Friday, March 30, 2012

Loxahatchee River

An adult barred owl sits atop a bald cypress, calling to its mate on the Loxahatchee River

There are only two rivers that flow freely into Lake Okeechobee, Fisheating Creek is one, and the Loxahatchee is the other. Before we started replacing our natural waterways with canals, Floridian creeks and rivers had personality, a sinuosity marked by thousand-year hardwoods and abundant wildlife. For this reason, unaltered rivers like the Loxahatchee are our best windows into the past. Early this month I had the unique opportunity to spend two days camping on the river while conducting spoonbill research via helicopters in the central Everglades. Fortunately, Adam Chasey and I met up with Radio Green Earth host Jim Jackson and Albrey Arrington, the Chief Executive of the Loxahatchee River District to learn more about the area and its role in Everglades Restoration. You can hear some clips of the recorded show in the podcast section here:

I always wanted to put a paddle in the famed Loxahatchee. Its century-old cypress and winding blackwater gives it the title "Florida's most scenic river." Surprisingly it's relatively unpopulated even on a weekend. When Adam and I were launching our canoe a couple came over to us and asked how we found out about the river, as if it were a local secret. I love places like this!

Our first day on the river we paddled a little over two miles in 4 hours. Not because it was a difficult paddle, but because it was difficult to stay in the boat and stop exploring the high banks studded with twisted cypress knees. On a branch not more than ten feet off the water a pair of barred owls preened and flirted paying us no attention.

Palms hung over the river, so of course we had to see who would be daring enough to walk across, which then promptly turned into a game of chicken, "who can go no hands... upsidedown?" This is my kind of swampin... I can't wait to go back!

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