The Everglades--Shark Valley


The concept of a valley in Florida is risible. However, as our guide pointed out, Miami is at an average elevation of about 36 inches, Naples and environs about 48 inches (above sea level) and Shark Valley is a mere 8 inches above see level. Thus, it is a true valley through which the outpouring of the waters from Okeechobee flow to the sea. Ooze to the sea may be more descriptive. The guide pointed out that water flows at a rate of about a quarter of a mile a day through the national park.

Changes in the recent past have diverted the flow of much of the water away from the Everglades. There is a desultory restoration project that is seeking to restore the flow, but no evidence yet that much of anything has really happened. In addition, we in the northern climes insist on building up around Shingle Creek, the so-called "headwaters of the Everglades." In the short time I have been here what were cow pastures and wooded lands have given way to yet another pair of mega-resorts and extensions to the convention center that are, shall we say, less than needed.

A city must grow or implode and die. I understand that; however, growth does not preclude reasonable planning to assure that so valuable a resource as the water that feeds the vast river of grass remains relatively pure. However, Orlando is not well known for either their vision of their future or the ability to temper their desire for yet more. I grit my teeth every time I see another thing built up along this fragile waterway.

Back to the Everglades. The Shark Valley entrance to the part shows one of the main and largely unknown ecotomes of the Everglades--the "river of grass." Well, not precisely grass. More like a sedge. In fact, a particularly nasty and unpleasant sedge misnamed "saw grass." Saw grass is a sharp-bladed sedge with actual saw-teeth running the length of each ray of the compound leaf. (At least I think it's a compound leaf--my botany is really poor.) If you run your hand along it one way you will feel nothing; however, the other way will render a fairly nasty cut.

Now, most people you ask seem to think of the Everglades as a huge cypress swamp, green darkness, Florida's jungle. But that is not at all the case. At least not entirely. There are hammocks and strands of this green darkness, but the Everglades proper is a glade--a wide expanse of green, or during the time I saw it brown. At first glance the Everglades look like nothing more exotic than a field of low-growing wheat with the occasional pampas grass plume.

But it is upon closer inspection that the reality of the Everglades hits home. And, it was in the course of reading a book by Connie Mae Fowler that I found out the truth of it. The Everglades can sneak up on you and steal away your heart.

More later.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 9, 2007 9:46 AM.

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