Turner River

Turner River Report
First report I wrote about the swamp

Everyone thinks of me as a blogger …

But I actually cut my teeth on a fairly detailed report.


The assignment: Get to the bottom of the Turner River. The year was 2000. Parts of the river had been recently restored, and it had become navigable as a result, but there was still a thought that more had to be done. I’m not sure what my boss expected at the time, but I dove into the literature and the file cabinets to try to understand what the Turner River was all about. Keep in mind I’d only been in the swamp for a year. So I was still a rookie as they say.

Looking back it was a fun assignment, and I learned a lot.

It might even be time to update the report.

Rain re-nourished swamp

It’s been a rainy week in the swamp.

Here’s some scenic photos of those clouds in action.

South of Tamiami Trail
in the vicinity of New River Strand
looking northeast

Near the mouth of Turner River
looking upstream.  If you look closely
you can see the orphaned mile of
Turner River canal that was filled in
in 1996 and helped steer water back
to the river.

Yes, that’s flooded, but it’s not
the “wetting front.”  It’s the line in
the swamp where the Moon Fish
Wildfire stopped, looking east
into the Everglades

The swamp is a flood and fire adapted ecosystem.

So goes flood and fire, so goes the swamp.

Hiking trail?

Now I see how people were duped …

Into buying swampland.

Gators need water
to regulate their body

What looks like a high and dry hiking path,

Is actually an alligator trail most of the year.

As for the gators, they’ve fled to the canals.

Return of the river

As easy as the Turner River is to see today …

Just a few decades back it was obscured from view.

I love this photo: It’s a view of Turner River’s headwater pools, looking northeast.  Also, in the background, do you see that diagonal line?  That’s Turner River Road.  And the large swath of gray trees just behind the road?  That’s Turner River Strand, the primary flow way that naturally feeds water to the river … with a little help from some culverts and infilling the canal.

The reason?

The elevated Turner River Roadbed severed its headwater flows in the 1950s.

As a result the channel filled in with vegetation.

Even worse, people confused the canal with the river.

View of Turner River Road at its southern terminus (i.e. HP Williams Park) with the Tamiami Trail, looking north.  In 1996, the southern 1.5 miles of Turner River Canal that lies south of  the Tamiami Trail was filled it to wetland grade to keep water in the swamp.

The good news:

Thanks to some strategic replumbing of the offending roadbed and canal …

Turner River is a free-flowing navigable water way once again.

How Turner River got its water back?

HP Williams Wayside is more than a boardwalk:

It’s also the source of the Turner River, too.

Turner River gets its water
from HP Williams Wayside Canal

March 2012

The longer story is that the canal (at HP Williams) stole the water from the river first before it was forced to give it back. South of the wayside, across Tamiami Trail, is a pile of rocks, behind which the southern section the old Turner River Canal channel has been refilled with earth back to wetland grade.

That stopped water escaping down the canal and pushed it into the river instead.

Soon thereafter canoeists followed:

There’s a hydrologic sweet spot when paddling is best on the river. Too little water and the river runs dry to the point it won’t float a boat. Too much water and the river raises a boat too high against the ceiling of the mangrove tunnels to the point that the only way to get through is to lie on one’s back and “monkey bar” through.  Then there’s the battle of trying to vie for room among many paddlers during peak tourist season and fending off the mosquitoes during the summer and after winter rains.

Can you see how this year’s paddle season
was longer than the year before?

This year’s paddle season is close to coming to an end.

Typically, the river dries down, i.e. can’t float a boat, around the start of April. That puts this year more or less in the normal range. Last year, in comparison, the river dried down in February and didn’t rebound until well into July.  Of course, Spring of 2011 was a record deep (and long) drought.

Timely rain extended
the paddle season through March

But we should feel fortunate:

Prior to restoration the river was barely even there.