National Geographic : 1972 Jan
he said, "even the engineers admit that the Kissimmee River channelization was a mistake. They deepened and straightened the channel to make it flow more efficiently [page 20]. Now we need to reflood marshes beside the river so that they can cleanse the water coming into Lake Okeechobee, as they formerly did. There is a dangerous buildup of pollutants and nutrients in the lake. "Second, we can reflood some of the shrunken Ever glades, then replant the reflooded areas with native grasses that would make valuable muck. I think, too, we must re-examine the 1,400 miles of canals and levees in south Florida to eliminate those not needed. I personally would plug up several of the new canals" (page 18). Long-awaited Rain Does Not Solve the Problem It was getting late in the afternoon, and dark clouds were developing. I wanted to see and be alone with the Everglades once more before I left. I remember the first time I flew over the Everglades. It all seemed so vast, even endless. Flights in recent years have made me constantly aware of the vulnerability of the region. It is really quite small, as natural wonders are measured. The limits of civilization are rarely out of sight. I went west across the Tamiami Trail through the saw grass Glades and watched the birds feeding beside the canal. As I turned north on State Route 29, I saw a flock of wood storks heading toward Corkscrew Swamp. The clouds were growing into billowing black rain machines when I turned back east on Alligator Alley. At milepost 55 I stopped to await the oncoming rain. I looked across the canal at a cross section cut through grass, muck, and rock. Only a few inches of muck remained, and it would go fast now that it was out of water. A great blue heron walked up the shore. Rain clouds gathered all around: huge, rolling, cumu lus clouds so familiar in tropic skies. Their flat bottoms were connected to earth by sheets of rain. This water will mean life to the Glades, I thought, but no amount of rain can ever compensate for the accumulated losses. Then the rain closed in, and I was enveloped by a drench ing curtain of water. I peered through it at the arrow straight horizon broken only by an occasional hammock and thought that this must have been the sweetest rain in the world, for it had brought life. Yet I was saddened by the knowledge that it was only a reprieve. U] Thick enough for a grackle to walk on, a scumlike growth coats Snapper Creek Canal south of Miami. Warm stagnant water favors the floating plants, called duckweed, and man's litter adds an unsightly garnish. Built as a safety valve to siphon off flash floods to the Atlantic, this canal and others stayed closed during the drought while pollution counts soared to hazardous levels-one more sad consequence of the imbalance inflicted on the area. Last summer's ordeal spurs efforts to reconcile the conflicting needs of a burgeoning pop ulation and a fragile wild domain.