Here’s a photo of Loop Road’s Sweetwater Strand hydrologic monitoring station during drier times. We also refer to it as Roberts Lake because is a good site for tracking water levels in upstream Roberts Lake Strand. The station is located in Big Cypress National Preserve on Loop Road, about 5 miles south Monroe Station along US41.
Sweetwater is still holding water at a depth of about 2 ft deep. But you can attribute part of that depth to the eroded groove in the cypress peat caused by concentrated flows under Loop Road culverts. That makes it one of the last places to hold water in the preserve, and a great place for viewing wildlife congretating around dwindling pools of dry-season refugia. Further upstream in the undisturbed cypress forest water depths are closer to 1 ft deep.
That makes this year’s mid December water level at Sweetwater very similar to last December’s level — and about 3 inches below the average December for the past 5 years. That’s not too far off considering that upstream flows under Tamiami Trail — the stretch from Monroe Station to 40 Mile Bend — set a 10-year low.
Last year the Sweetwater pool went dry in April and May. During the drought year of 2001, Sweetwater went dry by February, and stayed that way until the June rains returned. Compare that to 2003 when it never went dry thanks to plentiful winter rains.
Anyhow, it will be fun to keep a close eye on it this year to see if and when it dries out — and for how long.