17-Jun-2001 -- I was visiting Ft. Lauderdale from Indianapolis having driven down through Kentucky where some friends and I visited the Kentucky confluence at
37N 84W which was deep in the briar and summer mosquito filled woods. So when friends in Florida heard tales of my previous journey we decided to do one of the two remaining in Florida.
We could tell immediately why this one was passed up, 27N 81W is normally under 4-9 feet of water in Lake Okeechobee but due to the worst drought south Florida has seen in 70 years, the water levels have dropped so much that we should be able to walk right out to this site.
Well that was the plan, we found a boat launch within 3.5 miles of the confluence and dropped the truck off, walked two miles along a 60' high dirt levy and from there we saw two alligators in the grass in the very direction we would need to eventually travel. When we were aligned with the confluence we had only to head straight east 1.5 miles to reach it.
The first obstacle was the alligator grass which we made it through with no encounters then the burned remains of a Melaleuca forest which dropped large limbs whenever there was a wind gust. Melaleuca is a non-native tree planted by the Army Corps of Engineers to drain the swamps of south Florida, they worked, sapping up huge amounts of water and making the land useable but as we began to understand how ecosystems work it turned out that this was not the right thing to be doing in the first place, they seed readily are quick-growing, resistant to salt and drought and along with the Brazilian Pepper brought in for landscaping they have taken over much of south Florida and now federal money is being spent to eradicate them wherever they are growing so this fire may have been deliberately set. In the fire zone zone we found many dead turtles and a dead alligator.
A 3 foot thick quicksand barrier was the third obstacle, we made a log bridge out of the fallen melaleuca branches and made it across this 15 yard area. A 6 foot area of this supersaturated mud quivered as we put weight on the branches.
The remaining mile long trip was trudging through dry humus two feet thick which made the going very slow. There had been a fire here too, mostly below root level and so the ground gave way with every footfall. Many burned branches gave us a charcoal warpaint on he way.
After an hour and a half of this punishment we made it to the confluence, took our pictures and left the middle section of a brass lamp at the site as a marker. If noone attempts this punishing journey again it will be underwater in the next few months, hopefully.
The trip back was a race against the darkness, we were low on water and had no flashlights, we moved steadily and made it back to the top of the levy at 9pm as planned and walked back to the truck in the dark.
I must hand it to 10 year old Megan Bryan who came along with us, she did well despite her limited ground clearance. One thing that was really good on this trip was a steady breeze from the southwest which kept the mosquitoes and deerflys away.
Would we do it again? Well, not 27N 81W, there is one more left in the Everglades that may make this one look like a walk in the park.