Jan 17, 2018

Big (Cypress Nat'l Preserve's) day in the sun?

I am not here to blame the author.

It is a common mistake.  Too common in fact.

The photo that made Popular Mechanic's
list of the Top 50 Parks was taken somewhere
along Loop Road, in Big Cypress Nat'l Preserve.

Many tourists who travel Loop Road proudly report it to be their "favorite part of the park," i.e. Everglades National Park, only to discover later they are in fact in Big Cypress National Preserve.

And I can't tell you how many books and other promotional posters on the Everglades feature views of scenic cypress trees usually taken in Big Cypress National Preserve and mis-caption it as the Everglades.

The reason?

It's part cartological confusion.

But lets also face the facts:

There are too many scenic spots to count in the Swamp
(Panoramic from cypress to pop ash/pond apple)

The scenery in the swamp is nonpareil.

Think about it: nobody ever pens an article on the Big Cypress Swamp and accompanies it with a photo of the Everglades characteristic saw grass.  Why: the River of Grass is simply not as scenic.

I'm not here to deny the Everglades its day in the sun.

But let's not forget or confuse it with the Big Cypress Swamp.

Winter wonder land
(Not snow, periphyton)

For too long too many people have done exactly that.

At the peril of the ecosystem I might add.

Jan 16, 2018

Picture says a thousand words

The good news:

A photo of Big Cypress National Preserve made the Top 50 list of "must see" parks.

Popular Mechanics listed the Top 50 National Parks you should visit, i.e. the top one in each state.  When it came to Florida, they say Everglades but the photo (taken in neighboring Big Cypress Nat'l Preserve) says it all.

Click here to view article.

Now for the bad news:

They mislabeled it as Everglades National Park.

Not to worry, us swamp aficionados know exactly what they author meant.  Not just a Freudian slip, who could argue that Big Cypress National Preserve is not the one park in Florida you would never want to miss!

Jan 15, 2018

Recession slows to a crawl

This is the time of the year ...

Where water levels go nowhere fast.

Water depth hydrograph for Big Cypress Nat'l Preserve
comparing this water year to last year

The reason?

Blame the wretched cold weather.  The evapotranspiration machine has been turned off.  Also factoring in was last weeks rain.  No it didn't raise water levels, but can you also see how they held steady (i.e. didn't drop).

The bigger story is the saturation level.

Water levels are a half foot above normal mid-January levels and a full foot higher than mid January of last year.

Calendar chart showing the history
of flooding in Big Cypress Nat'l Preserve

There aren't many Januaries you find the wetting front up in the hydric pines.

Nov 22, 2017

"Warm" Thanksgiving Wishes

You know it's cold in south Florida ...

When daytime highs don't rise above 70° F.

The chart above shows Naples FL's
daytime highs and nighttime lows
forecast for this Thanksgiving
and Thanksgivings past.

By that metric, South Florida was graced with three (3) consecutive Thanksgiving Days of winter-like (i.e. at or below 70°F) cool for the Thanksgivings of 2012, 2013 and 2014.  The past two Thanksgivings have been warmer by comparison. 

The good news: this year's won't be too warm. 

A daytime high of 80 sounds perfect to me.

Nov 8, 2017

Nov 7, 2017

King of wet seasons, sort of

There used to be a time that, not mater how hard it rained ...

It never measured up to the epic wet season of 1995.

Bar char showing wet season rainfall
totals in Big Cypress Nat'l Preserve
from 1970 to present
Not anymore.

At 68 inches it surpassed the old chart topper by 7 inches.

Of course the Summer of 1995 morphed together with the Summer of 1994 because the winter in between never dried down making a continuous two years of wet back to back and thus proving it's never cut and dry with water (no pun intended).

Nov 5, 2017

Jetport Slough?

The area to the west of the L-28 lacks a proper name.

Sometimes it is referred to as simply the Jetport.

Looking West
into Jetport Slough (?)
from above the
L-28 levee
Not because of the 2-mile long airstrip,

But because of the 39 square mile area on the west side of the levee that are still owned by Miami-Dade County, where an airport was planned but never got built.

Until we come up with something better maybe Jetport Slough will have to do.

Nov 4, 2017

"No name" swamp

It always bugs me about this part of the swamp,

It doesn't have a name, a good one at least.

Looking West 
into the Big Cypress
from above the L-28
about 5 miles north
of US41

By default we call it the Jetport (i.e. the 39 square mile tract) or the alternatively "the area between 11 Mile Road and the L-28."  And for good reason: in reviewing the quadrangle map there simply aren't any physiographic names for this area, in part I think because it was slated for an airport that never got built.

In that respect it needs a proper name.

To me it looks a lot like Mullet Slough.

Not surprising since that's where it gets its flow.

Nov 2, 2017

New flood of record?

You know its wet in the swamp ...

When the mesic hammocks get submerged.

Simple cross section
of the Big Cypress ecosystem
color coded to match the historical
calendar below

Unlike the pine islands that get flooded at some point most every year,

Hammocks are high ground that submerges only every couple years at best.

Historical calendar showing the depth
and duration of surface water in Big Cypress
National Preserve, 1991 to present

This year they've been under for over two months.

That's comparable to the swamp's flood of record back in 1995.

Last time the hammocks were flooded at all was a decade ago during the Year of Fay in 2008.

Nov 1, 2017

Every month a rain-maker

It's official:

Rainfall was above average for every month of the wet season, May-Oct.

Monthly rainfall for Big Cypress
National Preserve (blue bars),
compared to the thirty-year
record (gray color coding)

That adds up to a 68 inch wet season total.

Or about 25 inches above normal.

That's a lot of rain.

Cypress tree's last gasp

This tree is a fighter

Oct 31, 2017

Swamps get spooked, too

Are the swamps spooky?

To the uninitiated, “yes."

All Ye Who Enter:
And who could blame them, they are wooded, dark, and watery.

Alligators lurk, and panthers too – but those worries are misguided:

The animal you really have to watch out for are water moccasins.

Not that they chase you – they won’t!

Nor do they spook – they don’t!

Can you see the spider?

If not, you'll feel it on your face
when you unwittingly walk
into the web

Rather, it’s because they don’t spook when they hear you that causes the real fright.  If you walk without caution in their path, you could be surprised by a strike when you least expect it.

And yes, that could bite.

There are giant spiders too!

But even worse is a trunk-to-trunk spanning web on your face (and in your hands as you try to remove it after the fact),

Is a spider there too, in my hair or crawling down my neck?

It rarely the case, but the thought certainly spooks!

Craggily pond apple
forests look foreboding
Hollywood-inspired legends of a Swamp Thing and local lore of a Skunk Ape may have you fearing knee-deep cypress forests alone at night the same way Jaws kept you in the knee-deep shallows of breaking saltwater waves in a crowd at the beach with the sun at its peak.

The truth is that humans evolved to fear the swamps.

They are virtually uninhabitable by modern day standards, and efforts to inhabit them quite literally ruin whatever swamp was once there by way of digging, draining, filling, cutting, and building;

The cypress are lovely,
dark and deep ...

Don't get lost!

Not to mention the real Frankensteins of the quagmire – Maleleuca trees, Brazilian Pepper, Old World Climbing Fern, pythons, plus every other invader ...

On the rapidly-spreading list of non-native invasives!

I’m here to tell you it’s not we who should fear the swamps.

They are a misunderstood beauty in need of love instead.

The truth in actuality is quite the opposite:

It’s the swamps that should fear us!

In the right light:
Cypress aren't
so spooky after all!
So tread lightly in a swamp near you, and trust in me whenever you do – by sun or night or nearing twilight – its liquid realm is a beautiful sight, from top to bottom and start to end, it’s silence is the comfort of your oldest friend.

Happy Halloween!