Swamp’s 300 mile journey

We use staff gages for tracking the rise and fall of the water.

In this part of the Big Cypress Swamp those gages are numbered 1 to 20,

As in feet above sea level.

But it’s the solar-powered box of electronic equipment next to each gage that does all the work:

By each box stands a “mid cypress” sized antennae (say 25 feet tall) which transmits a signal – in 3 minute increments – of how high the swamp staff reads to a radio tower nearby (say within 15 miles).

From there that signal swings “trapeze style” through the thick peninsular air – at a hundred feet high – from one tower to the next and the next until it finally lands 300 miles away up in West Palm Beach at the headquarters of the South Florida Water Management District, where it’s instantaneously funneled into a database … shortly thereafter becoming available for us to see.

We call that real time data;

Or for an aging water quant like myself,

Nothing short of a hydrologic miracle.

As important as the numbers on the side of the staff are,

It’s in translating those numbers to decode the ecology of the swamp where the true magic lies.

Questions as simple as how long the pines, prairies, or cypress hold water (and for how deep) or as complex as the composition of the critters in the water column that forms the base of the food chain can all be unraveled.

Or a least partially so:

The swamp holds tight to many of its mysteries.

No amount of numbers can change that!

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