Self-named strand?
The answer may be lost to time

Do you ever wonder …

How and why things got their names?

As seen looking Northeast

Case in point is Kirby’s strand. Why Kirby Storter and not someone else? I can only imagine he loomed large in his day. How else could he have succeeded in being honored with both a strand and boardwalk in his name. Yet he wasn’t a titan of industry as was Barron Collier, although he worked for the latter as a carpenter and electrician, as well as overseeing construction of Tamiami Trial. If I were to guess, it was probably during that stint that he looked at one of the groves of cypress trees that the Trail intersects and decided that he wanted to name it after himself. Naming something is the easy part. The real trick is making a name stick.

My hunch is that had something to do with a map that overtime became accepted as fact. I never knew the man, nor does anybody living today. But I know the strand and it wouldn’t feel right with any other name.

strands and sloughs

Baby Strand
Can you see Monument Lake?

Or maybe cypress tendril …

Is a better term.

Looking northeast towards the Tamiami Trail

The reason? The word “baby” implies that it’s younger than an adult (or larger) strand, or that in the years hence it will grow to a larger size. What we do know is that the cypress find the lowest spots in the marl prairies to grow, partly because of the deeper peat and partly because that peat stays wetter longer than the higher-lying marl prairie on either side. And it’s not so much that cypress love water, they do. Rather it’s surviving that sets them apart. Wetter longer means being less susceptible to wildfire when it sweeps through.

It’s a flood and fire adapted swamp. So goes flood and fire, so goes the swamp.

Watersheds of south Florida

Neither slough nor strand
Mullet Slough is it's own special case

Oftentimes our available terms

Don’t quite fit the natural systems we try to describe.

Flying at 500 feet towards Mullet Slough

Case in point is the false dichotomy of the swamp’s strands and sloughs. Natural flow ways are one or the other, but not both, right? A little background about the video above: We’re flying from West to East. Although we didn’t make it all the way over the Everglades, you can see the mosaic start to gradually morph from a labyrinth of cypress, pinelands, prairie and hammocks to sea of almost all cypress towards the end.

Had we continued flying East it would have slowly and then suddenly turned into the Everglades River of Grass. It’s an area of the Big Cypress National Preserve known as Mullet Slough. Sloughs usually connote a treeless flow way (i.e. as in Shark River Slough) whereas strands (i.e. Roberts Lakes, Deep Lake, Gator Hook to name a few) are canopied waterways. But Mullet Slough is a special case. Not a wall of tall trees, it’s better characterized as stand of dwarf cypress trees regularly interspersed with cypress domes that point in the direction of flow.

Neither slough or strand, Mullet Slough is a watershed all its own.

editorial

No Name Strand
All the major ones are named, or are they?

Among the many mysteries of the swamp:

Cypress domes are usually not named.

No Name Strand

That’s unusual because cypress domes are the swamp’s most iconic (or shall we say, trademark) feature by many accounts. They number in the hundreds of thousands, maybe more. But unlike lakes and bays, they remain nameless to this day. Think about it, even stars — however faint — get labeled with a number or a common name of some sort. In particularly, I’m thinking of Betelgeuse, Orion’s upper right shoulder, an orange-glowing red giant located 642 light years from earth.

Then there’s the case of the cypress strands. These are linear groves of cypress that carry the bulk of the swamp’s sheet flow. All of them are named, or all the major ones at least. In a landscape otherwise lacking geologic or topographic landmarks, strands stand out as major physiographic features that jump off the map. Major ones include Roberts Lakes, Gator Hook, Deep Lake, Cowbell, Barnes, Dayhoff and Garnett to name a few.

As good fortune would have it, the cartographers didn’t see them all, or see all of them fit to name. Or maybe in the years since the cartographers first drew up the maps the cypress grew back.

Not a major strand, but a swamp flow way none the less. That’s Birdon Road in the background, looking northeast

Whatever the case, it’s good to know there’s still some unnamed real estate out there in the swamp, that nobody’s ever named, and possibly never explored. A frontier then and a frontier now, the swamp is a boundless expanse that has interior regions still waiting to be defined.

Here’s to hoping they never are.

product movies

Flying south
Loop around Loop Road

There’s always lots to see …

On a flight over Big Cypress Nat’l Preserve.

We flew clockwise around Loop Road

On this trip south of Tamiami Trail, we see a swamp mirror (reflecting the clouds), the Pinecrest Chain of Hammocks, Gum Slough, Loop Road, Sweetwater Strand and Gator Hook Strand and Trail.

big weather

Steaming swamp
Think hot asphalt after a cool rain

From the distance it looked like smoke …

Or maybe dust kicked up from the limerock road.

It looked primordial, but it was actually super chilled

Only upon closer inspection did we see it was steam.

The source?

Similar to a hot asphalt road steaming after getting cooled down by an afternoon shower, the wisps of water vapor hovering over the cypress stand were the result of an ice-cold drenching from a super thunder cell.

The super cell, looking north, about 15 mile east of the strand

As good fortune would have it, I actually took a photo of the thunderstorm about an hour before and 15 miles upwind from the steaming strand. The air among the wisps was incredibly cooled and the fragrance from the cypress intense. Landing and walking in the water was further proof.

The water was chilled as if it had hailed.

strands and sloughs

More than one?
And four to be exact

Big Cypress National Preserve has four major watersheds:

(1) Central Preserve, (2) Okaloacoochee Slough, (3) Mullet Slough and (4) the Everglades.

Major watersheds of Big Cypress National Preserve

Within each watershed are major drainages …

Were water is deepest and flows longest.

Those include sloughs and strands.

View of Gator Hook Strand looking southeast towards Roberts Lakes Strand, just downstream of Loop Road which, if you really squint, you can barely make out.

Between the strands are higher lying (but still soggy) marl and dwarf cypress prairie.

weekly wave banner

Sluggish swamp?
Just ask the cypress domes and strands

Some years the swamp fills up fast, practically overnight.  Other years, the summer rise is a slow slog, taking weeks even months.  

But usually by late July, summer

flooding has reliably returned …

Except this year.

Here’s a closer look: https://www.gohydrology.org

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birds eye view

Remember When
Kirby Storter in Summer 2017

Everyone remembers 2017 …

As the Year of Hurricane Irma.

Kirby Storer Boardwalk, looking south

But even before Irma struck,

The swamp was already filled up …

Thanks to 20 inches of June rain.

Same boardwalk, looking North

It was the wettest winter since 1995.

Both year’s the Trail overtopped

End of boardwalk

At the Collier, Dade and Monroe Tri County line.