Okefenokee Lilly

Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, Day 99
A water lilly catches evening twilight as dusk settles over the Okefenokee. Transitioning sunset to new moon darkness while paddling through Chase Prairie, a sea of grass reminiscent of the Everglades, provided perfect passage toward our final campsite in 100 days.

Final Hike


Okefenokee, a photo by Mac Stone for Carlton Ward Photography on Flickr.

Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, Day 97
The rain soaked team treks from the Mixon’s Hammock campsite in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge toward their boat launch. After a short paddle, they will be greeted by family, friends and colleagues gathered at Georgia’s Stephen Foster State Park for an Earth Day celebration and their final event. Photo by Mac Stone.

Lake Okeechobee

Lake Okeechobee

Lake Okeechobee, a photo by Carlton Ward Photography on Flickr.

A view of Lake Okeechobee

Caloosahatchee River Ecoscape

Caloosahatchee River Ecoscape by Carlton Ward Photography
Caloosahatchee River Ecoscape, a photo by Carlton Ward Photography on Flickr.

We arrived at the American Prime property and set camp on the southern banks of the Caloosahatchee River. We have just spent more than three week traversing the vast natural habitats of the Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Seminole Big Cypress Reservation, Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest and several beautiful cattle ranches. All of these place were functionally connected as one. Then we entered the narrowing wedge of remaining natural habitat leading up to SR 80 and and the Caloosahatchee River east of La Belle. I could feel the tight squeeze of human development on the land there for the first time in the Expedition and a real sense urgency that from a wildlife perspective, knowing that Florida south of that point would soon become an island isolated from the rest of the state if the American Prime property was not protected. We just learned that the land was going into foreclosure and at risk of being sold to developers and that the USWS, USDA, Nature Conservancy, and National Wildlife Refuge Association were scrambling to pull together a deal to save it. It all feels intensely pivotal, geographically and politically. Keith Fountain, director of protection for the Nature Conservancy, came to meet us at our camp and interviewed with Elam for the film. Joe and I successfully swam across the river from our camp. I’m sure most animals can do it too. Some restoration of the floodplain would certainly help bring natural ground cover closer to the water’s edge. We also really need a series of wildlife underpasses under SR 80 along the southern edge of the new conservation property.

John and Gretchen

Alico by Carlton Ward Photography
Alico, a photo by Carlton Ward Photography on Flickr.

My cousin, John Ward, and his wife Gretchen peer out over pastures near Devil’s Garden. They have been growing cattle and vegetables on their J Seven Ranch in Hendry County for most of their lives. Just north of Big Cypress National Preserve, their home is deep in the Florida frontier. The closest chain grocery store is either in Ft. Lauderdale or Naples, each more than an hour away.

The Expedition Begins!

View from the kayak…

Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition

Leaving the marina at Flamingo, the team paddles up Buttonwood Canal toward Coot Bay.

Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition

Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition

The team paddles into Florida Bay.

Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition

Boca Grande Storm Clouds

While fishing for Tarpon near Boca Grande Pass, where the Charlotte Harbor Estuary meets the Gulf of Mexico, I witnessed some beautiful afternoon storm clouds – sure signs that summer was on it’s way. The panoramic photographs are composites of nine individual frames. The combined resolution allows for exceptionally detailed prints up to ten feet wide. Click either of the panoramic photographs below to view them in higher resolution.