Tag Archives: Taylor Slough

As Far Away As One Can Go, Flamingo…

My primary 2021 New Year’s resolution was to write more, however my angst over our country’s political, social unrest and the worsening Covid-19 epidemic has caused me to experience  “writer’s block.” Nonetheless, today I will try to get going with my resolution. 

On January 9th, 2021, my husband, Ed, looked at me, “I’ve got a few days off; do you want to stick around Stuart or do you want to go somewhere?”

“Hmmm? Let’s go as far away as one can go, Flamingo.”  I replied.

“Flamingo?” Ed looked like he wasn’t quite sure…

“Yes, Flamingo, at the very southern tip of Florida.”

-Flamingo lies in Monroe County, inside the boundary of Everglades National Park (ENP)

The following day, Ed and I packed up and drove from Stuart to Lake Okeechobee taking Highway 27 south until we arrived in Florida City, just south of Homestead. Next, we drove about an hour along the historic Ingram Highway. It was a beautiful drive – like going into Florida’s past with marl prairies, slash pines, and tremendous bird life.

About forty miles later, we finally arrived in Flamingo. Now a ghost town, Flamingo was once the home of the American Flamingo -thus the name. Although these spectacular long legged, pink birds were all killed for their spectacular feathers a over a century ago, today there have been reports of a few returning. Most of us are familiar with the story of  Guy Bradley, the first Audubon warden hired to protect Everglades wading birds from poachers. This is his land.

Back in the early1900s when Bradley was trying to protect the birds, Flamingo, as all of South Florida, was thoughtlessly being sliced and diced with canals. Today, one can see this most pronounced at the Flamingo Welcome Center along the Flamingo, more modernly called the Buttonwood Canal.  Here lies a “plug” between Florida Bay and the mosaic of fresher/fresh waters in and near Flamingo.

According to our ENP tour guide, Mr Nick, this “Flamingo” or “Buttonwood Canal” was dug by Henry Flagler in the early 1900s and later abandoned when Flagler realized the canal failed to drain the land – instead, due to the tides and topography of the area, bringing  too much salt water from Florida Bay. A cement plug was later placed to ward off this saltwater intrusion.

I was pleased to see that a family of Ospreys had built their nest right on this plug in the midst of much human activity! The female osprey was hard at work, peeking over the side, protecting and incubating her eggs while the male intermittently delivered fish. The large birds appeared absolutely unaffected by people!

FLAMINGO or BUTTONWOOD CANAL                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -Salt water, Florida Bay side of plug-Below: brackish/fresher water on estuary/marsh side of plug leading to Coot Bay (Coots no longer come in droves as the water is still too salty.)-The cement plug cutting off salt water of Florida Bay from canal, note osprey nest! -Our ENP guide, NickThe first day Ed and I took a tour and Mr. Nick was our guide. The second day, we rented a Mako flats boat and followed the same path ourselves. We learned so much. It was incredible. While Ed looked for places to fish, I searched for the Shark River. The Shark River is one of many that extends out from Shark River Slough, the remaining ridge and slough, “river of grass,” of the Everglades. Some of its waters lead to Florida Bay. Taylor Slough, on the other hand, has shamelessly been cut off by development.

 

Flamingo Canal was full of wildlife: wading birds, manatees, and by far the most interesting, crocodiles, of which I had never seen. These southern waters of Florida are one of the only places on Earth where both Alligators and Crocodiles live together. This canal is so salty the crocs have the edge. Our tour led from Flamingo Canal, to Coot Bay, to yet another canal, and then into Whitewater Bay. This track is referred to as the “Wilderness Waterway.” (See map below.)

American crocodile, an endangered species -The most prevalent wading bird by far was the tri-colored heron-There were many baby crocodiles along the Flamingo Canal warming in the sun. It was 37 degrees in the morning of our second day at ENP! -Because of the plug, manatees must enter the protection of the Flamingo Canal by swimming into the rivers entering Florida Bay that lead eventually into  Whitewater Bay! A very long journey. 20 miles? -Our tour guide, Nick, called this tree along the Flamingo Canal  the “perfect mangrove.” -Flamingo/Buttonwood Canal opening to Coot Bay-Entering Whitewater Bay on a cold day!It is very hard to explain how gigantic this area is! Over ten miles long and more than half that wide. Irregular in shape. It was truly “liquid land,” with mangrove forests everywhere and smaller even more beautiful mangrove islands dotting the horizon. One thing was for sure, it would be very easy to lose one’s sense of direction and get lost in Whitewater Bay. No thank you! 

Ed and I spent hours tooling around but never made it to the Shark River as access is limited. Nonetheless, I got a much better idea of the lay of the land for sending water south. I am hoping Ed and I can one day return in a canoe.

I was happy to go as far away as one can go-FLAMINGO!-Learning about a Florida I did not know- Whitewater Bay islands of Flamingo -Ed practices casting-Islands within Whitewater Bay; all of Florida must once have looked this way! -Back on Land: A Walk down the Guy Bradley Trail-Ed watches a fisherman cast in Florida Bay-Moonvine once covered the southern rim of Lake O’s pond apple forest, now gone.-Ed poses with a giant Buttonwood tree-Morning Glory. Is there a more gorgeous flower?-Guy Bradley Trail and an end to a wonderful day!

VIDEOS: 1. FLAMINGO/BUTTONWOOD CANAL; 2. MANATEES; 3. CROCODILE 

Overview of Florida Bay’s Water Problems and How They Are Connected to Ours, SLR/IRL

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Florida Bay algae bloom, photo Captain Daniel Andrews at 1500 feet, Dec. 20, 2016

Last Thursday, concerned citizens traveled to Tallahassee. Some were from the East Coast, some were from the West Coast, and some were from Florida’s Southern Tip. Those from the Southern Tip, like us from the Northern Estuaries, are experiencing a die off.

But their estuary is even larger and more famous; its name is Florida Bay. The sometimes confusing part of reading about all the present water issues is that Florida Bay’s die off is due to lack of fresh water, rather than too much such as ours. Nonetheless, as with everything in life, it’s all connected.

Florida Bay has been heavily impacted over the years not only because of the redirection of about *20 percent of its waters from Lake Okeechobee that used to flow south, but also due to the encroachment of development into the Everglades’ watershed near Homestead and north thereof. Years ago this development cut off water to Florida Bay especially through Taylor Slough, a shallow river.  (See map below)

During a recent visit, my husband and I noted this area east of Everglades National Park experiencing a real estate boom of highway construction and the sell off of agricultural lands for residential development, so this encroachment issue will only increase over the coming years.

Shark River Slough, to the east, is much larger and also feeds the Bay. (See map below)

Although the South Florida Water Management District and Army Corp of Engineers have been “working hard” on the area of the Taylor Slough area of the state, it will not be enough to save the dying Bay that has lost up to 50,000 acres of seagrass recently according to Dr Davis of the Everglades Foundation and reports by local fishermen.

The photos shared in this post by Captain Daniel Andrews of Ft Meyers show the a section of the Bay on December 20th, 2016, at around 1500 feet south of Cape Sable. Cape Sable is west of Taylor Slough but still affected. The waters of the Bay have been decreased not only through Taylor Slough, but also Shark River Slew, of which Lake Okeechobee was once connected as documented by our Native Americans.

Captain Daniel said in an interview: ” The last major die off the Bay had was in 1987, and it resulted in a decade of algae blooms from all the nutrients that were released by the decaying grass. It took ten years for it to recover.”

Now this cycle is happening all over again, in sync with toxic blooms in the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries caused by too much water.

Too little or too much. We are all connected…

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National Park Service report on dying seagrasses and algae blooms in Florida Bay: https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/upload/seagrass-Dieoff_final_web_hi_res.pdf

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Photo courtesy of Captain Daniel Andrews, Captains For Clean Water

* Florida Park Service, Everglades National Park

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Captain Daniel Andrews can be contacted at:https://captainsforcleanwater.org

#SupportJoeNegron

Taylor Slough,”The Great Water Disconnect,” SLR/IRL

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Road Trip Series, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon-Taylor Slough

Happy New Year to all of my readers!

We begin 2017 at the southern most part of our state, the Florida Everglades. Over the holidays my husband, Ed, and I continued the Road Trip Series further south to gather insights, one that I will share with you today: the great water disconnect of Taylor Slough. We have too much water and it doesn’t have enough. Could we help?

Before we begin, what is a “slough?” What a strange word!

For years I drove along a road in Port St Lucie, north of Stuart, named “Cane Slough.” I wondered to myself what that meant considering the area was paved over. When my mother told me Cane Slough was once a marshy shallow river, I thought how odd that was considering there was not trace of it today. The same thing, but on a much larger scale, has happened in the Florida Everglades and in both instances it is a great loss.

“Slough,” pronounced “slew,” is not just a river, but a river that is made for Florida’s dry and rainy seasons.  It is a slow-moving river whose grassy shores expand and contract. During the dry season when rains are scarce, the remaining water in the deepest part of these depressions is where plants and animals hold on to life-giving water until the rains begin anew…

Before South Florida was developed there were two main sloughs running through the Everglades to Florida Bay. Named, the Shark River, the largest, and Taylor Slew, smaller and further to the east. We must note that Florida Bay the past years has suffered from algae blooms and seagrass die off due to high salinity because Taylor Slew cannot flow southeast. This lack of water affects both land and marine communities.

It is easy to see the great “disconnect” for Taylor Slough on this National Park map. A park ranger informed me that “all water” received into Taylor Slew now comes via canal structures controlled by the South Florida Water Management District.

Yes, some great things finally are happening such as the recent construction of elevated bridges along Tamiami Trail designed to deliver more sheet flow into the park and a  future where  the “Chekika” public access area off 997 could be closed year-round so water could be flowing south. Others too I’ve no room to mention…

One can visually note that restoring this flow is tricky as Homestead’s agricultural and rural development zones abut the old water shed and Broward County north of this area has communities literally in the Everglades (C-11 Basin) that were once part of Taylor Slough as well. Crazy!

But, if we sent men to the moon 50 years ago, shouldn’t we be able to accomplish reconnecting the flow of water “today?” Now, when the Everglades and Florida Bay need it?

How can we along the St Lucie River help speed things up?

…Learn about Senator Negron’s proposal for 60,000 acres of storage, cleaning and conveyance in 2017. Learn about pressuring our government to “face the facts.”

…One thing is certain, we can’t allow the Everglades to die on our watch, and we have exactly what she needs…

Water.

Taylor Slough https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taylor_Slough
ENP C-111: https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/c111.htm
C-11(1) Basin: http://c-11.org
C-111: http://palmm.digital.flvc.org/islandora/object/fiu%3A3643#page/FI05030101_cover1/mode/2up

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Senate President Joe Negron’s proposed land purchase map, 2017