1. Opinion

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.
Published Jan. 24, 2015

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, and on social media:; Instagram: @FL_WildCorridor; Twitter: @FL_WildCorridor. Follow Ward's photography at and


  1. Here’s what readers had to say in Sunday’s letters to the editor.
  2. Editorial cartoon for Saturday/Sunday Andy Marlette/Creators Syndicate
  3. Stock photo. MORGAN DAVID DE LOSSY  |  Getty Images/iStockphoto
    I’m a new mom -- again -- and please remember that many mothers would welcome government policies that make it easier for them to stay home with their kids than returning to work. | Column
  4. Josh Hensley, 43, was found in the waters of Kings Bay in Crystal River. He was known for dressing as Jack Sparrow. Facebook
    Here’s what readers had to say in Saturday’s letters to the editor.
  5. David Colburn was the former provost and senior vice president of the University of Florida. JAMIE FRANCIS  |  Tampa Bay Times
    He believed that diversity is our strength, and that the way to overcome division is to shine light in dark corners, writes Cynthia Barnett.
  6. Adam Goodman, national Republican media consultant
    With Washington once again failing to embrace reforms following mass shootings, it’s up to Americans to create a movement to demand change. | Adam Goodman
  7. Couple, Lewis Bryan, 36, (back left) and Amber Eckloff, 33, pose for a portrait with their children, (From left) D'Angelo Eckloff, 14, Rasmus Bryan, 4, Ramiro Bryan, 10, Lothario Bryan, 6, and Alonzo Bailey, 17. The family has been living at the Bayway Inn on 34th St S. Friday, Aug. 30, 2019 in St. Petersburg.  MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE   |   TIMES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    When about 40 percent of city households are spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, something has to change.
  8. A judge ruled in June that it is up to Hillsborough County Commissioners to decide how much money the bus agency and other transportation projects get from the one-cent transportation sales tax voters approved in November. The board did just that this week.[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
    Hillsborough commissioners follow through on transportation funding.
  9. From left to right: Florida Department of Transportation workers inspect damage to the Interstate 175 overpass at Sixth Street S caused by a roll-off dumpster truck that left its hydraulic arm upright, according to St. Petersburg police [JAMES BORCHUCK | Tampa Bay Times]; Former Pinellas school guardian Erick Russell, 37, is accused of pawning the Glock 17 9mm semiautomatic pistol, body armor and two magazines he was issued to protect students [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]; Johnna Lynn Flores [AUSTIN ANTHONY | Tampa Bay Times] Tampa Bay Times
    Here are three examples of routine information Tampa Bay governments kept from the public this week.
  10. Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos; Florida state Sen. Tom Lee presides over the Senate's committee on infrastructure and security in Tallahassee, Fla., Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. The committee is considering new legislation to help address mass violence. (AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan) Times files/Associated Press
    Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos and state Sen. Tom Lee speak up. When will others?