Sunday, October 30, 2011

River of Grass

The miracle of light pours over the green and brown expanse of saw grass and of water, shining and slowly moving, the grass and water that is the meaning and the central fact of the Everglades. It is a river of grass. Marjory Stoneman Douglas

I was invited to paddle through the grass and mangrove prairie with some living gladesmen. I and 12 others met somewhere near Mahogany Hammock, dropped our boats into the shallow water at about 7 am, and proceeded to paddle through a vast area of the Everglades never seen before by most of the people on this trip. We started our trip at a hardwood hammock and proceeded through the grasses.

This area is where you find red mangroves of short stature, likely due to the low salinity of the water.The roots of these trees grow horizontally for several feet, branching off to continue the march onward. The mangrove landscape is very different from the tidal region where the trees grow to be several dozen feet high and the hanging roots can be just as long. On this trip, we paddled around mangroves that likely originated from hurricanes Donna and Betsy (1960s) that blew the seedlings inland into the freshwater marl marshes.

The day was perfect in terms of weather, not too hot or windy. We had a window of opportunity that was preceded by storms and ended the same way. For much of the day, the sky looked like a typical winter Everglades scene, an indication that a front was near.

It was a long day of paddling, but the reward was being out there in the company of experienced Everglades paddlers. One can get lost forever in these parts, and we could only imagine the life of the original gladesmen that knew this area like the back of their hands.

Morning turned into noon, and eventually late evening as we returned to our launch site before 7 pm. The sky had already grown dark and thunderstorms loomed near by. While paddling, the rain was barely enough to justify wearing a poncho. The cloud covered sky offered a new view of the mangrove prairie, as the diffuse light intensified the greens. As always, a beautiful time to be in the glades.

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