Monthly Archives: November 2013

Listed species – Blackwater River State Forest

P1020411

Gopher Tortoise

Blackwater River State Forest is home to many species on the federally endangered and threatened list.

  • 1 Fish
  • 5  Amphibians
  • 8 Reptiles
  • 5 Birds
  • 3 Mammals
  • 54 Invertebrates
  • 19 Plants and Lichens

The Nature Conservancy says of Blackwater River State Park:

“Considered by many as Florida’s premier state forest, Blackwater River State Forest — 209,571 acres and counting — is the bedrock of a conservation complex that hosts an amazing 300 species of birds and 2,500 species of plants.  One of the most biologically rich areas in the US, the forest is part of a vital nature corridor that gently rolls from Conecuh National Forest along the Florida-Alabama line to the Gulf of Mexico.”

“The state forest is a significant piece of the largest, continuous longleaf pine/wiregrass forest complex in the world. Once blanketing the entire southeastern United States, only 3 percent of that vast forest survives today.

For more:  see http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates.

Blackwater Fisheries Research and Development Center….

This is taken from the Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission web site:  http://myfwc.com/conservation/freshwater/blackwater/.  For the continuing article, see the link.

Blackwater Fisheries Research and Development Center is located in scenic Blackwater River State Forest near Holt, Florida.  Constructed in 1938 and operated by the Commission since 1940, the Center has stocked millions of bass, bream and catfish into Florida waters.  In recent years, production of fish has emphasized striped bass and striped bass hybrids (sunshine bass) and advanced fingerling largemouth bass.   Also produced are black crappie, white bass, and shoal bass.  From the years 2000 to 2011 this faciity has produced over 6.3 million striped bass and striped bass hybrids and over two million largemouth bass, bream and channel catfish for stocking in public waters.  As a result several notable fisheries have developed.

Hatchery produced largemouth bass were stocked into Lake Talquin near Tallahassee for five years beginning in 1999.  These bass averaged three inches in length when stocked in the spring.  By fall hatchery produced largemouth bass were significantly larger than naturally spawned fish in the lake.  October fish samples showed hatchery fish averaging almost nine inches in length compared to just over five inches for naturally produced fish.  In addition, angler surveys showed that hatchery largemouth bass contributed from 26 to 39 percent of the fish caught in largemouth bass tournaments on the lake from 2004 to 2006.

Hybrid striped bass, something called sunshine bass, produced at this facility have been stocked in many rivers and lakes in Florida to supplement existing fresh water sport fisheries.  As a result of these stockings significant seasonal hybrid fisheries have developed in the Escambia, Choctawhatchee, and Apalachicola rivers and Bear Lake in Santa Rose County.

Reestablishment of a reproducing population of native striped bass in the Blackwater and Yellow rivers is a joint effort by the FWC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Earlier this century striped bass virtually disapppeared from both rivers, probably due to pollution of the Pensacola Bay estuary.   Releases of young striped bass each year in the Blackwater River since 1987 and in the Yellow River since 1990 have this trophy fish on the road to recovery, with catches of stripers in the 30 pound class reported by anglers.  In 1995 the Institute collected the first mature female striped bass weighing 20 pounds from the Blackwater River.  Since then over 200 mature striped bass have been collected from the Blackwater and Yellow rivers.  Some of these brood fish were brought to this facility and spawned.  To date brood fish from these two systems have produced over 7.5 million fry.  These fish have been used to enhance or reestablish striped bass populations not only in these systems but in the Apalachicola, Ochlocknee, and Choctawhachee rivers and Lake Seminole and Lake Talquin in Florida as well as other river systems in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

For more information see above web site.

Tate’s Hell Restoration – NWFl Water Management District

This was abstracted from the Executive Summary of the 2 volume hydrologic restoration plan of the Northwest Florida Water Management District for Tate’s Hell State Forest.  “Both volumes were developed through a cooperative effort with the Division of Forestry.  The plan fulfills the Division of Forestry objectives outlined in the Ten-Year Management Plan for Tate’s Hell State Forest (DOF 2007, pp. 5 and 14).  (http://www.nwfwmdwetlands.com/index.php?Page=30)

“Areas within Tate’s Hell State Forest were prioritized for restoration based on potential water quality benefits to Apalachicola Bay and surrounding waters, the feasibility of restoration, and the distribution of habits of species of conservation concern.  Approximately 25 listed plant and animal species occur within Tate’s Hell State Forest including the Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Eastern indigo snake.  The highest priority areas for restoration are generally located west of the New Rive and most discharge surface water to the Apalachicola Bay system.”

Whiskey George – paddling from estuary to wildernerness

“Whiskey George is a beautiful tannic creek originating in Tate’s Hell State Forest.  It meanders through pine flatwoods and salt marshes to East Bay.   Good birding route.  ( FWC,  “Appalachicola River: Wildlife and Environmental Area Paddling Trail System”.)

P1060157

These photos were taken on a paddling trip on November 19, 2013.

P1060151

This is the main putting-in place, with lots of parking spaces, for Whiskey George Creek, off Hway 65. See Whiskey George Landing sign to west.

P1060154

An alternate put-in, right off shoulder of Hway 65, will save you 7.0 miles, about 3.5 miles from Whiskey George Put-in above. Off shoulder parking only.

P1060173

Turkey buzzard, looking for carrion.

P1060176

Stepping down to a lower branch, for a better look.

P1060190

Maybe, if I act like an anhinga, they’ll paddle away and leave me alone.

P1060226

The creek narrows

P1060229

And ends here. Only to reappear further upstream. We don’t hike with our kayaks, so we’ll wait when there is more water to the upper stretches.

P1060238

Swamp lilies still blooming in mid-November!

P1060242

The clouds were spectacular.

P1060247

A fly fisherman enjoying his day off, down river.

P1060250

Homeward bound to the Whiskey George Launch Ramp — 13. 7 miles of paddling (including every oxbow along the way). If you put-in right at Hway 65 just south of this launch area, you’ll cut your paddling miles by 7 milesw

We saw a fisherman catch a 20-22 inch redfish and return it back into the water, ospreys, flocks of crows, kingfishers, a huge alligator which we surprised, a protothonary warbler, several other unidentified birds.   There is a primitive camp site on this creek in Tate’s Hell, accessible by a mucky bank. There is another called Whiskey George campsite, at Forestry roads 10 and 25.   This creek is tidally influenced — we paddled upstream against the tide and returned, also, against the tide.   It was not a difficult paddle.

It seems from the GRASI maps, that there are military crossings planned in two places on the upper sections of this creek by vehicles weighing up to 2.5 tons,  near the Whiskey George campsite.  Whiskey George empties into East Bay and then into Apalachicola Bay.  East Bay’s estuary is a very important nursery for Apalachicola Bay.