I am headed out tomorrow. My Father’s birthday is the following day. Yesterday we travelled down to Chokoloskee to “celebrate” and meet up with my sister before I leave.
I spoke with a Guide from Everglades Area Tours who has been visiting the region for more decades that I have been alive. Even with a good working knowledge of the everglades environment and habitat degradation, I have always taken the muddy brown waters of the ten thousand islands for granted. The guide claimed that when he began visiting the park, all these backwaters ran clear and that today’s muddy bottoms had been covered in endless patches of sea grass. He said the 10k were once very similar to western Florida Bay and the upper keys backcountry. It is common knowledge that every yard’s fertilizer, agricultural runoff, and any groundwater pollution between Orlando-Kissimee and Everglades City flows through these water ways. Thus the guides story makes sense. I can’t speak to the accuracy of his memory, but if true, I can only begin to imagine how spectacular this region must have once been.
Even in its degraded state, its hard to find places as wild and “pristine” as the 10k in modern Florida. Between time on the water and a side trip in the car on the way back to Sarasota, I counted two Bald Eagles, two Swallow Tail Kites, one threatened Crested Caracara, countless osprey (see above), the usual gamut of shore birds etc. As much as I tire of Florida’s faults, I will miss days like this in the coming months.