Paddling the Apalachicola on RiverTrek 2012, Part 1: EcoAdventures North Florida

[music] >>Helen Light: This little piece right here is what you are on. This green ribbon here is not the river, it’s the flood plain, and the river is a tiny little channel snaking around back and forth in that flood plain. And you’re going to be on that little tiny channel. You’re not going to see much of the flood plain. The flood plain is huge. It’s the largest forested flood plain in the state of Florida, 112,00 acres. >>Jennifer Portman: It’s about this whole, big blue line, not just the tiny river line, but the all this that snakes down. That’s what matters. >>Rob Diaz de Villegas: When we started that morning, we had trouble even seeing that tiny river line, which isn’t so tiny when you’re in it.

We’re on the Apalachicola River, the water that feeds the famous oysters, the river you drive over on I-10. This was day one of RiverTrek 2012. Eleven paddlers tackled 107 miles in five days in a fundraiser for the Apalachicola Riverkeeper. >>Josh Bolick: It just seemed like a great way to spend five days on the river with a good group of people while also being able to help fundraising for a cause that I believe in and support. When she sent the e-mail, I sent back an emphatic all caps “YES,” single word answer. >>Rob Diaz de Villegas: Part of getting to know the river was getting to know the basin around it. >>Mike Mendez: I met Bruce Means, he’s kind of a legend. It’s just an interesting piece of north Florida that I had never seen before. I got to do a little spelunking, that was fun. >>Mark Ludlow: There’s only about a thousand of them left (torreya trees).

Most of them are right around here. So what you see now is just resprouts from residual root stocks. We have been mapping the locations of all of them. It’s a federally endangered species. We’re fencing them off to keep the deer off of them. [music] >>Rob Diaz de Villegas: After we set up camp, we attended a lecture. >>Helen Light: You all know a lot about the bay, and the impacts in the bay, you’ve been reading it in the paper. My talk is focused on the impacts on the river, which- there’s a lot of impacts that people don’t know about. There’s two types of habitats in the flood plain that are really really important. One is aquatic habitat and the other is forested or sort of terrestrial kind of habitats that are inundated. When the river is high enough… >>Rob Diaz de Villegas: She answered our questions until it was almost dark. >>Chris Robertson: I’ve been on a lot of rivers in Florida and I have never seen that.

That’s kind of an uncommon thing. >>Georgia Ackerman: So we’re starting to clean up and break camp and get ready to hike the bluff with some friends from The Nature Conservancy this morning. >>Doug Alderson: I was up there from the other side, I haven’t climbed it from the river. So it’s going to be exciting to climb up. It’s the highest river bluff anywhere in Florida, and so we’ll have a great view up there. The fog’s lifting a little bit to where I think we’ll have a wonderful view. It’s a dynamic place, so it’s… this is one of the outstanding campsites anywhere in Florida right here. >>Annie Schmidt: Good morning you guys. >>Off camera voice: Morning. >>Annie Schmidt: Aren’t you brave? You must have been chilly, but beautiful over there. >>Rick Zelznak (off camera): Is this part of the Garden of Eden Trail? >>Annie Schmidt: No! You guys are backstage.

[laughter] >>Annie Schmidt: You’re on the north end of the bluff. So you guys ready? We’re bushwacking. All right! So come on let’s come on up. >>Doug Alderson (off camera): Everybody making it? >>Jennifer Portman (off camera): Yep. >>Mike Mendez: Josh, I’ll carry you the rest of the trip. [laughter] >>Annie Schmidt: The sand hill kind of does come right up to the edge. And they’ve replanted some wiregrass, done some restoration work in here. So it’s starting to come back. >>Bryan Desloge:I felt something moving around my ankles, and it’s a snake. And then, I took a picture of it, and I called everybody else over. It turned out to be a copperhead. About two or three feet long. I’m assuming it was still a little cold. Welcome to living outdoors. >>Rob Diaz de Villegas: Six miles down the river, we took another quick side trip. >>Dan Tonsmeire (off camera): Sutton lake.

Most of these are cypress that have the big buttressed bottoms. But some of them are tupelo trees. They both have that same buttressed bottom because- where you see the green mossy part, when the river’s flooding it goes all the way up to that buttressed part. >>Helen Light: We studied the trees in the 1970s. We surveyed trees all up and down the river. My colleague, Melanie Darst, and I repeated a lot of those surveys in the 2000s to see how the flood plain had changed. And we determined that there was a loss of 4 million trees in the non-tidal flood plain, primarily in small swamps. And of those, the Ogeechee tupelo got hit the hardest. That happens to be the source of tupelo honey, is the Ogeechee tupelo. Tupelo requires wet conditions, and that’s why it suffered the most in these water level declines we’ve had over the last 30-40 years.

>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: In part 2, we conclude RiverTrek 2012. After a few side stops along the way. For WFSU, I’m Rob Diaz de Villegas..