Prior to drainage (pre-1882),
The optimal Lake stage was 22 feet above sea level.
That’s the level it naturally drained south into the Everglades downstream. In modern times, the question gets bogged down in a complexity of water management schema, stakeholder clout and the constraint of the Lake’s perimeter dike. No longer allowed to spread out, high waters are drained through a release valve to protect wetlands on the inside of the dike instead of replenishing the wetlands it used to feed to the south. The primary release valve is called the Caloosahatchee River, although technically to get to the main river stem (which is actually a widened canal called the C-43), water has to first drain through Three Mile Canal. Prior to drainage the natural river ended at Ft. Thompson Falls just upstream from present-day LaBelle and 20 miles from the Lake. Yes, it’s complicated, and muddled (and muddy). It’s called modern times.
The thing about the dike, and this has always been the case:
It was built to control water on outside, not inside, its bounds.
There’s a lot of sophisticated models out there …
But my favorite is called the BOE.
That’s short for “Back of the Envelope.”
Using the BOE approach, I estimate there are about 72 acre-feet of water in the approximately conical lake. Or in other words, it holds about the same volume of water as filling the Boston Red Sox Fenway Park up to the top of the 37-ft high Green Monster (i.e. Left Field Fence). The lake is about as deep as the distance from home plate to first base. Or in swamp terms, about two mature cypress trees high. Meanwhile, it holds fifty times the depth of a fully flooded cypress dome. And did you know the lake is meromictic below 75 ft? That means it’s bottom sediments do not circulate to the surface. Compare that to Lake Okeechobee that at a maximum depth of 20 ft it’s 5 times shallower than Deep Lake and constantly circulating its basal sediments back into the water column.
Not to be confuse with a swallet …
This vortex is a result of water rushing through a culvert.
Swallets by the way are the opposite of springs.
They swallow surface water into the underlying aquifer below whereas springs send groundwater under pressure into surface waters above, forming what’s called a “boil” – so named because the surface rolls over on itself like water boiling in a pot.
Interestingly, just across the road from this vortex is what appears to be a “boil,” but not to be confused with a spring.
It’s just water gushing out of the culvert.
Not too far downstream, it quickly spreads out into sluggish sheet flow.
Most of my hydrographs …
Are based on historical stats starting in 1993.
For one I wanted to be consistent across the board with all the hydrographs I created. To do that I had to pick a date, and 1993 jumped out as coinciding with the modern era of water management. It also seemed to be a date that most stations had accurate data for. Many stations go back further in time, and I like looking at that data, too. But 1993 is a breakpoint beyond which quite a few index wells don’t have data.
Keep in mind I started created my hydrographs in the early 2000s (also called the “aughts.”) The data streams are now nearly twice as long as when I got started.
In summary, I picked 1993 to be consistent, and so that my observations were framed relative to a common statistical measuring stick. To be sure, I like slicing and dicing the data for decadal comparisons. But for my go-to charts, I also base them on the post-1993 record.
How tall is the Everglades?
Cross section of the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades (KOE) flow way
If you include the Kissimmee River
It’s a respectable 60 feet tall.
But subtract it out of the picture (leaving behind only Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades) and it’s all under 20 feet high.
Shorter than the top of a my single story roof.
It’s also infinite as far as the eye can see.