Leading up to the latest Florida/ Georgia Water Wars trial, we begin a two part look at the Apalachicola River and Bay. In today’s video, we explore a critical component of the watershed: Tate’s Hell and the Apalachicola River delta. The wetlands and waterways of the delta are key to the success of the Apalachicola oyster, and they’re fun to explore. As for those oysters, watch Local Routes at 8 pm ET on October 27 for a look at the recovery of fishery, which has been reeling since droughts in 2012.
The banjo tunes you hear in the video were composed by Chris Matechik. We last heard Chris jamming at Owl Creek on RiverTrek 2015 (with 4-year old Max dancing along). Chris is a marine technician at the FSU Coastal and Marine Laboratory.
Today on our Tate’s Hell kayaking trip, we’re heading off the trail map. Specifically, I’m looking at Florida Fish and Wildlife’s map of paddling trails in the Apalachicola River Delta. The suggested trips all head away from Tate’s Hell State Forest, while many waterways heading into the forest end in questions marks. It looks like we’re paddling into the unknown. And yet, that’s where we want to go to get a firm grasp of the river delta’s inner workings. Continue reading →
Thieving raccoons, high water on the Apalachicola, and learning to follow trail blazes make for a memorable camping trip for a WFSU producer and his son.
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU-TV
One Sunday, I was planting seeds with my son Max when I decided that we needed to go camping that next weekend. We were at the tail end of what I guess is Festival Season in Tallahassee, and it had been fun. We saw a lot of cool things, got a little wet as nature tested the “rain or shine” claims on festival posters. But it was an awful lot of spring weekends in town. It was time to get out. Continue reading →
This past Saturday, my son Max and I returned to Owl Creek to join a few dozen paddlers for a special event. The Apalachicola Riverkeeper welcomed the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition as they continue to make their way from the headwaters of the Everglades to Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola. While on the water, I could see that people liked the image of a father and son in a kayak. Other paddlers would occasionally say things like “That’s the right way to raise a kid.” Max and I made a little game of picking up trash along the creek, which garnered more positive comments. It feels nice to hear those things because, honestly, sometimes it feels like I’m just making things up as I go with this kid and his outdoor experiences. Continue reading →
Over the last two years, WFSU’s Rob Diaz de Villegas has documented the RiverTrek kayak journeys down the Apalachicola River. While he didn’t participate in this year’s paddle, he was able to tag along for a small stretch. He took with him the biggest fan of the work he produced on those trips- his son Max. Camping and kayaking with a three-year-old has its challenges, but can be rewarding in many ways.
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU-TV
Pulling into the Hickory Landing campsite on Owl Creek, I’m happy to see so many familiar faces. It’s the final night of RiverTrek 2014, and the paddlers’ families have been invited to camp out and see their loved ones off as they make the final approach towards Apalachicola. Some of us are here as part of the extended RiverTrek family, such as fellow ’12 paddlers Jennifer Portman and Chris Robertson, who were nice enough to bring a tandem kayak that I could use to explore Owl Creek with my son Max. If my participation in RiverTrek has reached one person, gotten just one person interested in the Apalachicola River, or in paddle sports, it’s this kid. And I couldn’t be happier to have him get a taste of the RiverTrek experience. But first I have to wake him up. Continue reading →
Dr. Todd Engstrom seeks a path around the many sloughs in our way. On Day 3 of the Apalachicola River Walk, he was taking us to patches of old growth forest where the extinct ivory billed woodpecker might have made a habitat. While north Florida looks largely “untouched,” much of it has been cut for timber at some point in the last couple of hundred years. There are trees that escaped this fate. They are hundreds of years old and not altogether common.
I fell in love with the idea the first time I heard of it, this walk along the land surrounding the Apalachicola River. I was standing on a sandbar just north of Alum Bluff. After a day of kayaking the river, we set up camp and got to socializing. Doug Alderson told me of this thought of his, a hike taking about seven days, from the top of the river to the bottom. You can see how the river changes as you paddle, from tall bluffs in the north on down to the marshy delta. We would be in those systems as opposed to passing by them on the water.
Video: Kayak adventure in the upper Apalachicola, where we find Florida’s tallest river bluffs face a decades old man made threat. Also, higher water lets us deeper into Sutton Lake, a back woods swamp where the oldest and largest tupelo and cypress trees of the Apalachicola basin are found.
Alex Reed inspects rubble from the Alum Bluff landslide.
It’s amazing to see how much can change in one year on the Apalachicola River. I’ve previously mentioned the smaller sand bars and higher water. But the most striking visual difference is in the face of Alum Bluff, probably the iconic image of the upper river. In part 1 of this adventure, we approached it from land to be rewarded with possibly the best view of the river and the forest around it. In part 2, we kayak up to it. Last year, we camped there and had activities in the evening and following morning that kept me from just being able to hang out and enjoy the bluff from my boat. As I did so this year, Alex Reed, our co-captain as well as a geologist, was inspecting the rubble from a landslide that occurred earlier in the year. Some of the rocks unearthed were millions of years old. Continue reading →
After having partaken in the last couple of RiverTrek paddles down the Apalachicola River, I have to commend Georgia Ackerman and Doug Alderson for the work they put in to planning the trips. A dozen paddlers of multiple experience levels paddle 107 + miles (once you factor in side trips) over five days, camping along the way. Even a relative newbie like me can tag along and find myself alive in Apalachicola five days later. Continue reading →
Video: Kayaking in, and hiking around, the Apalachicola River.
Last year’s RiverTrek kicked off a year where we made the Apalachicola River and Bay a focus of the In the Grass, On the Reef (IGOR) project. As with this year’s video, last year’s was a two-parter. Watch Part 1, Days 1 and 2, here. Watch Part 2, Days 3 through 5, here. In Part 2, we looked at how low river flows last year precipitated the crash of the Apalachicola Bay oyster fishery. Shortly after, IGOR team member Dr. David Kimbro began investigating the oyster stocks more closely. You can follow that research here.
This video focuses on a 5-day kayak and canoe adventure down Florida’s longest river. RiverTrek is a fundraiser for the Apalachicola Riverkeeper. Riverkeeper staff and volunteers have been an immense help in producing our Apalachicola videos and in getting them seen. Thank you to Dan, Shannon, Tom, Georgia, Doug, and everyone else for allowing us to be part of the adventure.
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU-TV
Getting back on the Apalachicola River for RiverTrek 2013, we’ve come full circle. On RiverTrek 2012, we journeyed down the entirety of the Apalachicola River, and explored some of the area around it. We climbed the tallest river bluff in Florida, Alum Bluff. In a wild corner of Torreya State Park, we followed Means Creek into a small ravine and ultimately into a cave. We camped on sand bars, many of which were augmented by river sediments dredged by the Army Corps of Engineers, and climbed the largest sand spoil of them all- Sand Mountain. When the trip was over, our collaborator, Dr. David Kimbro, started his research into the cause of the Apalachicola Bay oyster fishery collapse. Within a few months, we traveled from the top of Alum Bluff to the bottom of Apalachicola Bay, all in an attempt to better understand this large and complex river and bay system. Continue reading →
RiverTrek paddlers are raising funds for the Apalachicola Riverkeeper, an organization whose mission is to “provide stewardship and advocacy for the protection of the Apalachicola River and Bay, its tributaries and watersheds…” (participating media members do not raise funds). At the end of the paddle, on October 12, there will be a reception in Battery Park in Apalachicola. There, people can greet the paddlers and bring non-perishable food items in benefit of Franklin’s Promise. Franklin’s Promise aids the families affected by the failure of the Apalachicola Bay oyster reefs.
“The Good Lord giveth, and Georgia and the Corps taketh away.” Those words were spoken by Jon Steverson, Executive Director of the Northwest Florida Water Management District. He was testifying before Florida senators Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R) during a special field hearing to address the collapse of the Apalachicola Bay oyster fishery. The high-profile event, held two weeks ago in Apalachicola, marked almost one year into a particularly turbulent era for this region. Just one year ago, I was preparing to kayak the Apalachicola River for RiverTrek 2012. The winter bars in the bay were just days away from opening. When they did, a lot changed, including the nature of the RiverTrek videos we were to make, and the In the Grass, On the Reef project as a whole. Continue reading →
The leaders of SMARRT look on as Dr. Karl Havens presents the Oyster Task Force’s report.
This past Wednesday researchers from the University of Florida Oyster Recovery Team presented their report on the state of Apalachicola Bay oyster fishery. The Apalachicola Community Center was filled with concerned locals, many of which were oystermen. They were looking for news on the crash of the fishery and recommendations for future action.
The task force is made up of UF researchers and our collaborator, Dr. David Kimbro of Northeastern University (and until recently, Florida State University). They collected and analyzed historical sets of data on the health and abundance of oyster stocks in the bay, and added current field observations. This data was then used to create a model which would predict the success of restoration efforts under different flow conditions on the Apalachicola River. Continue reading →