Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition: An early fog, a broken link

Joe Guthrie explores the headspring of the Chassahowitzka River before the team followed the river’s 5-mile journey downstream to the Gulf of Mexico. In 2013, Swiftmud led a restoration of the headspring that pumped out truckloads of sediment and sand. Nearly 4 tons of nitrogen were removed. Though the headspring is clear, the river is still plagued by toxic algae fed by polluted runoff.

Photograph by Carlton Ward Jr., carltonward.com

Joe Guthrie explores the headspring of the Chassahowitzka River before the team followed the river’s 5-mile journey downstream to the Gulf of Mexico. In 2013, Swiftmud led a restoration of the headspring that pumped out truckloads of sediment and sand. Nearly 4 tons of nitrogen were removed. Though the headspring is clear, the river is still plagued by toxic algae fed by polluted runoff.

Editor's note: The three members of the second Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition are filing weekly dispatches of their 1,000-mile, 10-week journey to highlight the value of keeping an open pathway through the state for wildlife. Here is the story of the second week.

The sun is bright and the midday air crisp at the saltwater fringe along this stretch of Florida's Nature Coast. Palms and sawgrass rustle in the breezes that are building and cutting southeast across the marsh from the Gulf of Mexico.

The day began in stillness with cold fog hanging tight to Crawford Creek, soaking every surface, especially my kayak, it seemed. As I paddled upstream searching for the sunrise, perfect reflections of the shoreline were painted on the black and glassy water. With fog holding back the dawn, the only signs that time was passing at all were the slight current against my bow and the shifting of the mist.

We began the week immersed in the Green Swamp under steady rains, and our route followed the water downstream. We paddled the Withlacoochee River and hiked the Florida National Scenic Trail along its banks. On Jan. 17, 75 paddlers joined us at Withlacoochee State Forest for our first weekly "Trail-mixer," this time hosted by the Florida Forest Service.

We parted ways with our guests and the Withlacoochee that afternoon and spent the night at Chinsegut Hill near Nobleton. The next morning we left this 250-foot-high sand hill and bicycled 30 miles west to the coast. Crawling up the peaks and racing down the valleys of the Brooksville Ridge burned my legs and gave perspective to the water's journey — why the Withlacoochee had turned north to find a lower path of resistance to the gulf.

Bicycling, we traversed a patchwork of state forest and agricultural lands that could potentially work as a corridor, but also passed new subdivisions, a golf course and shopping plaza at U.S. 19, breaking up the habitat and making connectivity more difficult. This fragmentation is likely the reason the black bear population surviving in Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge is said to be the most isolated and genetically impoverished in the world.

Our camp on Crawford Creek was near the end of the Chassahowitzka River's 5-mile path to the gulf. We had swum and filmed its headsprings before paddling west, giving a glimpse into the aquifer and taste of the days to come. We will explore coastal springs, hopefully with manatees, as we paddle north through the saltmarsh past Crystal River, before reconnecting with the Withlacoochee River where it completes its 141-mile journey to the gulf near Yankeetown.

Follow their progress here in Perspective, at FloridaWildlifeCorridor.org, wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu/term/florida-wildlife-corridor-expedition and on social media: Facebook.com/FloridaWildlifeCorridor; Instagram: @FL_WildCorridor; Twitter: @FL_WildCorridor. Follow Ward's photography at Instagram.com/CarltonWard and Facebook.com/CarltonWardPhotography.

Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition: An early fog, a broken link 01/23/15 [Last modified: Saturday, January 24, 2015 6:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas sheriff's corporal had racist, sexist, pornographic content on his cell phone

    Public Safety

    LARGO — A Pinellas County sheriff's corporal resigned recently after an investigation into an alleged extramarital affair revealed a trove of racist, sexist and pornographic images on his personal cell phone.

    Shawn Pappas, 46, resigned as a training division corporal from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office after an investigation revealed a trove of offensive images and videos on his phone. This photo was taken as a screenshot from one of the videos released by the Sheriff's Office that Pappas filmed while on duty. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  2. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine reflects on the news from the Congressional Budget Office analysis that could imperil GOP leaders' hopes of pushing their health care the plan through the chamber this week, Tuesday, on Capitol Hill in Washington. [AP photo]
  3. Review: Dan Auerbach, Benjamin Booker plumb the past for inspiration on new albums

    Music & Concerts

    It didn't take Benjamin Booker long to get lumped in with the greats. The Tampa-raised singer-songwriter's 2014 self-titled blues-punk debut brought widespread acclaim, not to mention an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, a tour with Jack White and sessions with Mavis Staples.

    The cover of Benjamin Booker's new album "Witness." Credit: ATO Records
  4. Fourth of July in Tampa Bay: parades, hot dog parties, concerts and more things to do

    Events

    Looking for things to do on the Fourth of July in Tampa Bay? There is no shortage of patriotic events, from the Hot Dog Party concerts and eating contest in Tampa, to the parades in Land O' Lakes and Safety Harbor, to the swinging dance party at St. Petersburg's Museum of Fine arts, there's an abundance of things to do …

    The annual Independence Day parade in Brandon kicks off at 10 a.m. on July 4 at 101 E Lumsden Road. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times (2015)]
  5. Pasco deputies investigate vandalism at Crystal Springs Cemetery (w/video)

    Crime

    CRYSTAL SPRINGS — Pasco County deputies are looking for one or more suspects linked to vandalism of two grave sites in this community's small cemetery.

    An above-ground tomb disturbed by one or more suspects, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.