Monday, March 28, 2011

The Braided Swamp

Click on a photo for a larger view, then use your Back button to return to the story.  Enjoy!

"Lost in the swamp."  We've heard tales over years about canoeists spending fearful nights and/or needing rescue after accidentally straying into the swamps of the Aucilla Wildlife Management Area where rivers and creeks intertwine and often disappear into blind alleys of sheet flow in the giant floodplains.  A wild rarely-visited swamp?  What could be more enticing?  So, for years Crystal and I have been exploring these waters with our good friends, Sue and Jeff.  We have had our share of mis-adventures, but that goes with the territory.

Saturday we launched our kayaks and followed one of Jeff's old "breadcrumb trails" of subtle green flags into the swamp once more.  (I admit, we gave Jeff grief for 'littering' the pristine swamp with his markers way back when ... now we were secretly grateful.)



The day was cool and sunny, the water unusually clear.  Limerock and rubble dotted the sandy bottom and occasional banks.  A red-legged White Ibis followed us for a piece.  We even passed two ancient Indian mounds rising up out of the floodplain.  This was as good as it gets.

The flowing waters forked repeatedly like extensively branching limbs... "Do we go left or right? ... hey, there's one of Jeff's markers"... until eventually we came to a huge new logjam of freshly fallen trees that was impenetrable.  We paddled back upstream to the last fork and took a new blind path into the swamp... and that's where we found the scene pictured at the top of this story.  Swamps are typically so full of verdant growth, that a photo shows only chaotic busyness. Here was a scene that depicted the story and beauty --  "braiding" waters, lush growth, diverse species -- AND was readable enough for a decent composition.  Crystal, Sue, and Jeff patiently pulled over to wait as I stepped out into the shallow waters and sank shin-deep into the soft sandy mud.  Let's see... tripod, camera, filters, settings, placement ... can I move my feet?... save my buried Crocs?... 

Awhile later, we were again weaving down unmarked waterways. Nature watched as our little parade floated by.  Songbirds serenaded us. Mullet leapt into the air.  A brown water snake posed lazily on a nearby log.  Further downstream, a freshly shed molt swaying in the creek flow -- the ghost of its former snake-self.  A Prothonotary Warbler landed on a snag not 20 feet away, ignoring me in its search for insects.



Part of our journey included a short paddle on the 'Aucilla River proper', if you could call it that.  In these parts, the Aucilla dips underground frequently -- no more visible than a chain of beautiful sinkholes in the woods.  Holey limerock, towering cypress, and gnarly roots sculpt and decorate the banks of this amazing river.



Never really lost, we found our way to the truck we left in the woods at our presumed destination... another day well spent in one of Florida's remaining Gardens of Eden.

5 comments:

Roberta Isleib said...

gorgeous! except for the big snake...

soulsurvivor said...

I think the snake was beautiful, too. :)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful setting and wildlife, especially the Brown Water Snake!

Anonymous said...

Great pix, great snake. But "its" in the warbler blurb doesn't take an apostrophe, which would make it possessive. Sorry, my obsession.

David Moynahan said...

anon,
thanks for the grammatical correction!