Sunday, February 28, 2016

Rodman Reservoir EXPOSED! A Water Level View

Before we get to this ...

...or this, 
...we should have a history lesson on the "Cross Florida Barge Canal".

I'll make it brief, not like that Art History course you slept through took in college.

Depending on your source, the idea for a ship canal cutting through North Central Florida and connecting the Gulf to the Atlantic goes all the way back to colonial times.
All we need to know for this post is that after many false starts, the canal project actually got going in the 1960's with a ceremonial dynamite blast by then President Johnson.

The canal plan was to use existing natural waterways like the St.Johns River and connect them with man made canals. This would also require the construction of locks and dams...all pretty standard barge canal construction stuff.

In 1971, after much lobbying by people concerned that the canal would threaten both Florida's aquifer and ecology, the "Cross-Florida Barge Canal" project was killed by ...(you may find this surprising) ... Richard Nixon.

By that time miles of canal and several locks, had been constructed and the beautiful, wild Oklawaha River had been dammed creating Rodman Reservoir. Rodman would supply water to keep the canal depth consistent for barge travel.

There, that's the history snapshot. I'll sneak in little tidbits along the way as needed.

Strangled by the dam, the Oklawaha slowed and began flooding springs and thousands of acres of cypress wetlands.
As the river backed up behind the dam, a forest-river ecosystem died and a stick filled artificial impoundment was born.

These cypress forests exist today as weather beaten stumps and snags… a silent testimony to the forest that was... and may be again.

For the record, if you haven't sniffed this out by now, I am staunchly "anti-dam".  This is a controversial subject and I'm not going to engage in any back and forth debates in the comment section with people who take the "save the dam" tack.

This is my blog, and you get my opinions when I opinionate, which I intend to do in this series of posts.
If you don't like it, get your own dam blog.

This post and a few to follow describe a day spent paddling around in the old Oklawaha River channel.  Keep in mind thatthe area I explored is usually under about 7 feet of water.
Rodman Reservoir has slowly been drained of much of its water over the past few months by the FWC.

Drawdowns like this can rejuvenate a lake by exposing the lake bottom to the air and Sun.  
Exposure reduces the thick black oozy muck that accumulates on the bottom over time. The muck has the consistency of pudding and from what I experienced, several feet deep in many areas.
Once exposed, it dries in the sun which greatly reduces the muck volume. Some of it oxidizes with the air, some simply blows away as dust, and some is utilized by the rapidly growing pioneer plant species that grow during those 3 months of drawdown.

Muck like that robs oxygen from the water as the organics decay, smothers submerged plants, and prevents spawning by fish like Largemouth Bass, Bluegills, Redear Sunfish, etc.
Those fish need a sandy bottom where they can fan out a dish-shaped nest to lay their eggs in.

This is where I spent most of my time.
The canal itself was pretty busy with bassboats zooming off for a day of fishing, and let's face it, canals are generally not really interesting ... the whole straight and narrow thing is pretty boring.

So, let's get started ...

Next Rodman post: Life among the dead.


Mary said...

So you were just a kid back then. do you remember the Ocklawaha River before it was dammed up? I'd love to see some pictures. ( Also, get your own dam blog lololol)

robin andrea said...

I love reading this bit of recent history there. Really looking forward to the next dam post!

threecollie said...

I will eagerly await the next post. We have a massive reservoir near here made by a damn dam. Many forests, farms, and villages were submerged in its making. And it is a miserable place for naturey stuff, full of a bazillion big boats that churn up the sand until the water is soup. I don't like it much. A few people still live who remember the land and lament it

Myamuhnative said...

I had the good fortune to take a guided boat trip up the Oklawaha last year. Our awesome guide and captain comes from a local family that has fought the dam since inception.
I say blow the dam and restore the river now!

Island Rider said...

We also have Nixon (and the environmentalists) to thank for the beautiful Marjorie Carr Harris Greenway. My favorite place to horseback ride created from the land once destined to be the canal.

Misti said...

Ooh, I'm excited and interested in this. On our Florida Trail thru-hike we walked around a bit of the lake and across the dam. I was definitely wondering what it all looked like pre-dam days.

Maybe one day it will be restored.

Leslie Townsend said...

My Uncle grew up in Cross Creek and is now in his mid-80's. in the late 70's he took me canoeing on a beautiful stretch of the Oklawaha. I can't rembember if we put in, or were picked up at a place he called Eureka. It was a grand adventure with sightings of wild monkeys who were descended from those who escaped when they filmed the Tarzan movies at Silver Springs. He told me a lot about the barge canal project and how they fought against it. Thanks for sharing your posts. I always enjoy them.

Vicki Bennett said...

Well, dam! I'm following this history lesson closely. As I flew over north Florida Saturday I was looking at all the bodies of water, the rivers, streams, lakes, swampy areas- and I was wondering about the origins of all that water. So I'm wide awake and following along.

Pablo said...

Great, great post. Loved the history lesson and the story of the successful preservationists. Looking forward to the next installment.

Julie Zickefoose said...

"This is my blog, and you get my opinions when I opinionate, which I intend to do in this series of posts.
If you don't like it, get your own dam blog. "

Oh, you've been blogging a long time, FloridaCracker. Why, I believe you're getting a little crochety! Ha ha ha!! Join the club!!

Love the history, love the anticipation of seeing what you'll find. On to the next post, eagerly!