Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Canoe Trip in the Mangroves

This past week we moved up from Naples, where we were staying with Linda and John, to Fort Myers Beach RV park and camped next to Chuck and Julie. It was a relaxing week, with little to do but read and play cards.

On Wednesday, we did return to Collier Seminole State Park and Shark Valley. We had booked a 9:30 narrated canoe trip through the Mangrove swamp surrounding Collier Seminole, so we had to leave Ft. Myers at seven to accomplish the two hour drive. Linda and John planned to met us at the boat dock and were already there when we drove in.

The Florida State parks that we have been in, are very well taken care of and usually seem to have unlimited numbers of cheerful, helpful volunteers on staff. This park had a screen house where they served coffee, tea, donuts, bagels or toast for anyone who showed up. While we were taking part, we met our boat guide, a husband and wife volunteer team, who were retired teachers. They had been at this park for 8 weeks and were planning on staying through March. Dozens of other volunteers were busy setting up for a Bluegrass festival that was being held here over the weekend. Like I said, Florida State Parks are doing it right.

Since Linda and John have never done any canoeing, they split up with Marlin and I. What I did not realize until we were an hour into the trip was that Linda really wanted to go with Marlin, (she thought she would be safer) and got stuck with me. She had seen two alligators at the boat landing while we were receiving our safety instructions and was not too excited about paddling along with those guys. Oh well, we didn’t dump, only crashed into the mangrove twice, and in two days she had recovered the ability to move her arms.

This water passage through the mangrove must be maintained or the trees will do what they do naturally and fill in the opening in the waterway. Since the mangrove is protected, even the park needs a permit to trim back the dangling shoots that sprout from the trees but have not yet reached the water. Once they reach the water and are planted in the soil to become roots, they cannot be removed. We did not see any birds because the tide was high, but we were able to pick out the tiny mangrove crab that lives on these trees and roots, as well as a snail who makes his home here also.

Not a particularly exciting 4 mile paddle, but good to be out on the water in the sunshine. We picnicked at the park then dove on to Shark Valley for a 3:00, 15 mile, tram tour through the sea of grass, including a stop at an observation tower. Shark Valley is where we stopped at dusk, on our way back from the Keys and took pictures of all the alligators and birds beside the parking lot.

The tram is narrated by a naturalist and makes stops for any interesting sights along the way. Of course there were multiple large, medium, and small alligators the entire trip, but after a while they discontinued stopping for each sighting. Flocks and flocks of white and glossy ibis, blue heron, great egrets, and snowy egrets with their flashy yellow feet. Several storks and even one lonely Rosette spoonbill seen in the distance. The driver stopped to give us a look at an alligator nest that was very close to the road. This mother had built her babies a home high above the high water mark. Local lore said that meant that the next rainy season would bring extra high water into the area. Swimming near by was a mom with her last year's babies. Apparently, mama alligator watches over her young for at least two years. The naturalists said they grow about one foot per year and when they get to be about three years old they like to eat their new siblings. That is when they get chased out of the nest.

The tram makes a 20 minute stop at a tower that sits next to a slow moving river. It takes about 20 minutes to climb up and down again, especially when you are mesmerized by the huge numbers of alligators, birds, fish and turtles that congregate at the base. You can really see why these reptiles don’t have any interest in people, they have the lunch of their choosing spread out around them all the time.

The highlight of the return loop was a stop to see three baby anhinga chicks in a nest right next to the road. We were told they were about three weeks old and would fledge in about another week, after their parents taught them to swim. These birds swim underwater and spear fish with their long straight beaks.

After the tram ride we stayed along the canal to watch the wonderful roosting flights of ibis that we had seen last time we were here. The ibis, along with many other species seem to like this spot to spend the night. There were several flocks that did fly in as the sun set, but not as many or as large as the landings we had witnessed before. Of course we took more pictures, just like the ones we already had dozens of, but they are so close and tame that it is impossible not to take more.

All in all a great wilderness day, topped off by dinner at Mel’s Diner with good friends.

Another Tri Colored Heron

Another Great Egret

Nice dental work

Three baby Anhingas

View from the tower. This is just one side, they are all around the base

The Blackwater river waterway

Boat Dock at Collier Seminole State Park

The walking Dredge. This machine was used to construct the Tamimi Highway. It scooped up the blasted limestone and mud to make borrow piles that were used for the roadbed. The feet originally had skids attached. When the center one pressed down to take the weight, cables moved the front and back forward.

Diagram of how the dredge moved.

With Chuck in the picture you can see how huge this machine was.

Julie getting more bird pictures

Sunset from the Condo where Linda and John are.

Other local wildlife

Next week we move north toward Cape Kennedy. The launch that we plan to see has been postponed twice so far, but we are still hoping it will go soon. Keep in touch.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see you got off. See, I found the comments, you may be sorry. Have a safe trip. Look forward to reading all about it. Ruthie