Tate’s Hell & the Apalachicola River Delta | Feeding an Estuary

[Splashing sounds] [Music]>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: Swamps. Marshes. Creeks and sloughs. Rivers and distributaries. Water finds a multitude of ways to move through
the Apalachicola River delta and into the bay. The Apalachicola’s wetlands and waterways
are key to the health of the basin’s most famous export.>>Shannon Hartsfield: We have some of the
fastest growing oyster in the world right here in Apalachicola. Because of the conditions. With the right conditions we’ve seen them
grow between ten to… ten to fourteen months. In some areas it takes a little longer, eighteen
months. Eighteen months, you know, we got a mature
oyster.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: Apalachicola oysters
dine on a nutrient soup, brewed in protected wetlands around the river. It’s a soup cooked in HELL. [Scary music]>>Doug Alderson: So there are many songs and
stories about Cebe Tate and how Tate’s Hell was named. He lived near Sumatra, and a panther was getting
into some of his livestock, his pigs and such. So he went off to hunt the panther, and ended
up lost in Tate’s Hell swamp for seven days.>>Georgia Ackerman: I’ve never been back this
far!>>Doug Alderson: Lost his gun. He got snakebit. And when he crawled out into the streets of
Carrabelle, they came up to him and said “Who are you and where have you come from?” And he just said, “My name is Tate, and
I’ve been through hell.” And so, then it was called Tate’s Hell. [Music]
Now, another part of the story I’ve heard is that a medicine man had warned him about
going in there, Warned him not to go into the tiny cypress
forest, which is the dwarf cypress forest. And he went in there and that’s where he
got snakebit. That’s one version of the story I heard.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: A boardwalk and observation
tower make the dwarf cypress forest a little easier to visit than in Cebe’s day. The water that flows through this swamp is
the reason this land was purchased by the state in the 1990s. For decades, Tate’s Hell had been drained
to grow trees. Now, its historic hydrology has been restored,
benefitting the Apalachicola estuary.>>Dan Tonsmeire: Rob, when you are in Graham
Creek? Graham Creek runs into the East River. You can paddle right out into the Apalach,
and come on down, or you can take a left and go down East River and go to East Bay. [Music]>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: Not all of the old
Tate’s Hell swamp is in Tate’s Hell State Forest. Owl Creek is in the Apalachicola National
Forest. Like Graham Creek, it is a tupelo swamp.>>Dan Tonsmeire: The tupelo honey… That pure, doesn’t ever crystalize in the
jar… Has the perfect taste.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: Apalachicola Riverkeeper
Dan Tonsmeire is giving us a tour of the river delta. It’s a region that has seen changes after
years of decreased water levels.>>Dan Tonsmeire: Because the floodplain overall
is drying out, you have, just the soils and the ground is drier, such that the tupelo
trees aren’t regenerating like they should. The River is at about 18,000 cfs now, which
is kind of the low threshold for flooding the floodplain. So during the drought, this was all dry. This was about a foot out of the water. [Music]>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: Leaving Owl Creek,
we crisscross the delta. [Music]>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: As we get closer to
the bay, it gets marshier.>>Dan Tonsmeire: In the drought, this all
dried off, because it was just salty all the time.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: Just as low flows
dry out tupelo swamps, they increase salinity in marshes. These changes make it difficult for existing
plant communities to succeed, even when fresh water periodically returns.>>Dan Tonsmeire: It’s like a rubber band. And you can pull them and stretch them for
so far, and they keep coming back. But you get to a point where it gives up,
and it doesn’t come back any more. Or it takes generations for it to come back.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: For WFSU, I’m Rob
Diaz de Villegas.

1 thought on “Tate’s Hell & the Apalachicola River Delta | Feeding an Estuary

  1. Graham creek is a awesome place to kayak, especially under the old railroad bridge👍

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