Dead Lakes–Pristine and Threatened

Fall Color Dead Lakes, with Osprey Nest ©Lynne Buchanan
I just returned from my first ever trip to Apalachicola, a true paradise in Florida but it needs our help. Dead Lakes is on the Chipola River near its confluence with the Apalachicola and is one of the richest ecosystems in Florida and where Tupelo Honey comes from.  The lake is filled with dead cypress stumps and there are many theories as to how these majestic trees died.  One is that there was a flood and massive influx of salt water, another is that sand bars were created when the current of the Apalachicola River blocked the influx of the Chipola, and a third has to do with the dam 513 that was built nearby but has since been removed due to public demand.  That dam destroyed the riparian landscape and deposited silt and muck on sandbars, which is gradually being cleared away now that partial natural flow has been restored.  The reason I say partial natural flow is that water levels are way down in the Lakes and on the Apalachicola River due to water wars between Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.  In fact, if much more water is diverted the water levels won't even be measurable on the gauge in Dead Lakes.  If the theory that an influx of salt water killed the trees is correct, then that is testament to the dangers of upsetting the balance between salinity and fresh water for ecosystems all along the river and throughout the world.  More will be discussed about this on my upcoming blog about the Apalachicola Bay. 

View from the Dead Lakes Viewing Platform ©Lynne Buchanan
I am pretty sure there was supposed to be water out here.  You can see the water line on the trees and why else would there have been a boardwalk and viewing platform?  Unfortunately, it was bone dry.

Kingfisher Surveying the Scene, Such a Long Way Down to the Water
©Lynne Buchanan

My guide Matthew Goodwin, owner of Off the Map Expeditions, took me out on a pontoon boat and told me that the low water levels are great for photographs, because more of the trees are exposed, but obviously not so good for the ecosystem.  

Corkscrew Stump ©Lynne Buchanan

Sewing Needle Stump ©Lynne Buchanan
The stumps form fascinating shapes and truly are a photographers paradise...

Birds Roosting in the Evening Light
©Lynne Buchanan

If We  Could Only Understand the Woodstork's Message
©Lynne Buchanan
Yet, Dead Lakes is home to a vast ecosystem besides the cypress including tupelo trees and bees, wood storks, ibis, herons, ospreys and other resident and migratory birds, bream, bass, perch, and catfish and many other creatures.  This is true for the entire Apalachicola River system, which needs enough freshwater to stay healthy.  

Stay tuned for more photographs and facts.  Just wanted to share a few images from my first afternoon there.

Thanks to Shannon Lease, Dan Tonsmiere, and the Apalachicola Riverkeepers for guidance and hospitality.  Looking forward to sharing many photographs from my visits to the Apalachicola and other rivers as I work on my upcoming exhibition for the South Florida Museum that is scheduled to open in February 2016.