In 2012, WFSU had the good fortune of participating in the RiverTrek paddle down the Apalachicola River. Over five days, we saw the entirety of the main river channel. We climbed Alum Bluff, the river’s highest. We saw modifications made by the Army Corps of Engineers, intended to deepen and straighten the river. We experienced the richness of this river system as Apalachicola Bay faced a long-feared disaster: the collapse of its oyster industry due to reduced freshwater flow.
During the subsequent years, we’ve repeatedly returned to Apalachicola River and Bay. Our research collaborators investigated the specific causes of the Apalachicola Bay oyster collapse. We’ve paddled the Dead Lakes and sampled the world famous tupelo honey made between the Apalachicola and Chipola rivers. We’ve hiked forested wetlands, where sloughs seasonally receive the river’s flow and send nutrients to estuaries at the mouth of the river. We’ve gone fishing with a man whose family has lived in the river basin for seven generations, and who looks to preserve the culture in which he was raised.
We keep coming back because the river’s challenges are more complicated than lawsuits between Florida and Georgia. We keep coming back because there is much more to explore in river basin, and its story is constantly evolving.
Apalachicola Bay Oysters
Until recently, Apalachicola Bay provided 90% of Florida’s oyster harvest. That was until the winter reefs opened in September of 2012 to reveal that the reefs had been decimated. In 2013, Dr. David Kimbro and his graduate student Hanna Garland conducted surveys and experiments to determine the cause of the oyster fishery crash. By sampling on a regular basis, they hoped to see how growth and survival of oysters changes over time and under different conditions. Learn more about what David, Hanna, and company are doing in the bay here.
We joined the paddlers of RiverTrek 2012 on a five day adventure down the Apalachicola River. RiverTrek is a fundraiser to benefit the Apalachicola Riverkeeper. Riverkeeper works with officials and organizations in the three states in which the Apalachicola/ Chattachootchee/ Flint basin is contained, hoping to restore water flow to the many ecologically and economically sensitive habitats of the Apalachicola River Basin. More about RiverTrek 2012 here.
We returned to the river a year later for a couple of days of RiverTrek 2013. After a healthy wet season, we had to relocate campsites and were able to push further into the “quintessential” tupelo swamp, Sutton Lake. While the system received much needed water, larger issues remain.
The Apalachicola river basin is rich with biological diversity and cultural heritage. We explore floodplain forests, the Dead Lakes, and hike the lands around the river. Our adventures continue, as the Apalachicola watershed contains many tributaries, creeks, swamps, and forests, and many people have deep relationships with this land and water.
Apalachicola River Wildlife & Environmental Area
Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve
Apalachicola River WEA Paddling Trail System
Great Florida Birding Trail
Apalachicola National Forest
Torreya State Park
Apalachicola Bluffs & Ravines Preserve
Tate’s Hell State Forest