where the water was

It’s the dry season in South Florida, but this year we have received less than 60 percent of average seasonal rainfall. The danger of wildfires is high and the drought has put residents on water restriction. Although we find ourselves somewhat inconvenienced, nature suffers the most.  On a  recent trip to Big Cypress National Preserve I saw lower water levels than ever before. Alligators swim in pools of muddy green water where aquatic life congregates until the spring rains arrive, allowing them to spread through Big Cypress and the Everglades.

Dry Season Alligator

Dry Season Alligator

Birds forage in puddles of dirty water where during the rainy season water flows deep and clear.

Immature Ibis and Snowy Egret

Immature Ibis and Snowy Egret

The drought afforded us the privilege of hiking through cypress forests usually underwater without the familiar buzz of mosquitoes. We chose Gator Hook Trail, a short 1 1/2 mile walk that runs on the ground where a tram railway built by a logging company in the 1930-1950s snaked deep into verdant cypress strands. As the sun burned across the eastern horizon we prepared to set out on the trail.

Gator Hook Trail Sunrise

Gator Hook Trail Sunrise

Railroad ties still mark the trail through sawgrass, hardwood hammock, and cypress domes.

Gator Hook Trail

Gator Hook Trail

A fork  loops through Dwarf Cypress and a field of sawgrass before rejoining the main trail. Along the way wildflowers and bright blooming bromeliads dot the landscape with striking beauty.

Gator Hook Trail over Limestone

Gator Hook Trail over Limestone

Dwarf Cypress, Sawgrass Field, and Gator Hook Strand

Dwarf Cypress, Sawgrass Field, and Gator Hook Strand

Stiff-leaved Wild Pine Bromeliad

Cardinal Airplant

Unknown Pink Beauty

Pale Meadowbeauty

Button-like Flower Cluster-species unknown

Everglades Squarestem

Hoary Air Plant and Butterfly Weed

Hoary Air Plant and Butterflyweed

Thistle

Purple Thistle

Bitterweed

Bitterweed

Mistflower

Mistflower

Delicate Lavender Bells-species unknown

Showy Milkwort

Soon the trail rose above the surrounding cypress. Only inches of variance in elevation produces a different Big Cypress habitat. The raised trail was lined with trees typical to a hardwood hammock while on both sides the low-lying land supported a cypress strand.

Hardwood Hammock on Gator Hook Trail

Hardwood Hammock on Gator Hook Trail

Just a few steps off the trail and a beautiful cypress forest surrounded us.

Cypress Forest

Cypress Forest

A gaze skyward and I knew that I had entered a natural cathedral.

Cypress Cathedral

Cypress Cathedral

The forest hushed as a fresh breeze rustled the trees. A migrating bird paused to acknowledge us while searching  for last year’s Cypress seeds.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

I didn’t want to leave this beautiful off-the-road wonderland, but the sun’s overhead warmth told me it was time to  turn back. Now, a plethora of magnificent images, uncaptured by my lens, parade through my mind. They’re secret treasures to turn and examine; gifts of God to cherish. Next year I hope to return to where the water was on Gator Hook Trail.

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7 thoughts on “where the water was

  1. This is a great, great series – took me someplace I’d never go on my own. (Off the trail?!!??!!) The astonishing diversity of life on this planet never fails to move me. Thanks for sharing these.

  2. Iheartfilm, thank you for your comment. Every majestic sunrise speaks to me of hope.

    Gerry, I’m glad you enjoyed this blog. I too am awed by each wondrous creation.

    Soulintention, your gifted words, “in the mist of beauty” delight me.

    Thank you all.

  3. Oh my goodness, Karen, Florida is amazing. It’s like a different planet from SoCal. I hate drouts. We’ve been in one for several years now and every fall, like clockwork, there are horrible wildfires. The western forests all seem to be dying of bark beetle. I’m so sorry to hear you’re having similar problems. Despite the dryness, you continue to make truly magnificent images. Your flower macros are superb. Hugs, Suzanne

  4. Sadly, the way things are heading, these kind of conditions are going to become the norm and with it a change in the kinds of plants and animals. Migrating birds head north sooner and farther. Polar bears are running out of habitat as the ice seas becomes real seas. And, water becomes scarce where it used to be plentiful. It’s going to be a rough road for the living things we share a planet with in the future. 😦

    Notwithstanding those words, Karen, your photography brings it to light and how the beautiful creatures are adapting. Another wonderful photo essay.

  5. Thank you for sharing; I especially love the flower photos as flowers are near and dear to my heart. I never realized what beautiful flowers would be growing out wild in the Everglades. It is truly an amazing park!

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