Today’s field trip was to the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. For those of you who don’t know, a slough is an interconnection of two rivers, which often causes a swamp-like area. The water in the slough is slow moving because the area of Southwest Florida is flat. During the dry season that is virtually no flow of water, and in May there’s almost no water in the ponds at all. The preserve encompasses 3400 acres of land, is 11 miles long and 1.3 miles wide.
(Here we go!)
As the name suggests, the slough is basically one giant cypress dome. It’s been really flooded because of the amount of rain we’ve gotten lately. There’s more water here than there was at FGCU – thankfully we didn’t have to walk in the water this time. I’ll be honest, though, she said cypress dome and I instinctively reached for my bug spray – I’m trained at this point. I will not be defeated by the ninja mosquitoes again!
Our trip was broken up into different sections – the first was from the amphitheater to Gator Pond. We started at the amphitheater on Alligator Lake, where we learned that literally almost every lake in the state of Florida is manmade to look natural. That wasn’t really what we learned, but that’s what I took from the discussion. Alligator Lake gets its name from its large population of alligators. The light penetrates to the bottom of the lake, allowing plants to grow using primary production.
On our walk to Gator Pond, we stopped for a brief discussion about the land properties of the slough. Just like everywhere else, different trees grow differently depending on the elevation level of the trees. Though Florida doesn’t really have elevation in the traditional sense, it is easy to understand why a cypress tree may grow better in deeper water than a palm tree would.
(Cutest little turtle popping up to say “Hey!”)
(Our view to Gator Pond)
After we had seen Gator Pond, we made our way on to Wood Duck Pond. While this is still a cypress dome area, the ecosystem is markedly different from the beginning of the walk. There are more ferns and ground cover in this area, which allows for more sun penetration. The tiny fish that live in this area are provided more protection from predators by this ground cover. It’s at this point that we began seeing a lot of lichen on the trees as well. Lichen are an indication of air quality, so all of the coverage stands as a testament of how clean the air is inside the slough.
(Freddy Fungus and Ally Algae took a lichen to one another…HA!)
(Arriving to Wood Duck Pond)
Though the view at Wood Duck Pond was beautiful, I was eager to keep going to my favorite pond: Otter Pond. Though the whole preserve is peaceful and calming, my favorite place to be is Otter Pond. Otter pond is bigger and deeper than Wood Duck Pond, but quieter. There isn’t much vegetation in the middle of the pond – plants have trouble putting down roots – and there is shorter vegetation around the edge of the pond. As we were walking, we passed this giant Cypress tree that’s basically created its own island and ecosystem – in the middle of the pond. It’s estimated to be over 100 years old, and maybe one of the oldest in the slough. The tree has created a complete ecosystem at its base – with lizards, spiders, and other insects living on it.
(The colors in this photo are so pretty)
(I aspire to be the life of the party like this tree)
(Peaceful level: 1000)
Once we got to Otter Pond, the group had a hard time getting me away. It’s so peaceful and quiet there. I love to just sit and watch the water, listen to the animals around, and think about life. Unfortunately for me, we had to keep moving along. Our next stop was Pop Ash Pond, where they have built a pavilion to sit. The pavilion has a bird blind made into it, which allows photographers to take photos without disturbing the birds on the pond.
Now that we’ve made the whole loop, it’s time to head back to home base. The walk back was pretty much the same as the walk around – once you seem one cypress tree, you’ve pretty much seen them all. That being said, we did manage to see a marsh rabbit on our way back, which was pretty cool for me.
(He’s playing hide n seek….can you spot him?)
Before we left the slough, we visited the welcome center for some much needed air conditioning. You know us Floridians and our air conditioning! While in there, I learned that the idea for the slough had come from a group of high school kids who didn’t want the beautiful green space to be torn up. They launched a campaign to keep the green space so that they could bring their children to the area when they grew up. It’s actually pretty cool to think about – if a group of high school students can keep a slough, imagine what a group of college kids could do.
(I wouldn’t want to run into that gator)
(A plaque for the original group)