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Santa Fe River Beauty and Perils

Santa Fe Cypress Knees, the Buttresses of My Cathedral

Santa Fe Cypress Knees, the Buttresses of My Cathedral

Kayaking down the Santa Fe River recently, I came across this section of cypress knees and immediately felt that I was looking at some kind of spiritual edifice.  Though these knees were supporting much taller trees, I was drawn to the root structures and their reflections and the way they united earth and water and spiritual and material dimensions.  To experience the sacred in nature is profoundly regenerating to me, because when duality disappears externally it disappears within me as well.

Algae, Vegetation, and Cypress Knees, Santa Fe River

Algae, Vegetation, and Cypress Knees, Santa Fe River

A short way passed Rum Island, I came to this section of river and my heart sank.  There was lots of long ropey lyngbya wollei underneath the surface of the water and green slime proliferated above.  Saxitoxins (or Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning toxins) are frequently found in lyngbya  wollei.  Green algae leads to oxygen depletion, the blocking of light, and other issues that upset riparian ecosystems and some fear this will become the norm in Florida's waterways.  Frequently it becomes toxic and authorities then urge people to stay out of the water.

Pair of Turtles, Santa Fe River

Pair of Turtles, Santa Fe River

Turtles, birds, fish and other creatures inhabit thee compromised waterways and their health is impacted.  Turtles shells are often coated in algae that is the result of inadequately treated sewage manure, and fertilizers .  Serious algae outbreaks can be fatal to turtles and cause serious public health outbreaks in humans.   

Wood Stork Among the Cypress Knees

Wood Stork Among the Cypress Knees

Wood storks have been moved from the endangered to threatened list in Florida, but there is some debate as to whether this reclassification was premature and the result of pressure by developers so fewer wetlands would have to be preserved.  According to Audubon Florida, the nature cycle of high and low water in Florida's wetlands has become so altered that wood storks often can't find enough food for their young, who starve (http://fl.audubon.org/birds/wood-stork).

Vulture in Repose, Santa Fe River

Vulture in Repose, Santa Fe River

Though we think of vultures as being able to eat anything, and in fact they perform a valuable service in feeding on carrion, vultures are in danger of becoming extinct through ingesting dietary toxins.  This problem is most acute in India and Southeast Asia, but it could happen in the US as well.  Insecticides, rodenticides, and lead from ammunition are the biggest culprits here (https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/vultures-are-vulnerable-extinction).

Decomposing Trunk Providing Shelter for Other Life, Santa Fe River

Decomposing Trunk Providing Shelter for Other Life, Santa Fe River

Droughts and lower water levels from siphoning too much water from or rivers can lead to weakened root systems and even tree borers.  Thought it is somewhat alarming to see the base of a tree decompose so much, these holes and chambers provide shelter for other creatures.

Roots Near the Rock Spring, Santa Fe River

Roots Near the Rock Spring, Santa Fe River

A little beyond the place on the river with the green algae, I came to this area that was the intersection of the spring run with the river.  Visiting this spot helped me visualize the connection between earth and water.  There was some algae even this short distance from the spring head, but the water was still much clearer than the tannin filled water of the main artery of the Santa Fe.

Ghostly Ginnie Springs

Ghostly Ginnie Springs

After I finished kayaking the river, I went back to my campsite near the headspring of Ginnie Springs.  When I got there it was getting late and the light was such that I was able to see ghostlike reflections that spoke to the fragility of the springs and the delicate balance they need to survive unimpaired.