Water Types

Where Go Hydrology organizes water into 8 major categories

(1) Water Cycle

water cycle

October Flight
Click on a photo to start the narration

Don’t get me wrong:

I love the artwork in museums.

Photos plus an audio tour

But that doesn’t mean I know what I’m looking at. That’s why the audio tour is so essential. Remember when they used to hand you a handheld device or a headset. I’m pretty sure today you just sign up with a code on your iPhone or equivalent. What I like most about the audio tour is that it makes me feel like I’m an insider, and that I’m getting secrets and being clued into little details that I would have otherwise missed.

I‘m not saying my photos are on par with the Louvre or the Metropolitan Museum of Art or even Clyde Butcher’s galleries, but every photographer has a story to tell about every photo they take that’s lost with only a simple caption or no explanation at all.

With that being said, if perchance you listen, please drop off your audio devices in the basket before exiting the website. And don’t forget to stop at the museum shop on your way out. Hint: There is no museum site, you’ll have to pretend.

(2) Watersheds

Watersheds of south Florida

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.

(3) Water Table

water table

(4) Ecology


Multitudes of green
Swamp mosaic starts to pop

How do you best describe …

Every shade of green on the swamp?

The cypress will turn brown then gray in the weeks ahead

The term is called the swamp mosaic. Bright green are slash pine and palmetto. Dark green is a hardwood hammock. Brownish green are senescing cypress. It’s a bit of an optical illusion looking at the photo above. The highest ground is actually the hardwood hammock, even though it looks recessed. And the lowest ground is the cypress strand despite its appearance that it is higher up. Actually, I take that back: Even lower than the cypress is the open pond to the right. I would venture a guess that’s about 4 feet deep, about half the depth of the water in the adjacent cypress and the hammock being completely dry. And I almost forgot. About mid photo, a little to the right, is a marl prairie. It’s flooded shin deep with water.

(5) Weather

Weather Drop

Almost Big Rain Days

My old philosophy was …

It either rained or it didn’t.

Calendar of daily rain across south Florida, 1992 to present

That changed when a local meteorologist introduced me to the idea of Big Rain Days (BRDs). Basically, a BRD is any day when an inch or more of rain, on average, falls across all of south Florida. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, that’s because you’re thinking “locally.” Regionally for all of south Florida, a day that produces over an inch of rain is a big event. The result: The water table usually jumps up an octave or two, using the guitar scale, and from cypress to pinelands if we’re talking specifically in the Big Cypress Swamp. On average (as shown above by the big black drops) south Florida averages 5 BRDs per year. This year is trending on the low side with just 3.

But back to my point: It’s now been many a year that I’ve classified south Florida’s rain into three tiers: (1) no rain, (2) moderate rain and (3) BRDs. Then struck my brainstorm. What about the days that just fall short, but over a consecutive 2-day period meet the “one or more inch” mark?

That’s where the new “almost BRDs (ABRDs)” come in handy. They’re shown on the graph above as the larger blue dots with the dark-blue outline. In my book, they’re as good as a low-order single-day BRD.

The new fourth category also adds an important wrinkle of detail to the above chart. Water’s peaked in September thanks to a short string of ABRDs followed immediately by a good week of no rain at all, thus leading us to the believe the summer rainy season was done. That changed in mid October with a return of summer humidity and another short string of “almost BRDs.”

That goes to show: Like a game of horseshoes, “almost” counts in hydrology, too.

(6) Water Control

There Goes Bob 3
At the crossroads between destroying and restoring nature

Nature is all around us …

And in our dreams.

Bobby Angel’s song about restoring nature

In this original song, singer/songwriter Bobby Angel explores the cross roads between the idealism of youth and the harsh realities of life, and in particular our relationship with nature. About those dreams: Sometimes those dreams inspire, other times they haunt. And each sunset is a promise to make it right the next day.

Stay on after the song to hear an interview with the artist.

(7) Tidal Water


Mystery of the “high-high”
And why I love the low-lows

Tides are highly predictable …

But also confusing on Naples Beach, Florida.

A glimpse into the tidal mayhem

The reason: Blame the moon and sun and the position of the shoreline. The tidal cycle is semi diurnal – giving us 2 high tides and two low tides per day. But sometimes the highs are really high (i.e. high-highs) and the lows are really low (i.e. low-lows) and other times the lows and highs are in between (i.e. low-highs and high-lows) which look like a camel’s back (see above). In a nutshell, I still can’t figure it out other than tides are higher and lower during full and new moons. Even more confusing than the tides is the longshore current. Unlike where I grew up in Maryland where the longshore current always flowed south, on Naples Beach it reverses from one day to the next.

My personal favorite: A low-low. I love walking in the tidal pools and the hard flat sand feels good on my feet.

(8) Cultural Water

cultural waters

Swamp’s falling foliage
And why it bests the fall "leaf change" up north

In the summer swamp, everything is green.

That gradually gives way in fall to a study in black and white.

The swamp mosaic turns green and gray during the fall, helping make it visually pop. But is it as scenic as the “leaf change” Up North?

Well, probably green and gray is a better way to describe it. Slash pine and cypress comprise the majority of the swamp, and in some places are pretty much all you see. While a connoisseur of the Big Cypress landscape can easily differentiate the cypress from the pines during the spring and summer half of the year (and for the more botanically inclined, all the other green-leafed trees, i.e. gumbo limbo, pop ash, willow and pond apple to name a few): It isn’t until mid October with the browning and then falling of the cypress needles that the boundary lines between cypress, pinelands, prairie and hammocks really start to pop.

While I may be biased, and don’t get me wrong I love the summer clouds — There’s just something super scenic about the cypress losing their needles and turning gray. Partly it’s the contrast to the perpetually green pines, but it also has something to do with the abundance of water still on the ground. October is high water season in the swamp.

The mosaic is more than just pinelands and cypress. As shown above, taller cypress domes are separated by a sea of dwarf cypress and dotted by hardwood hammocks as shown in the foreground

Everyone raves about the fall foliage in the deciduous forest of the Northeast, but we can’t forget that cypress is a deciduous (albeit also a conifer) tree, too. South Florida may not have your traditional “leaf changing” season of multitudinous orange, yellows and reds. However, the cypress needles – by browning and falling – put on an autumnal show all their own. Better yet, it lasts quite a bit longer, too — for four months all the way to February.

But to see it in its most glorious form, you need to see it when the water is still up. Disclaimer: This may involve getting your feet wet. Water is shin to knee deep depending on where you walk in the swamp.

Fall foliage along Turner River road, looking north. Can you see the open marl prairie in the distance towards Upper Wagon Wheel Road?

In sum, for me, if I had to chose: When it comes to the autumnal foliage event, I’d take the swamp’s “falling of the needles” over the continent’s “changing of the leaves” every time.

Full disclosure: My proximity to the swamp probably sways my opinion (to a degree).