River of Grass Canoe Expedition 2014 – Exploring the Lake Okeechobee headwaters of the Miami Canal

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River of Grass Canoe Expedition 2014

Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 Flex Maslan kayak florida

The 2014 River of Grass expedition .

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“Follow the water!”

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 The purpose of the River of Grass 2014 Canoe Expedition was to follow the water of the Everglades as it flows from Lake Okeechobee to Biscayne Bay via the Miami River Canal (also called the C-6 Canal). The aim was to monitor water quality, note the diversity and type of plant and animal life and to share the excitement of the expedition via live webcasts directly to students in area schools.  The expedition was organized by the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation for the Everglades. It is the fourth River of Grass expedition to date in a series of annual educational outreach expeditions led by Chris Carl.

Lake Okeechobee is the central part of the entire original Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades (K-O-E) watershed and also the heart of the re-plumbed system of canals and levees administered by the South Florida Water Management District  (SFWMD ) that we have today. The lake stores a massive amount of water and historically released that water in a giant sheet flow of water out to Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The natives peoples call this Pahayokee, we call it the “River of Grass“. Originally this body of slowly moving water, also called a slough extended from Lake Okeechobee all the way to Florida Bay. Today the main free flowing remnant of the historic Everglades ecosystem is the Shark River slough, which extends across Everglades National Park from north to south, exiting out into the Gulf of Mexico. The “other” half of the River of Grass slough is the area above the Tamiami Trail (Hwy 41). Since about mid 20th Century, this has been the realm of the giant retention ponds called the Water Conservation Areas bounded by the aforementioned canals and levees.  Upstream to the north lies the large and very productive drained farmland of the Everglades Agricultural Area which occupies about a quarter of the historic Everglades. So what Lake Okeechobee drains into today are the canals that convey the water south to irrigate fields, serve commercial uses,  and provide drinking water. The extensive canal system is also the essential part of flood control for the 5 million residents of South Florida. This system is in fact what enabled the rapid population growth and life as we know it in South Florida today!

Map of the South Florida Water Management District canal system

The first leg  of the River of Grass Canoe Expedition 2014 started on the night before, pre-camping on the shores of Lake Okeechobee. This allowed the team to dial in all the technical details for the webcasts and prepared us for a grand start the following morning.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

Pre-camping for the trip in Clewiston on Lake Ocheechobee.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

Pre-expedition through a night vision scope.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 Flex Maslan kayak florida

Team setting up the tech for the webcasts at camp in Clewiston.

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Day I

Paddling along Lake Okeechobee to the Miami River Canal “headwaters”.

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The expedition team started in Clewiston with a little bit of a “media” event fanfare as the team loaded gear, introduced the expedition with the first live webcast and set off paddling upon Lake Okeechobee.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

Day I: About 13 – 15 miles along the shore and dike of Lake Okeechobee to the Miami River Canal.

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Press Release for the 2014 River of Grass Expedition

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

Loading up canoes in the early morning.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

Team leader Chris Carl discusses the expedition goals with media and team members.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades canoe expedition Flex Maslan paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak Leonard Bryant

The River of Grass 2014 Canoe Expedition team!
Credit: Leonard Bryant / Arthur R. Marshall Foundation

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Extensive coverage of  the expedition launch and Lake Okeechobee segment from photographer Leonard Bryant here:

https://plus.google.com/photos/+LeonardDurhamBryantJr/albums/5988171229527961089

Also many more pics from the expedition on the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation faceBook page!

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida aerial

Seagull’s eye-view of expedition team heading out into Lake Okeechobee.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida aerial

Heading out through a lock.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

Team member Tomas Boiton paddles out through the Lake Okeechobee lock.

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The water lock we paddled through is one of several built as part of the Hoover Dike in the 1930’s.

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Miami River kayakfari lake Okeechobee lock Everglades canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 Flex Maslan kayak florida

Construction of a lock on Lake Okeechobee in the early 1930’s as part of the Hoover Dike flood control project.
Credit: State Archives of Florida, floridamemory.com

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 Flex Maslan kayak florida

The freshwater shoreline of Lake Okeechobee.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

Sugar cane refinery smokestacks in the distance along Lake O.

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Miami River kayakfari lake Okeechobee shoreline Everglades canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 Flex Maslan kayak florida

Lake Ocheechobee shoreline in 1930.
Credit: State Archives of Florida, floridamemory.com

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

Team paddler and naturalist Victor Suarez paddling on Lake Okeechobee.

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Canoeing on Lake Okeechobee is like paddling on an inland sea of fresh water/

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida aerial

Aerial Tern’s eye-view of expedition canoes on Lake Okeechobee.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

Canoeing on Lake Okeechobee. Here you can see the Hoover Dike berm in the distance.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

Team paddlers on the perimeter canal formed by the Hoover Dike.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades canoe expedition Flex Maslan paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak Leonard Bryant

Photographer Leonard Bryant documents the team’s arrival at the S-3 control structure pump station on Lake Okeechobee.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

Naturalist Victor Suarez shows off native and invasive snails side by side.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 Flex Maslan kayak florida

On the Hoover Dike which surrounds Lake Okeechobee.

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Miami River kayakfari lake Okeechobee dredge hoover dike Everglades canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 Flex Maslan kayak florida

Construction of the Hoover Dike in the 1930’s.
Credit: State Archives of Florida, floridamemory.com

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The Tamiami Trail across the Everglades opened in 1928. The Herbert Hoover Dike project was completed in 1937. By the mid 1960’s most of the canal system we see today was in place and effectively signaled the end of the Everglades as a free flowing hydrological system.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

Team webcasting live to classrooms in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 Flex Maslan kayak florida

The team used the latest technology like this tablet to webcast directly into classrooms in 2014.

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Miami River kayakfari tablet punch card Okeechobee Everglades canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 Flex Maslan kayak florida

Field data collection in the 1960’s using a different kind of tablet (with a punch card template)!
Credit: State Archives of Florida, floridamemory.com

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

Team paddler Janet Talbot and her water quality testing kit at Lake Okeechobee.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

Sample of Lake Okeechobee water.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

Pump station S-3 is the “headwaters” of the Miami River Canal. This structure controls all the water that will end up in the Miami River!

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee water control Everglades canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 Flex Maslan kayak florida

The same S-3 pump station in 1958.
Credit: State Archives of Florida, floridamemory.com

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The S-3 control structure is the “source” of the Miami River today. This canal, along with the Hoover Dike and a handful of other canals is what drained the northern Everglades. Today it is called the Everglades Agricultural Area which extends south of the lake down to the Water Conservation Areas.

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Miami River canal headwaters structure sfwmd kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 Flex Maslan kayak florida

Lake Okeechobee on left and the start of the Miami River Canal on right at the S-3 control structure.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee canal structure Everglades canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 Flex Maslan kayak florida

A 1961 aerial view of the S-3 control structure that is effectively the headwaters of the Miami River Canal!
Credit: State Archives of Florida, floridamemory.com

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From these “engineered headwaters”, the Miami Canal runs south as a straight line with a few bends. It is a major part of the extensive SFWMD system of canals and levees in South Florida. Running through about 20 miles of the huge Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), it delivers irrigation water and then continues south east for another 35 miles where it intersects with the L67A levee and canal. It is at this intersection that our expedition would in fact actually start on the Miami River Canal proper!

previous River of Grass expedition in 2012 paddled the entire length of this canal system all the way down to the Tamiami Trail (Hwy 41). With so much new territory to cover, the expedition wanted to highlight the unfolding transitions along the Miami River Canal instead of retracing what had already been done before.

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PREVIOUS River of Grass Canoe Expedition 2012 – CLICK for video!
Credit: Arthur R. Marshall Foundation http://www.artmarshall.org

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Thus on this expedition matters were expedited via an extended 55 mile “portage” on Hwy 27, which incidentally follows the path of another key water artery – the New River Canal (that ends up in Ft Lauderdale). Actually this canal will one day take over the “duties” of the Miami Canal, which is scheduled to be backfilled in WCA 3 as part of Everglades restoration efforts.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 Flex Maslan kayak florida

The “portage” via Hwy 27 to Everglades Holiday Park in western Broward county.

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HUGE thanks to canoeist Ron Haines for shuttling us!!

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

High voltage power transmission towers line up northward as far as the eye can see from Holiday Park.
These power lines generally follow canals/levees within the same corridor.

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The team arrived at Everglades Holiday Park in western Broward county in the waning hours of the late afternoon to set up camp and dinner.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

Everglades Holiday Park has been a popular recreation spot for decades in South Florida.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak levee sunset

A beautiful, clear February sunset on the L67A levee at Everglades Holiday Park.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 Flex Maslan kayak florida

Some after dinner conversation and contemplation in camp at Everglades Holiday Park.
Special thanks to Gisa Wagner for the delicious cooking!!

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Flex Maslan Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida victor suarez

Bug-free living at camp in the Everglades. 😉

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

“I can see you in the dark”

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NIGHT LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY and DIGITAL ART from the EVERGLADES, FLORIDA BAY, TEN THOUSAND ISLANDS, BIG CYPRESS & BEYOND!

(click pic to enter)

Flex Maslan kayakfari photographer kayak camping stars night Everglades landscape pano print art Florida Bay slough shark camping with the stars

ART of Darkness – Camping with the Stars! Part II

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida orion

Expedition canoes and the Big Dipper rising in the north eastern sky.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak florida

Strong city glow, looking due south from Everglades Holiday Park.

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak stars levee

A nice clear night under the stars at Everglades Holiday Park, due west on a levee.
The effects of light pollution have been removed in this picture – compare with actual shot below. This is what dark skies should look like in the Everglades!

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Interactive global light pollution map:  http://www.lightpollutionmap.info/

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades Flex Maslan canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 kayak stars levee

Lingering light pullution “glow” as it actually appears in the western sky. Compare with pic above where it’s effect has been removed!

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Miami River kayakfari Okeechobee Everglades canoe expedition paddle River of Grass 2014 Flex Maslan kayak florida

Finally,  “Sweet Dreams & Good Night!”

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Continue on to Day II:

River of Grass Canoe Expedition 2014 – Canal paddling on the edge of civilization in a Water Conservation Area

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rasta happy kayakfari kayak canoe paddle photography adventure

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© 2014 Flex Maslan / kayakfari.com / digital029art.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!

With that said..
Blessings friends!

🙂

One comment on “River of Grass Canoe Expedition 2014 – Exploring the Lake Okeechobee headwaters of the Miami Canal

  1. Pingback: River of Grass Canoe Expedition 2014: Lake Okeechobee – Miami River Canal – Biscayne Bay | kayakfari ( kayak .. far .. i )

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