Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Perspective: A river goes underground

The Aucilla flows along the east side of the Red Hills region between Thomasville and Tallahassee. Closer to the Gulf of Mexico, in Aucilla Wildlife Management Area, limestone bedrock rises close to the forest floor, providing substrate for these rapids. Sinkholes and caverns eroded by the tannic water envelop the river underground; it disappears and reappears several times flowing to the coast.

Photograph by Carlton Ward Jr., carltonward.com

The Aucilla flows along the east side of the Red Hills region between Thomasville and Tallahassee. Closer to the Gulf of Mexico, in Aucilla Wildlife Management Area, limestone bedrock rises close to the forest floor, providing substrate for these rapids. Sinkholes and caverns eroded by the tannic water envelop the river underground; it disappears and reappears several times flowing to the coast.

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 fifth week.

The ribbon of damp earth is punctuated by limestone ledges, their bronze patinas textured by mosses a few shades darker than the palmettos skirting the footpath. In the flat, predawn light, sturdy tree trunks define the shifting horizon and measure forward progress. Weaving among oaks, sweetgums, maples and palms, we descend toward the sounds of swishes and ripples of water rushing over rocks.

Drawing closer, the Aucilla River reveals itself beneath a sheath of fog insulating it from the cold morning. Fighting with numb fingers, I set my tripod low among cypress knees and work to compose a frame that will hopefully capture even a bit of the awe I feel rediscovering this hidden corner of Florida's "Forgotten Coast." After a few long exposures, shafts of sunrise start to break up the scene. I pack my camera and head downstream seeking a different view. After a couple hundred steps, the forest closes in from both banks and the river swirls like a giant bathtub drain and disappears underground. This section of the Florida National Scenic Trail is named the Aucilla Sinks Trail for the series of circular sinkholes that provide portals to the river as it flows beneath and through the limestone bedrock.

Having biked several straight days from the northern Nature Coast around the Big Bend, it feels good to slow down and begin more than a week hiking the Florida Trail. It will carry us to the wild heart of the corridor and halfway point of the expedition. With five weeks and more than 500 miles behind us, my body has finally adapted to our pace. That's a good thing because our first day back under the weight of our backpacks included 18 miles through St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, 2 miles through shin-deep water and much of it in the rain. When fighting the wet wind to set camp on a berm looking over a vast salt marsh and the Gulf of Mexico, fellow expeditioner Mallory Lykes Dimmitt said we had reached the end of the Earth.

Four more days in the refuge, the trail entered the 632,000-acre Apalachicola National Forest, which combined with adjacent conservation lands, anchors nearly a million protected acres. On scale, it's the Everglades of North Florida. Still east of the Apalachicola River, we hiked along the wild and twisted Sopchoppy River and later waded through a 4-mile stretch of swamp that's part of the Bradwell Bay Wilderness Area. There were sections of the trail where Joe Guthrie, expedition member and bear expert, points out bear claw marks on what seems like every other pine tree.

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.

Perspective: A river goes underground 02/13/15 [Last modified: Friday, February 13, 2015 6:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Car bomb kills 13, injures 24 in Baghdad; Islamic State claims responsibility

    World

    BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded outside a popular ice cream shop in central Baghdad just after midnight today, killing 13 people and wounding 24, hospital and police officials said.

  2. Leaping shark floors angler in Australia

    World

    In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway's protagonist battles for three days to pull in his prized catch. For Terry Selwood, it came a little more suddenly.

    A 9-foot shark lies on the deck of a fishing boat at Evans Head, Australia on Sunday. Fisherman Terry Selwood said he was left with a badly bruised and bleeding right arm where the shark struck him with a fin as it landed on him on the deck. [Lance Fountain via AP]
  3. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  4. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber

    World

    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  5. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant

    Nation

    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]