer. It contains an incomplete compendium of maps that you might find useful for understanding the swamp. The thing about maps, it’s impossible to find a single map that tells you everything you want. In fact, that was the original motivation for why I made the maps to begin with. I could find pieces of information here and there, but there wasn’t a cartographical layout (not even Google Earth) that put everything I needed all on one page. Emphasis on “everything I needed.” While I’m happy to share these maps, they really aren’t intended to be a full-proof Rand McNally guide of the swamp — just something that may be useful. As for the best guide to the swamp, nothing replaces getting out in nature with your own two feet. There’s no map for that.