Apalachicola River Walk: EcoAdventures North Florida

>>George Blakely: Are you guys hungry? Help
yourself to anything you see.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: The morning of day
three is a contrast in camping styles.>>Jill Lingard: It is funny to see the different
styles of camping ‘cause, we’ve done a lot of backpacking so, since we’ve had to
carry all our stuff on our back, we’re very minimalist. [laughs] And then there’s the four-course meals.
It’s amazing!>>Su Ecenia: Sweet peppers, yes. I thought
that we were going to add, uh, salmon.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: Doug Alderson is leading
a three-day hike of public lands around the Apalachicola River.>>Doug Alderson: A few of us have hiked part
of the Appalachian Trail. I’ve hiked the whole thing, Jill has hiked most of it, Brandon’s
hiked some of it in the South. So, this felt like hiking the Appalachian Trail the last
few days. [music]>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: Apalachicola is a
town with a flavor all its own. A lot of that flavor comes from the river and bay with which
it shares a name. Over the last couple of years, I’ve tried to get a sense of this
by exploring the river on the RiverTrek paddles. But there’s only so much you can see from
inside a kayak.>>Doug Alderson: When you’re kayaking the
river, you’re just in this blue ribbon. And you see the shore, but you don’t realize
when you’re kayaking it that the flood plain will go, sometimes, a couple miles in either
direction. So this type of walk helps you appreciate how wide this floodplain is and
how it contributes to the whole system.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: On day one they bushwhacked
through Torreya State Park, including some familiar spots.>>Doug Alderson: And we hit Means Creek, which
we visited on the RiverTrek.>>Todd Engstrom: Yeah. Mm, hmm.>>Doug Alderson: We visited the cave.>>Todd Engstrom: Right.
>>Doug Alderson: We hiked up here and started doing cross-country again and came out somewhere
in here. We did the, had to do the road walk, because there’s a gap on private land.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: On day two they went
to the Nature Conservancy’s Bluffs and Ravines Preserve. I’d hiked there with Todd Engstrom
last fall.>>Doug Alderson: We started doing the steepheads,
through here. And then we kept going and ended up a little further south through the floodplain
along here. Hiked up Alum Bluff and ended about right there on Alum Bluff with the beautiful
view.>>Su Ecenia: We, we walked fast and hard yesterday.>>Jill Lingard: Lots of terrain, lots of ups
and downs. You didn’t often think you were in Florida anymore. So many of the vistas
looked like North Carolina or the north Georgia mountains. Really amazing. And some strenuous
hiking unlike I’ve experienced in Florida.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: Todd led us on the
third day of hiking.>>Todd Engstrom: We are on the bank of the
Florida River, which is sort of a tributary, or a slough, or a part of the Apalachicola
River system. And we walked out into the floodplain that is owned by the Northwest Florida Water
Management System. What we were doing today was exploring some
of the same territory that I was looking for the ivory billed years ago.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: The Ivory billed woodpecker
has likely been extinct for decades. When there was a possible sighting a few years
ago, the Apalachicola Basin was thought to be a favorable habitat. Todd was sent to look
for signs of the bird.>>Todd Engstrom: There were no ivory billed
out there, but I had an awful good time looking for them.>>Todd (to Annie): Even if we cross here,
we could probably get over that next one, but I know->>Annie Scmhidt: More sloughs.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: The fullness of the
sloughs dictated our path.>>Todd Engstrom: When I was doing that search,
I found patches of forest that I thought had never been cut. They appeared that way to
me. They weren’t big patches, but they were just patches with some pretty big trees that
had characteristics of old growth. I thought that I could take the group and we could find
those again, but there was so much water, that we were not able to get across the sloughs
back to those same patches. [dog paws splashing in water]>>Doug Alderson: I’m not a scientist but
the scientists tell us that if this flood plain didn’t flood and it didn’t fill
up these sloughs in the floodplain, the nutrients wouldn’t feed Apalachicola Bay and all the
life there, the oysters on up to the other sea life.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: As we learned on RiverTrek
2012, sloughs are how the river feeds the floodplain.>>Helen Light: The most common aquatic habitat
are sloughs. We have hundreds of them. The river channel is about a hundred and seven
miles long, and the number of miles of channels, other channels in the floodplain is four hundred
and something miles. So, when you’re talking about fish habitat, they really like these
woody banks and all of the woody debris that the invertebrates live on, and that’s what
they feed on and they can hide in those and escape from predation. All these banks, both
sides of all that four hundred miles of streams is a very, very important habitat for fish,
if it can be connected to the main channel, and if the main channel is high enough to
connect it.>>Dan Tonsmeire: Typically, the sloughs would
keep the backwater swamps wet year round. But in the last two droughts, some of the
backwater swamps that historically have never gone dry, actually dried out. And that’s
where we start to lose some of our species diversity, it’s when places that have never
been dry before are dry for months on end.>>Doug Alderson: You know, the water wars
need to be front and center, because it affects the whole ecosystem. But, also, we need to
appreciate these beautiful lands, the biodiversity here. Part of this walk helps people appreciate
this while system. If you don’t see it, you don’t feel it, you won’t love it,
and you won’t care as much about it.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: Taking the existing
segments of trails they hiked and connecting them would make a destination trail that could
attract more visitors to the area.>>Doug Alderson: (If) people just start thinking
of this area of the hiking Mecca of north Florida, which it already is in many ways,
but people think more of day hikes. But this would be a twenty-five mile trail, and it’s
pretty rugged, it’s up and down and so forth. It’s a good three-day trip, and that’s
a destination type thing. Plus, you can camp, you can see other sites in the area. So I
definitely think it would open up more opportunities for ecotourism in this area if you had a longer
trail.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: Doug led his group
through Torreya State Park, The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve,
and land owned by the Northwest Florida Water Management District. For more information
about hiking these lands, visit the websites on your screen. And for more videos on the
Apalachicola River and Bay as well as the other wild spaces in our area, visit wfsu.org/ecologyblog. For WFSU, I’m Rob Diaz de Villegas.

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