Water Types

Where Go Hydrology organizes water into 8 major categories

(1) Water Cycle

water cycle

Seasons of the swamp
And where we're at now

Meteorologically the swamp has two seasons …

The wet season (May to mid October) and the dry season (November into May.)

Not your typical four seasons, but four nonetheless

But terrestrially the swamp sees four seasons on the ground.

1.Soaking in season. The early part of May is usually the crunchiest time of the year to walk through the swamp: water is absent except in the deepest pools. By month’s end the wet season will have started, followed by June – the rainiest month of the year; yet only rarely do waters peak this early. Late May through June is usually a “soaking in” season for the preserve.

2. Sheetflow season. The onset of summer, lasting into early fall, coincides with an extensive but ephemeral sheet of shallow flowing water in the swamp. Its flowing aspect is achieved when waters rise to the base of the hydric pinelands (i.e., a depth of 20 inches in the pond apple swamps) and higher. The depth, spatial extent and flow rate of sheetflow typically peak between late August and early October.

3. Hydrologic Interregnum. Starting with the demise of sheetflow in mid fall and lasting through winter is the hydrologic interregnum. This is an approximate five month period in which “wet season” water is still present on the ground, but atmospherically the “dry season” has set in, thus initiating the slow demise of the swamp’s expansive sheet of surface water. The duration of surface water in any one spot is largely habitat dependant, but may also be sustained by winter rains, particularly during El Niño years. Pinelands go dry first, followed by marl prairies which eventually leads to a retreat of waters into the tall cypress and pond apple swamp.

4. Spring drought. The swamp ebbs to its low water mark in April and May due to the cumulative effect of months with little rain and increasing rates of evapotranspiration (rising temperatures, expanding hours of daylight, and plant transpiration). During this period, surface water is practically absent from the swamp other than smallish (typically less than an acre) and isolated pools called dry season refugia.

The above chart shows the relation of south Florida’s two meteorologic seasons, i.e. wet and dry, with the landscape hydrology of the swamp.  The typical duration of flooding in major swamp habitats is also shown.

What season are we currently in?

Answer: Winter dry season (meteorologically) but still high up in “hydrologic interregnum” season (terrestrially).

The “spring drydown” season will be delayed and most likely short, if at all — but I wouldn’t rule out one yet.

(2) Watersheds

Watersheds of south Florida

Behind the song

Behind every great song …

Is the story behind the song.

Bobby Angel discusses his song about the Gunpowder River

In this exclusive interview, singer/songwriter Bobby Angel provides cryptic clues and other nuggets about the making of the song. Topics include why he chose the Gunpowder River over the Mighty Susquehanna River right next door, why the song shares similarities to a parking lot at a trailhead, and why the Gunpowder River is more complicated and has a richer history than at first glance.

Backstory: The song took about a week to write from the start to finish. The opening line came to me while hiking the river trail on the Little Gunpowder with my brother a few days after Christmas. I abandoned an early “simpler” version of the song a day later in favor of a more complicated tale between the “old mill” run of the river and its upstream modern-day reservoir. But it wasn’t until a week later in Florida that I tied the song together with a few tweaks and the final two lines of the last stanza.

But a song is never complete for a “nature folk” troubadour as myself until sit down for the “interview after the song.” I’ll also have to sing it a couple dozen times to really seer it into my memory. And even then, songs have to be played over and over again to really meld the vocals with the guitar and bring the true meaning and feeling of the song out.

Read the lyrics

Listen to the song

(3) Water Table

water table

(4) Ecology

ecology

Floodplain features
Working river returns to nature

Hiking the Gunpowder River …

is a study in floodplain dynamics.

Cross section of the Gunpowder River Valley

Not just a single or simple valley that the stream sometimes overtops, a hike along the trail is a living textbook on the many features and geomorphic processes in action. Rapids for example usually occur where larger rock outcrops are visible on the hillside. And it’s not just a single channel. Also periodically present are yazoo tributaries, oxbow lakes, backswamps made soggier by logjam pools and dry meander scars that the river once cut out. But maybe my favorite feature is the older terraces that form a stairstep from the modern-day floodplain to the adjacent hillside. Today, the terraces are home to very large trees. So they haven’t flooded for quite some time. But how long? Was it a feature from the higher flow rates experienced in the waning days of the last ice age? Or has upstream Pretty Boy and Loch Raven Dams reduced river flows below a point that water makes it up onto that second step?

Another feature I didn’t show was the many archaeological remnants from the pioneer days. They too leave me to wonder: Today, the corridor is a nature preserve, but for the original settlers, it was a working river that powered many a mill.

(5) Weather

Weather Drop

Powerful front
Wind, lightning, rain and cooler air

During the winter in south Florida,

It doesn’t rain, but when it does it pours.

Winter fronts are major weather events in south Florida

And often it also brings along lots of wind at the frontal boundary, plus a squall line of thunderstorms that can dole out as much rain as they do lightning strikes, or maybe a combination of the two. Usually they pass through fast, leaving behind a wake of downed palm fronds and a return of blue sky above. The blue is usually a little deeper and clearer and quite a bit cooler and crisper. Fronts in Florida are most remembered for what they leave behind: a momentary reversal of the water cycle, new puddles of rain water, and a day or three (and sometimes a week) of continental air with daytime highs in the 70s.

(6) Water Control

Everglades Restoration at Sunset
As seen at the S-356 and S-334

Water is famously said to have …

A mind of its own.

Short narrated video at the Everglades S-356

Or in other words, it’s going to flow where it wants to flow. Except in the Everglades at spots like this where with pumps and gates we tell the water when and where it can and cannot flow and by how much. As primordial a landscape as the Everglades appears to be (with its ancient alligators and horizon-to-horizon flooded expanse, don’t mistaken that with being completely wild and free. Concrete structures and pumps guard its perimeter and dole out its water in a system that’s so complex that even a well seasoned hydrologist like me is sometimes left scratching his head. Not that I won’t eventually figure it out, and usually just in time for another mystery to unfold.

(7) Tidal Water

tidal

Cemetery surf
Scenic shells turn scary (and scared)

As much as I love picking up sea shells …

Really they are nothing more than old bones.

Scenic or harrowing?

The beach is a graveyard of dead half shells. The cause? Probably a carnivorous sea snail or some other predator of the surf. Almost every shell you find has a hole on it somewhere marking where the poor filter feeder lost its life. Happy as a clam? They’d be happier if they had arms and hands to brush themselves clean. Then there are the gulls and terns that are equally adept at puncturing a clams shell to get to the meat. It’s a tough life for the clams on the beach. On the other hand, they’d probably not want to be anywhere else. Especially not on ice being served in a fancy restaurant, as is the fate for many an Apalachicola oyster Up Gulf. If the clams could speak, they’d tell you: “It’s just the price you pay living in paradise.”

(8) Cultural Water

cultural waters

End of road?
Or just a momentary reprieve

There’s a saying that …

The darkest hour is just before the dawn.

Firelight Radio is available on Apple Podcasts and Podbean

Well, sometimes you don’t even have to wait that long. That’s where campfires come in. There have been a lot of major inventions over the eons. The toaster. The comb. Just as seen on TV products. The list goes on. But has there ever been as good an invention as the campfire? Maybe the wheel. But that’s splitting hairs. The truth is that the there’s really no other antidote out there for what ails the soul than spending some quality time around a campfire. At least for my money. And campfire’s are usually free. That’s the best part.

Find out more about the campfire talks at Campfire Park at https://campfirepark.org.