A short excursion into Fisheating Creek on troubled Lake Okeechobee.

Paddling to the lake’s only free flowing tributary

and surveying the blue-green algae bloom!

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The once unbounded Lake Okeechobee has been completely contained by the Herbert Hoover Dike since 1930’s except for one remaining free flowing tributary on the west side called Fisheating Creek. This gap is paralleled by the dike on both sides for several miles, effectively creating a conduit or spillway in the process.

Today this is called the Fisheating Creek WMA. The river itself is the second largest natural source of water for Lake Okeechobee (after the recently “restored” Kissimmee River), and supplies about 9% of the water flowing in! Much of the creek and surrounding lands had been in the private hands of the Lykes family for many decades. Even though on private land, the creek was enjoyed and loved by generations of local residents until the late 1980’s when Lykes restricted and closed off access. This sparked a series of lawsuits which established that the creek was indeed a navigable waterway and finally an agreement was reached which resulted in the creation of the wildlife management area. However, controversy continues almost up to the present, although public access is now assured!

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution satellite

This story took place in the circled area along Fisheating Bay and Creek on the west side of Lake Okeechobee.

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Most visitors to Fisheating Creek paddle on the segment west of Hwy 27 in Palmdale, Florida, at the well known Fisheating Creek Outpost – a licensed concessionaire to the WMA. It’s a beautiful place, well worth many repeat visits for canoeing, swimming, camping and hiking. The best time for paddling this section is in the fall when the water levels are at their highest! The rest of the year, you can hike and camp along the creek. Check out this account of a 3 day, 36 mile through-hike of the area in the dry season with the Happy Hoofers, a local chapter of the Florida Trail Association.

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution satellite

Satellite view of Fisheating Creek as it empties into Fisheating Bay and Lake Okeechobee.
Note direct boat ramp access point on Hwy 78!

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On this trip, we would see the creek from the other side – as it flows out into Fisheating Bay and Lake Okeechobee. The lake itself has been in the news all summer due to an unusually large blue-green algae bloom that at one point covered more than 90% of the surface! The incredible growth is not the first time this has happened and surely will not be the last. It’s a direct result of excess nutrients in the water, namely phosphorus laden water. The fertilizer rich water makes vegetation grow abundantly, including the algae. Although there are many sources of pollution draining into the lake, a large percentage of the phosphorus laden water comes off the huge agricultural sugarcane fields to the south when it’s back-pumped into the lake. See – “Phosphorus Loading by Land Use – What FDEP Isn’t Telling Us!” Gary Goforth, PhD. By the end of June almost the entire lake was covered!

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution satellite

Lake Okeechobee algae bloom spread during the summer of 2018 – satellite imagery.

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Although the algae has since shrunk significantly, it continues to be a problem for the lake and all down stream freshwater bodies on both sides of Florida’s coast. Near the end of August, the conditions appeared good for paddling, although it is difficult to find real time data on the algal blooms. It’s one of those “you won’t really know what it looks like until you get there” kinda things!

I’m happy to report that while there was some algal growth in the canal we launched into, the open lake area and Fisheating Creek looked clean and clear for the most part.  We paddled south on the canal for a bit until breaking out into Fisheating Bay and making our way towards the creek. It quickly became apparent that the overly nutrient-rich water fosters well the growth of three main plants:

Sawgrass, Water Hyacinth and Water Lettuce!

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Aerial photo shared on faceBook at the beginning of the summer of 2016 shows significant algal growth over Lake Okeechobee.
The summer of 2018 was even worse with more than 90% of the lake covered at one point!

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The image above is from several thousand feet in the air.

The image below is from the seat of my kayak, yet the patterns look exactly the same!

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) in the canal where we launched on Lake Okeechobee.
We joked about whether or not it might glow in the dark?!

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I love how nature creates patterns that scale perfectly up or down!

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Choreographer Dale Andree paddles into the tall grass on Lake Okeechobee.

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

The lake shoreline is buffered with lots of vegetation!

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This area is very quiet and serene!

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

The beautiful flowers of the non-native Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) on Lake Okeechobee.

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Filmmaker Claudio Marcotulli paddles around sawgrass and reeds on Lake Okeechobee.

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

“Wow – It’s like a LAKE out there!” 😉

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Paddling on Fisheating Creek – from the other side!

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Entering Fisheating Creek on the west side of Lake Okeechobee.

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Filmmaker Claudio Marcotulli deploying his aerial drone from the kayak.

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Drone camera hovering just above the kayak on Lake Okeechobee.

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Claudio piloting his drone on Fisheating Creek.

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Aerial drone camera eye in the sky.
CLICK for the drone video footage!

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Watch some of the drone video footage shot by filmmaker Claudio Marcotulli.

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Another type of aerial photography on Lake Okeechobee, this time from the kayak and my 18 foot pole!

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A Kayak Aerial Photography Method – a behind (and above) the scenes look!

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Low altitude aerial view over Fisheating Bay on Lake Okeechobee.

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Selfie in my kayak from 20 feet up over Fisheating Creek.
A Kayak Aerial Photography Method – a behind (and above) the scenes look!

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

“Behind the .. behind the, scenes of the selfie.. ”
A Kayak Aerial Photography Method – a behind (and above) the scenes look!

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Sawgrass and Water Lettuce line the banks of Fisheating Bay.

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The predominant plants on Fisheating Bay are Sawgrass, Water Hyacinth and Water Lettuce!

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) forms large floating mats on the surface and is a common sight on freshwater lakes throughout Florida.

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Water Hyacinth flowers intermingle with Water Lettuce and Sawgrass along the bank of Fisheating Creek.

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Engaging in tranquility on Lake Okeechobee!

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Most of the shoreline vegetation shown grows in overabundance and is “planta non grata“.
Although on Fisheating Bay it makes for a beautiful sight!

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Heading back east out into Lake Okeechobee.

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

The canal and levee provide recreation on the lake for boaters and picnickers alike!

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Paddling back up the canal in Lakeport we again encountered the blue-green algae (cyanobacteria).

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

These small “guide” boulders reminded me a bit of Stonehenge.

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Packing it up before the afternoon storm hits!

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

The public launch ramp on Hwy 78 directly into Fisheating Creek and Bay on the east side of the road.

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Fisheating Creek with storms in the distance.

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There is a public boat ramp on the east side of Hwy 78 directly into Fisheating Creek. It’s only a couple of miles to the lake from there!

On the west side of Hwy 78 is the majority of the creek as it flows through forests, fields, pastures and the Fisheating Creek WMA.

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution satellite

Fisheating Creek flows out into Fisheating Bay on the western side of Lake Okeechobee.
It is the sole remaining free flowing tributary to the lake!

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Fisheating Creek WMA

3 day, 36 mile through-hike of Fisheating Creek in the dry season with the Happy Hoofers!

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass kayakfari Fisheating Creek everglades hike aerial photography Okeechobee kayak camping canoe paddle outback florida

Fisheating Creek snakes through a dry landscape just before emptying out into Lake Ockeechobee to the east!
Fisheating Creek WMA

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass kayakfari Fisheating Creek everglades hike aerial photography Okeechobee kayak camping canoe paddle outback florida

In the dry season the creek can get very skinny.
Fisheating Creek WMA

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass kayakfari Fisheating Creek everglades hike aerial photography Okeechobee kayak camping canoe paddle outback florida

Fisheating Creek is the last free flowing tributary to Lake Okeechobee, seen here in the dry season!
Fisheating Creek WMA

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass kayakfari Fisheating Creek everglades hike aerial photography Okeechobee kayak camping canoe paddle outback florida

Just to the west of Lake Okeechobee is it’s only remaining free flowing tributary – Fisheating Creek!
CLICK for: Hiking the Fisheating Creek WMA in the dry season!

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Lakeport is in a rural area that seems worlds apart from the hustle and bustle of South Florida. The drive up is a refreshing change of pace and I love to see all the open spaces presented! Since I grew up in a small town, I always feel a connection even if in a different part of the world. Rural life is much the same, no matter where you are!

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Lakeport, Florida is a small community on the shores of Lake Okeechobee.
If you come to paddle, you best be prepared! 😮

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Afternoon thunderstorm over Lake Okeechobee behind the grassy moat that is the Hoover Dike!

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

Better to be driving than paddling through a squall or storm!

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flex maslan kayakfari lake okeechobee kayak fisheating everglades paddle green algae pollution

A few miles later and it’s nice and sunny again – c’est la vie Florida!! 🙂

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Enjoy!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari.com rasta 420 happy kayakfari kayak canoe paddle photography adventure fitness awakenthegrass everglades florida

! BLESS – Feel Irie

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© 2018 Flex Maslan / kayakfari.com / awakenthegrass.com . All original photographs, artworks and music in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Flex Maslan, unless otherwise noted. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited.

All rights reserved!

DISCLAIMER:

The maps and images on this site are not intended for navigation, I am not a guide; use any and all information at your own risk! Your mileage may vary .. so use good judgement before venturing out!

I hereby disclaim any sponsorship, endorsement, nor association with any product or service described herein. The photographs, depictions, products, and ideas presented on this site are for informational purposes only. Your results may vary, and I do not imply nor guarantee the effectiveness, suitability, design or operation to adhere to any standard. I assume no legal responsibility for the implementation of anything herein presented! Use any and all information at your own risk! By using any and all information from this website, you accept the final liability for any use or possible associated misuse!

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With that said..
Blessings friends!

🙂

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