Welcome to Part 4 (of 10) of Roaming the Red Hills, which originally aired on the April 7 episode of WFSU’s Local Routes. Through ten 3-minute videos, we’ll explore the natural soul of the Red Hills of Florida and Georgia, from the pine uplands down to its rivers, lakes, and farms. Thanks to Tracy Horenbein for creating original compositions for this video series. The series is narrated by Jim McMurtry.
“There’s a lot of effort to restore longleaf. I don’t know that there’s a lot of effort to restore slope forests like this (one).” I’m talking to Beth Grant, founder and president of Lost Creek Forest in Thomasville, Georgia. Lost Creek is located in the land of Red Hills hunting plantations, where landowners dutifully burn longleaf forest to create an open habitat for quail (with the small added benefit of promoting the plant and animal biodiversity of hundreds of other species). When properly burned, it seems like you can see forever between widely spaced pines. Then, maybe, you turn your head and your view is blocked by a shadowy spot in the canopy. Instead of longleaf pine and grasses, this place is hardwood trees and vines, and the ground is covered with leaves. There may be a creek, or a river, or some other stream just beyond those hardwoods. That darker place next to the longleaf forest is an ecosystem that separates it from the water- a slope forest. Continue reading →
Video: We travel down the Aucilla River, the eastern boundary of the Red Hills region, the dark water of which preserves some of the nation’s oldest archeological sites. It’s also a challenging kayak and canoe trail.
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU-TV
Until paddling the Aucilla River during the production of this video, I had never had to portage on a river. For non-paddlers, portage is when you take your canoe or kayak out of the water to navigate around an obstacle. And on that day, there were plenty of obstacles. The Aucilla River Paddling Trail Guide recommends the river be paddled by those with intermediate to advanced skills. Fallen trees and river bends, sometimes in a tricky proximity, had us pivoting at sharp angles. This was less of a challenge for the three kayakers on our trip, but David Ward and I each ferried a photographer on heavier canoes. If you’re looking for a Florida river on which to peacefully coast, this isn’t it. This is a more adventurous river; and one with thousands of years of human usage. Continue reading →
Winter came and went; only it seems to not have ever really arrived. Hiking is an activity best enjoyed during the cooler months, when there are less biting insects on the trails. We shot this segment at what should have been the end of hiking season, at the end of March. What we found on the Aucilla Sinks segment of the Florida National Scenic Trail, however, were Summer temperatures, unrelenting mosquitos, and scores of white spotted ticks- the ones that carry the nasty stuff. You know what, though? We still had fun. Continue reading →
Dimensions’ encore presentation on Sunday, April 15 at 10 AM/ ET on WFSU-TV On this blog, we usually refer to location we visit by the kind of habitat it is, and its foundation species. Salt marshes and cordgrass, oyster reefs and oysters, pine flatwoods and longleaf pine- you get the picture. We think of things biologically here, which makes sense, since my primary co-contributors are biologists and because our local abundance of life draws us to the outdoors. For the EcoAdventure airing tonight (7:30 PM/ ET on WFSU-TV’s dimensions), our draw is not biological but rather geological. Tonight, we’re going to a place in Florida where you can see some rocks.
From caves such as this one, the Aucilla reemerges periodically in sinkholes and short river runs.
The Aucilla River takes a unique path down to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a good sized river that all of a sudden gets swallowed by the earth, and then reappears in what Morgan Wilbur (Aucilla Wildlife Management Area’s Chief Biologist) calls karst windows, before resuming as a fully flowing river at Nutall Rise. So what is a karst window? They’re sinkholes, caused by the erosion of the limestone or dolomite that underlies most of our state. In a karst topography, rainwater moves through soil and through porous rock. In North Florida, that water ends up in the Floridan Aquifer, which is the source of our drinking water and of bodies of water such as Wakulla Springs. That water can wear down pieces of the rock as it passes through, causing cave ins. As extensive as the Floridan Aquifer is (North Florida and Georgia, and parts of Alabama and South Carolina), there aren’t many places where the land behaves quite like it does at the Aucilla Sinks. This is why Kent Wimmer of the Florida Trail Association wanted to show the area to us.
The Sinks section of the Florida Scenic Hiking Trail is where, as Kent says in the piece, “you can see Florida’s basement.” You can see places where the trees grow sideways as the land slowly gets pulled into holes where limestone had been. You are walking along what had once been underground caves, as evidenced by the walls of rock around you. And every sink looks different than the last; I feel like I could have shot for days there.
Tonight’s Dimensions program also has an interview segment on the Wild About Wakulla Week. Host Julz Graham talked with Jeff Hugo (Wakulla Wildlife Festival), Capt. James Hodges (Certified Green Guide & St. Marks Community Showcase Representative), and Dr. Madeleine Carr ( historian, “Conquistadors in the Fabled Land of the Apalachee”). We toured the Saint Marks River with Captain Hodges last December. You can watch that video here.