|It was a active Sunday morning as I left the action of the Everglades Fish Festival for the nearly deserted highway headed north out of Everglades City to U.S. 41 and turned east onto the two lane. About 5 miles from the intersection, I pulled over onto a wide shoulder just past a bridge over the Turner river. The site was obvious thanks to the two cars with boat racks on them. However, had they not been there, it would have been easy to miss the unassuming pull over and small bridge spanning the 30 foot wide river.
The local guides at Ivey House recommends parking at the picnic area approximately 1/4 mile farther east and hiking back to the launch site. However, on both days I passed by this launch site, there were cars parked there. I do not imagine that leaving the cars there overnight would be a good idea. But since I had a driver to take my car back to the other end, it was not an issue for me.
The day started out cool with the temperature at about 60 degrees F at 8:30 AM. There were no clouds and the wind was 5 to 10 knots from the southeast. I launched from the dirt and stone slope at the side of the bridge. As I adjusted my spray skirt, a 5 foot alligator slid from the opposite bank and wave his tail as he slipped under the aquatic grasses on the bottom of the river.
The river was filled with dead or dying brim or bluegill. I never found out why they were dying. Perhaps it was because of the cold snap of the prior week. In any case there were hundreds and hundreds of them both on the bottom of the river and floating on the surface as the decayed. They were beginning to stink a little, although they had not really begun to smell yet. The vultures and buzzards were doing the best they could to clean up the mess. In the ponds, all the dead fish had been eaten except those too deep for the buzzards to reach. In the tunnels there were many fish caught in eddies and between the roots of the mangroves. The large buzzards had difficulty getting down in between the tightly packed mangrove limbs to get at the corpses. However, they did try and when I came upon one unexpectedly, there was much crashing and thrashing as it flapped and beat its heavy wings in a frenetic desperation to gain the safety of the open sky.
As I progress through the sawgrass and ponds interspersed with red mangrove tunnels, the river gradually became wider and shallower. I saw three manatees slowly working their way along the river bottom. One raised its huge broad blunt tail flipper as it slid under the water. Their grey bulk quickly disappeared in the turbid water, completely hiding their massive bodies with only a few inches of water. Their movements could be tracked by the surface disturbances as they slowly and placidly groomed the bottom of the muddy river for the veggie meals.
Black mangrove pneumataphores
As I turned into Left Hand Turner Creek, the water became so shallow in Turner Lake that I ran aground and had to backtrack several 100 yards in order to reach enough water to continue. At the end of this shallow pond, I entered another mangrove tunnel, only this time the tunnel was made up of large black mangroves. These trees were 50 feet high and the tunnel ceiling was some 15 feet overhead. The banks were covered by the pneumataphores of these larger trees spanning the 10 to 15 foot wide river channel. I stopped long enough to take a picture, whereupon the cloud of mosquitos that must have been following me caught up to me and hurried the composition of my photograph. I quickly put the camera away and resumed paddling in order to leave the pesky insects behind.
I continued down the river with growing signs of civilization until I was in a canal with houses lining the western bank. I paddled out into the area behind the Chokoloskee causeway. There are two ways back to the Everglades launch ramp from this point. Either you can turn east and round Chokoloskee Island or go directly through the bridge and under the causeway. At low tide the passage around the island is impassable because there is not even enough water to float a kayak. The current through the bridge can be formidable at times other than slack. With the tide having been flooding for about 4 hours there was enough water to go around the island, but i decided to paddle through the bridge against the 4 knot current. Fortunately the distance is not very great and I was soon through the worst of it. i continued on to the Everglades National Park Visitor Center ramp, ending a nice 6 hour 13 mile trip at 2:30 PM. I was an hour early for my pickup, so I relaxed on the grass and awaited my pickup.
USGS Water Gauge
More on Everglades Ecosystems...
More about the Everglades......