Strands and domes

A relatively riverless and flat, water doesn’t so much flow in channels as floods across the entire terrain as far as the eye can see, with strands and sloughs forming in the deepest swales and directing the water to where it needs to go. Cypress domes | Strands and sloughsSwamp mosaic?Flood and fire | Marl Prairies | UplandsBotany | Alligators and more | Life cycle of a pond apple | mangroves

cypress strands

Major Swamp Flowways
Roberts Lakes and Gator Hook Strand

From the ground …

It can all look like a bunch of cypress trees.

Strands are the cypress-tree equivalent to the sloughs in the Everglades

But higher up, from 500 feet, the mosaic really starts to pop, or become transparent as we sometimes say. And by transparent we mean all the habitats really jump out, and none more than the giant strands where the cypress grow tall and spread out. Not that the mosaic doesn’t pop from ground view, too. Or do I mean water view? Soggy socks is a badge of honor in the swamp.

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About the view: The liquid heart of a cypress strand, as seen during the summer wet season.

Not OK Slough
And how to make it better

First the bad news:

The only solution is the big solution.

Footage from a recent flight over East Hinson Marsh

The good news is that it works for everyone, with the caveat that it will take everyone working together. The Big Fix implies that it’s expensive. But I’m not convinced that it’s the most cost efficient solution in the long run. There’s that expression: Penny wise and dollar dumb. Without realizing it we’ve been doing that for the Barron River Canal (sometimes called the State Road 29 Canal) for, not years — decades, or basically ever since Big Cypress National Preserve was formed. People always ask me: What would be The Big Solution look like? Beautiful is the best way I can describe it. It would transform a blighted corridor of a water way into a swamp-friendly and upstream flood control responsible North-South gateway into the Greater Big Cypress, Everglades and Ten Thousand Coast ecosystems.

As for the specifics? It’s as simple as getting everyone around the table and figuring it out.

Arrow through the heart
Of OK Slough and East Hinson Marsh

To the undiscerning eye,

Barron River Canal may not look like much.

Looking North at East Hinson Marsh

After all, it’s not all that big or deep, and it sort of blends in with the scenery. But also consider it cuts through the confluence — or shall we say heart — of the swamp’s largest flow way: the fork in the cypress where Okaloacoochee Slough feeds into Fakahatchee Strand to the west and splinters into East Hinson Marsh to the east. The result? Instead of following the natural flow way the water v-lines south down the canal and out to tide. And that’s just the summer wet season. During the winter half the situation is just as bad (even worse), with the canal continuing to drain water out from under the swamp even after surface waters have run dry, opening the window for hard-to-control large fire events. The bigger question is this: What’s the purpose of having a contiguous Big Cypress Cypress National Preserve, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and Fakahatchee Strand State Park if they are isolated from one another and drained by a road and canal corridor?

Time is nigh to finally fix the swamp’s most central flow way.

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.

Watersheds of south Florida

Lesser known sloughs
But just as important as Shark River

The Everglades top flow way?

Answer: Probably Shark River Slough.

The swamp has multiple flow paths

But if you hop the fence (actually it’s a levee) into the Big Cypress Swamp, the sawgrass plain gives way to a labyrinth of cypress strands, open marl prairies and pine island high ground. Major flow ways include Fakahatchee Strand, Mullet Slough, Okaloacoochee Slough, Turner River, Sweetwater Strand, and Gum Slough to name a few. Lostmans Slough is in Big Cypress National Preserve but it’s on the Everglades side of the Pinecrest picket fence. It’s actually not a fence, but discontinuous archipelago of remnant Miami limestone.

The map above isn’t exactly as the ecosystem still flows today, but more a peek back on how it might have worked prior to levees and canals. Did you know Lake Okeechobee use to flow into the modern-day Big Cypress National Preserve. My favorite flow system actually isn’t shown. It’s called Devils Garden, located on the eastern fringe of the Immokalee Rise. Depending on the season, it received flows from the Upper Caloosahatchee to the north, Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades to the east and discharge from the Immokalee Rise to the west and discharged south into Cowbell Strand. Sounds more like an Eden to me.