Cottonmouth hides behind low branches in the Apalachicola River delta.

RiverTrek 2012 Part 2 | Apalachicola River Delta

In today’s video, we kayak the lower Apalachicola and finish our RiverTrek 2012 adventure.  We also join the Army Corps of Engineers in Apalachicola Bay, where oystermen show them the damage done by low river flows.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV


Did you enjoy Part 2 but haven’t seen Part 1 yet?  Watch it here.

In the video above, I say something like “and just like that, RiverTrek was over.”  Except, for me, it kept going on for another month as I edited two video segments.  This post is the end of my RiverTrek 2012 experience (edit 9-13-18- I ended up having a few more RiverTrek adventures).  I’ll end it by writing an update from our last day on the trip.  I did updates every other day, but on this day,  I was reunited with my wife, Amy, and one year old son Max.  We had dinner in Apalachicola and then drove home to Tallahassee, and so I didn’t end up writing that day’s post.

It was on our last lunch of the trip.  As you can see, we aren’t stretched out on a wide sandbar.  We stopped seeing those midway through Day 4, just south of Sand Mountain at Mile Marker 36.  We’re in the river delta now.  It’s flatter, and we keep passing waterways that branch off from or join the main channel.  And it’s swampier here.

We had to do a little scouting to find a spot where we could all sit somewhat comfortably.

As I paddled in, I brushed against a low branch and found myself snagged on something.  Once I noticed what it was, my brain was slow to sort out the correct order of action, which was to stop the kayak and THEN remove the hook.  You see these hooks hanging off of low branches along the lower half of the river, often marked with a fluorescent flag to avoid such incidents.  I had even gotten footage of a few of them.  When Georgia heard that I had been snagged, she gleefully asked “was there any blood?”  I guess that’s what I get for making her pose with a bloody finger and the hook that got her and then posting it here a couple of months ago.  No blood though, it just snagged my shirt.

I wasn’t the only one with a close call on our lunch break:

Cottonmouth hides behind low branches in the Apalachicola River delta.

Bryan Desloge once again flaunted his uncanny ability to startle venomous snakes.  This one had been hanging out under the log where Bryan chose to eat his lunch.  When Bryan sat down, it slithered by his feet to hide in the brush.  The paddlers among us who were knowledgeable about snakes had a hard time identifying it, feeling that looked like a cottonmouth but that the coloration was wrong.  Had Bryan discovered a new subspecies?  After the trip, Doug Alderson wrote no less of a snake expert than Dr. Bruce Means, who confirmed that it was a cottonmouth.  “That drab, rusty/muddy color on a cottonmouth is pretty common in muddy rivers.” wrote Dr. Means,  “I see it a lot in [the] Apalachicola, Choctawhatchee, and Escambia rivers.  I think it is dried silt on the snake’s back.  When I catch one and wet it, the natural colors come out but then the snake
gets drab again when dry.”

We ended lunch by looking at these tracks in the sand.  These were even more difficult to identify than the snake.  Consulting his field guide, Doug concluded that they were mink tracks.  It was surprising to most of us that mink lived along the Apalachicola, but that just goes to show you why it’s considered a biodiversity hotspot.

Yellow bellied slider or Suwanee cooter?
Yellow bellied slider or Suwannee cooter? I can never tell.

So now, a month later, RiverTrek is over but the problems in the river, basin, and bay remain.  As my In the Grass, On the Reef collaborator Dr. David Kimbro gears up to further investigate the oyster reefs in the bay, our focus when it comes to Apalachicola will shift there.  But while our primary area of concern is estuarine ecosystems, our EcoAdventure segments do lead us inland and up rivers.  So, we’re likely to be back on the River on this blog (Here are those stories).

Related Links

For more information on the Apalachicola RiverKeeper, visit their web site.  (They’re also on Facebook).

The Army Corps of Engineers is updating the Apalachicola/ Chattahoochee/ Flint Master Water Control Manual, and they are taking public input.  You can let your voice be heard here.

The Franklin County Promise Coalition is coordinating aide efforts for families that are being affected in Franklin County through their Bay Aid program.   As Dan Tonsmeire told us in his original interview with us back in August, over half of the residents of Franklin County depend on the river for their livelihoods.  Learn more about volunteering and other Bay Aid opportunities here.

In the Grass, On the Reef is funded by the National Science Foundation.

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WFSU producer Rob Diaz de Villegas prepares to set off from Owl Creek on the morning of RiverTrek day 5
WFSU producer Rob Diaz de Villegas prepares to set off from Owl Creek on the morning of RiverTrek day 5.

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About Rob Diaz de Villegas

Rob Diaz de Villegas is a senior producer for WFSU-TV, covering outdoors and ecology. Early in his television career, Rob focused on music production. After a couple of years of producing and editing Spanish and bilingual music video shows in San Antonio, Rob returned to Tallahassee in 2002 to resume production of his local music performance show, OutLoud. From that, he transitioned to local music documentaries, until one day he found himself standing in a muddy salt marsh with a camera, and his life was changed forever. Rob created this blog for a National Science Foundation funded marine biology project called In the Grass, On the Reef. No one asked Rob to expand on this work and cover all ecology in our area, but it seemed like a good thing to do. Subsequent projects under the Ecology Blog umbrella include EcoShakespeare (funded by WNET and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) and Roaming the Red Hills (funded by Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy). His most recent documentary follows the lives of four red wolf pups born at the Tallahassee Museum, apex predators that once hunted in our local wild spaces. Rob is married with two young sons, and they try to have outdoor family adventures as often as possible (you might see them on the blog from time to time).

4 thoughts on “RiverTrek 2012 Part 2 | Apalachicola River Delta

  1. I was born in Apalachicola, my daddy was an oysterman and fisherman. I used to go out with him. The seafood was plentiful but I am 61 years old now. Some of my family is still there so I keep up with the news. I really enjoyed keeping up with your trip, hope something can be done about the water supply. The way of life as I knew it has changed drastically, the Corps of Engineers need to get it and so does congress. Thanks guys for all that you are doing. Vicy Bryant Mclane

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