Spring in the Big Cypress Swamp
Camp Six Pack is in a remote part of
the Big Cypress Swamp. Its just about as far as you can get from a paved
road in Florida. Remote as it is, We still get drop in visitors. We
don't mind honest people, that stop to look the camp over, maybe get a
drink of water and then continue on their way. Be sure to stop by and say
"Hello", when we are at camp. In the early years we never even
locked up the camp. Other nearby camp owners would stop by to borrow
something and return it when they were done with it. We had one nearby
camp owner that was especially fond of Vodka and if he ran out in his
camp, he would come and borrow ours. He always returned it, usually in a
bigger bottle then he borrowed. We never had a problem with that. It is
our bond with the sportsmen, that if they need something to help them get
out of the swamp, they are welcome to it, just let us know and return it
on the next trip.
Over the last years there have been
a few items borrowed that never found their way back to us. For months
after we saw something missing, we expected to see the item returned on
our next trip. A few items have not been seen for more then few years and
our expectation of seeing them again is gone. That does not change our
bond with the sportsmen that need help and our policy is still the same.
But, that being said, if you come to Camp Six Pack, smile you will be on
candid camera. The pictures below, taken with our security cameras have
intentionally been fuzzed, to protect the identity of the visitors in the
picture. The cameras will not stop a problem, but Its a simple matter of
taking the picture to the NPS and matching them up with the ORV driver
license picture to identify the visitor. (I know of other camps that
have better camera systems then ours). Welcome to the Big Cypress
Swamp and enjoy it, but even when we are not there, we know when we have
visitors, both people and other swamp critters.
Visitor caught on Security Camera
Visitor caught on Security Camera
Gator hole in a cypress head
The Big Cypress Swamp is in its dry stage right now, in fact it is
suffering through one of the worst droughts we have had. As the waters
recede in the swamp, alligators go to the low spots in the cypress heads
and wallow out the mud, to create a water hole. Usually they visit the
same spot year after year, which creates a gator hole, usually with a
submerged tunnel in one of the banks. It is not unusually for a willow
tree to grow in that spot. The roots holding the bank together as the
gator creates a place of refuge in the bank.
Now you can look at this picture all you want for the gator, but the gator
had gone into its submerged tunnel in the bank, as soon as it detected me.
Nothing but bubbles and swirl in the water, letting me know he was there.
Here is a picture of another gator
hole, with the gator visible. In the early 1980s, these gator holes also
dried up and it was especially rough on the gator population at that time.
Hopefully, this years drought will not get that bad for the gators, but
South Florida is under strict water use restrictions right now and we
could sure use some rain.
Prairie Permanent Swamp Buggy
It's been there a long time Baby. This
abandoned swamp buggy has been sitting in this spot on the south end of
Airplane prairie, for longer then I have been going into the swamp.
I first saw it about 1972 and it looked then, pretty much like it looks
now. Its cement hard airplane tires and iron frame and engine are
not going anywhere. The window of opportunity to remove it is gone. The
NPS has an aversion to cutting cypress trees, which have now grown up
through it and being located on a off limits prairie will prevent
them from bring heavy equipment into play to remove it. So I would say, it
is pretty much there permanently.
So why not leave it? Its gas and oil pollutants are long gone. Rust does
not damage the environment. So leave it be, as a monument to those swamp
rats that came before the forming of the preserve. Its only going to be
seen in the future, by a few people with the tenacity to hike to the
prairie, once the designated ORV trails are fully implemented.
Riding the Old Buggy
(These guys had to hike a long way to visit this buggy)
Cabbage Palm & Cypress Tree in Prairie
Sunrise Ground Fog
An early morning arrival in the Big Cypress
Swamp is rewarded with a view of low hanging ground fog. On an open
prairie along US 41, the day starts to shake the darkness of the
night, this view rewarding the 4 a.m. wakeup. This is a view that does not
take special equipment to see. Just pull over on the side of the
road an take a minute to enjoy it. As I stopped to enjoy the morning view,
other vehicles whizzed by me along the Tamiami Trail (US 41). People too
much in a hurry to start the days activities, this view if seen at all at
60 miles per hour, needs to be savored at a more relaxed pace.
A cabbage palm and a cypress tree,
strange company in an open prairie, since one likes dry ground and the
other likes wet ground. The seasons in the Big Cypress, both dry part of
the year and wet the other part, provide enough of each for these to trees
to occupy the same ground. Such is the ways of the Big Cypress Swamp.
The Big Cypress Addition Lands
The original (1971),Act of Congress that
created the Big Cypress National Preserve, was amended in 1988, to include
an additional 144,000 acres of land, to the Big Cypress National Preserve.
The National Park Service is currently taking public comment on how this
land will be managed, how Off Road Vehicles (ORVs) will be managed and if
any of the land should be consider as "Wilderness" under terms of the
"Wilderness Act". I include here a link to the alternatives being
I would hope that you would read the alternatives carefully, before making
comment on them here:
Comments are due by June 15, 2007. If you don't have strong feelings about
the preserve, don't comment.
I could fill pages of my opinion on this issue, but I
only going to give you a few sentences. This area of the Big Cypress is
near an area that millions of people live, where recreational space
is needed and in short supply. Therefore the alternative that maximizes
the allowed recreational use, while protecting the land, is my preferred
alternative. The original preserve was created due to intense lobbying by
many groups, but the Sportsmen (hunting) groups were one of the most
insistent groups, in trying to protect the swamp. They were promised use
of the preserve, when it was formed and that promise needs to be kept in
the addition lands. Once ORVs are on sustainable designated trails, vast
areas of the addition lands, will be protected and basically unused,
because it is a swamp and not really suitable for walking during the wet
time of the year. The designation of "Wilderness area" is also
un-necessary, as the nature of the land, its unsuitability for use by man
most of the year, is its protector. Designating it as "Wilderness" creates
administrative issues and cost for the NPS, that are not required to
protect its wilderness characteristics. This land does not really meet the
requirements of "untrammeled by man" and "quiet area" as required by the
"Wilderness Act". So protect it as preserve land, not "Wilderness".
Boot Hill of Buckskin Prairie
Not really a hill, unless you consider a six inch rise in elevation as a
hill, but that is the name we call this place on Buckskin Prairie. Along
the trail to camp Six Pack is this place, that for as long as I have
known, is where people over the years have placed their old swamp boots.
This place to me represents all the sportsmen and outdoorsmen that have
proceeded us in the Big Cypress Swamp. The old timers that forged the way,
that homesteaded the swamp and many of whom helped protect it through
supporting the forming of the Big Cypress National Preserve.
They were a patriotic bunch, many with a heritage of the "Old South". Many
names come to mind, when ever I pass by this location, to many to list
here, but not forgotten by me or others.
On a weekend that I went to camp Six Pack alone, I stopped on the way home
at this spot to reflect on the "ole timers", that are represented by the
boots to me. The flag waving in a stiff, but cool breeze and the sun
shining to warm the heart and the soul. Remembrances of each individual,
as I went through whom was brought to my mind by this scene. Lost in time,
I eventually came to the end of my "ole timers", and continued my journey
home. The next person to pass will have his "ole timer" remembrances and
they will not be the same as mine. That is how it should be, a reflection
on those you knew and remember.
Sentinel Cypress Tree
A lone standing cypress tree, covered with
Spanish moss, standing as a sentinel over Ronnie's Pond is joined by a
Split Tail Kite on a hunting expedition over the pond, in a cloudless blue
sky. The dark mark at the bottom of the trunk, marking the normal water
level of the pond. The pond grasses and willows are greening up for
spring, while waiting for the rains to begin and the pond to fill,
releasing the alligators from their small muddy water holes.
Sentinel Cypress Tree at Ronnie's Pond
|Story by Steve - May 11, 2007