This year I wanted to get out and try something a bit different for my holiday weekend. I would still do the BBQ thing on Monday, but I just wanted to be outside after a few stressful weeks indoors. I signed up for Clyde Butcher’s Annual Swamp Walk down at Big Cypress National Preserve. Now everyone was asking me why I would want to be in the swamp in the summer with all the bugs and alligators. I hope this short blog answers that question.
My friend Debbie and I headed out early in the morning because it is about a 4 hour drive from Tampa down to Clyde Butcher’s Gallery. We were scheduled for a 2 pm walk. Clyde Butcher is well known for his wonderful black and white photography. Through his camera lens many begin their love of the swamps and outdoors. He has photographed some of the most beautiful places in the world, but the Florida Everglades still remain magical to him. Each year he invites the public out to his “Loose Screw Sanctuary”. Here you will find a wonderful gallery of his work, 2 rental units that overlook the swamp – Swamp Cottage and Bungalow, bath-house, and picnic area. Their guided tours state that they are “for the
brave who dare to explore the difficult swamps and cypress strands in order to
understand the beauty and peace found in more than a million acres located in
the Everglades eco-system of South Florida.” I do not believe you need to be
brave as the water flowing over Western Portion of Big Cypress National Preserve is
crystal clear and you walk on mostly limestone bedrock. I am not saying it is
easy, there are roots and holes that you have to watch out for, but our guide
Bob showed us how to properly use our walking sticks (that were provided) and
he taught us many wonderful things about the swamp I never knew!
All the water that feeds the swamps west of Lake Okeechobeecomes from rain. The water in most places along this limestone shelf in under 3 ft deep. New soil is growing under that water. It takes thousands of years just to break down that limestone surface along with natural debris to make the smallest layer of dirt.
As we were guided thought the swamp we stopped often for photo opportunities, questions and to just look at where we were at. There were very few mosquitoes! We were told that this is because of a healthy population of Gambusia, these small fish love mosquito larvae and keep the numbers down in this area. Also we learned that snakes were more of a problem when water was very low. In the higher water the snakes actually feel the ripples of the water and just want to get away from the “predator” heading their direction.
Bob showed us amazing Dwarf Cypress, these small trees growth is stunted by the lack of nutrients available. He also answered many questions on pond apples, bromeliads and why we did not see any birds. There were birds all around us as he pointed out at one of our stops. We all were asked to be very quiet and still. Within seconds the swamp came alive with sound! We were surrounded by birds all just out of sight and joining their
chorus were a multitude of insects and frogs. It was amazing to hear all that
was around us when we just took a moment to listen.
Our walk in the swamp was too soon over and after we put on dry clothes we headed over to the gallery to see the swamp through Clyde’s eyes. His gallery is amazing and it was such a joy to meet him. I felt I was in the presence of royalty – this one man has so much influenced the world on the importance of saving the Everglades, this eco-system is unique in the entire world and he has shown us its beauty through his photographs. Clyde told us
stories of bringing many persons thought the swamp, even President Jimmy Carter
and his family – now that was a story!
Guided Swamp Walks require reservations and can be scheduled
by calling 239-695-2428 or by visiting www.clydebutcher.com
I encourage you to take some time and give this adventure a try. Next Labor Day, go down and meet Clyde, his wife Niki and their staff, take a swamp walk and visit the gallery. You will come away with a new appreciation for this small part of the world that remains wild and free.
For more information please check out the following links:
Additional photos from our trip can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150428929511982.451214.123289366981
Please consider Nota Clue Adventures when booking your
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