Rising from a swamp just south of the bustling city of Orlando, Shingle Creek is considered the headwaters of the entire Everglades watershed. This unassuming waterway is the start of an incredible natural drainage system that historically delivered clean, fresh water all the way to Florida Bay—a journey of some 350 meandering miles. Unfortunately, over the past century, man has interrupted this flow at several key points along the way, most notably at Lake Okeechobee. Today, the Everglades and the bay receive less than half the fresh water they need to support the unique habitats that are home to a wide variety of plants and animals, some of which don’t exist anywhere else on the planet. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), passed in 2000, aims to reconnect Shingle Creek and the Everglades, sending more clean water south.
Over its 23-mile course, before it flows into Lake Tohopekaliga, Shingle Creek meanders through swamplands, wet prairies, pine islands, and cypress forests. (The creek’s name derives from these cypress trees, from which shingles are made.) Its remarkable populations of animals, birds, and fish make it a popular destination for hikers, canoers, kayakers, and wildlife watchers. In a single day, visitors have the chance to see dozens of different species, from the mundane to the exotic. Whitetail deer and wild turkeys appear onshore, while alligators sun themselves or lurk in backwaters. Birders can spot herons, egrets, ibis, wood ducks, and even bald eagles. As it is everywhere in Florida, the key to this healthy ecosystem is fresh water, and in the next five stops along this journey we will focus on how people are working to restore the natural flow of this vital resource.
What you will find here...
...and what is at stake of being lost.