Tuesday, January 1, 2013

More St. Johns Details

The first post of the new year, and we’re down to the last few days before setting off for the St. Johns River, in Florida. It is North America’s answer to the Amazon River, and a chance to see some wild scenery and wildlife. As always, things need a few last minute checks to see what has changed since the plan was initially put in place. Our first destination is Middleton’s Fish Camp on Blue Cypress Lake, west of Vero Beach.

I emailed Jeanne Middleton to confirm our plans to camp there. She said she was looking forward to seeing us, but cautioned that we should plan carefully, as she had heard some of the hammocks further down river were flooded. (A hammock or hummock, used interchangeably, is a wooded knoll or ridge that rises above the marsh.) This is an extreme departure from when we tried to paddle the river two years ago, and were told there was so little water, that the riverbed was being run by ATV’s. In flooding conditions, arriving at a campsite to find that it’s under water would be a serious inconvenience when everything else around us would be alligators and moccasins. I emailed Steven Miller, Bureau Chief of the St. Johns River Water Management District, but also called the Palm Bay area office and talked with the land management official, Doug Voltolina. He said he had been in the area within the last couple weeks, and while there was indeed plenty of water, the campsites would be found above water. He cautioned, however, that there could be another problem.

Ibi at an earlier campsite.
The upper reaches of the river region are so remote that there is no way for the management district to supervise any camp reservation or permitting procedure. The sites are available on a first come-first served basis. The problem is that SJRWMD can’t police the area to enforce the seven day camping limit, so a lot of hunters come into the available sites in the fall and basically squat on them until spring. Regardless of when we arrive, we are likely to find the campsites already occupied, and it will be up to us to use diplomacy to obtain the privilege of using the remaining fringes of the camping area. In a spot like North Indian Field, this would be no problem, as it is large enough to bivouac an army. In most areas, however, like Great Egret, there’s only room for two small tents. Besides the adventures on the river, it appears camping may become an adventure as well.


No comments:

Post a Comment