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Swamp Walk in the Great Cypress Swamp – Florida

by Jack Kelleher

 

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Never thought that I would ever go for a “walk” in Florida’s Great Cypress swamp, let alone encourage my daughter and son-in-law  to join me.  

This adventure started when I received an email from the Clyde Butcher Galleries that announced his annual swamp walk around his property in the Great Cypress swamp.  It is about 40 miles east of Miami on the Tamiami Trail [US 41].

 

 

I forwarded the email to my daughter and called her to let her know that it was coming; she quickly made her reservations.  It promised to be an exciting time a  ninety-minute stroll through a small portion of Clyde Butcher's land in the Great Cypress Swamp accompanied by  an experienced naturalist. sounded like fun and a great experience, and since I live in south Florida, it was local. 

Clyde Butcher at work in  Big Cypress

Clyde Butcher has been an award-winning fine art large-format photographer for over 30 years. Today the majority of his work is of Florida, particularly the Everglades and Big Cypress regions. He uses 8" x 10" and 12" x 20" view cameras, which enable him to achieve the elaborate detail and textures that distinguish the rapidly disappearing landscape of Florida. Through the medium of his exquisite black and white photographs, conservation of Florida is an underlying goal and theme. He is dedicated to using his photography as an inspiration for others to work together to save nature's places of spiritual sanctuary for future generations. Above information taken from: http://www.dos.state.fl.us/dca/dosart/CButcher.html also for more information, please visit Clyde Butcher's web site .

On the appointed day we all rendezvoused at the Gallery for a brief tour.  We then  proceeded to locate the starting point for our swamp walk where we  were introduced to our tour guides (a naturalist and 2 additional naturalists who acted as backups).  The plan was to have the naturalist as the leader, one guide at the end and one in the middle.  This was reassuring because there were about 20 people on this tour and at times we could not hear the lead person clearly.  The other guides  not only provided guidance on how to  walk in the swamp but added to the presentation regarding what we  were seeing. 

The sheer amount of life in this small area, less than 13 acres total, was astounding, and we were limited to less than half of that area.  I have always thought that I was observant; however, without our guides I was blind.  The insects that they saw and shared with us, their knowledge of the botany of the area , their awareness of the moments we were entering 4.5 feet of water and  times we were approaching patches of  dry land were rewarding and comforting.  Especially the part about no alligators in the immediate area–they were at least a hundred yards away. 

Walking in the swamp is extremely difficult.  It was explained that this is caused by a combination of muck and debris left over from “clear cut” cutting of the cypress swamps.  Muck is mud that is from a couple of inches to a couple of feet deep.  During  World War II and up until the late 1940’s the cypress forest was clear cut  (all trees were cut down) and the trees were dressed in the swamp.  Limbs too small to have commercial value were trimmed off and left.  The value of cypress is that it is extremely resistant to rot and 50+ years later this debris is lying underwater  [I swear] just waiting to snag [my] feet.  It was very successful!  

The experience of the primeval beauty of this environment,  the brilliant blues, yellows, purples, etc., cannot be described adequately.   I truly hope that the enclosed pictures  demonstrate this beauty to you, the reader. 

A very Wet Trial.jpg (39857 bytes) Kate&Jim_swamp_walk_2002.jpg (41730 bytes) Katie Getting Excited abouot getting Wet.jpg (39401 bytes) End of the Trip.jpg (31385 bytes)

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