Into the Wilds of Kissimmee & Okeechobee
Wild and remote in large measure, this is the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades Ecosystem (KOE). Not all ecosystems are eternal. Plenty are dead now. The KOE is a rescue, picked up at the kill shelter after engineering projects drained it and forgot it.
2015 was the final year of 15 spent on its multi-billion dollar rehabilitation, making it the largest ecosystem restoration on earth.
The Meek Kissimmee River
The Kissimmee River pours forth from the 3,000 mile Chain of Lakes and tributaries — The Kissimmee Basin — then it winds down to empty into Lake Okeechobee. Lake O in turn becomes the Everglades’ ultimate headwater, save one: The rain.
The Kissimmee River floodplain was already full during the early part of the wet season on July 17. Live Oaks on the left mark the uplands at the edge of the floodplain.
The quiet river has risen from its shallow grave. The undo button has been clicked and the river re-channelized to replicate its natural paths. Birds and other wildlife responded more quickly than experts anticipated, demonstrating the transcendent resiliency of nature.
Kissimmee River restoration began in 1992 and has been the most successful ecosystem restoration initiative in the world.
Yet the project is not quite operating at full capacity. Once it is complete in a few years, the results are sure to be stunning. This success has been used all over the world to justify the value of ecosystem restoration.
More than 40 square miles of the River-floodplain ecosystem have been restored, including almost 20,000 acres of wetlands and 44 miles of historic river channel. After two decades of work and over $900 million in investment, the precedent-setting Kissimmee River Restoration Project is all but complete. This project transforms miles of the drained Kissimmee floodplain into a winding river and wetland paradise.
The River and its Chain of Lakes support diverse wildlife. Over 98 species of wading and wetland-dependent birds live here, including Swallow Tailed Kites, Whooping Cranes, and Crested CaraCaras.
The Kissimmee River empties into Lake Okeechobee on the far east side of Buckhead Ridge. Before moving on to the Big Water, go west to Fisheater’s Creek, its a short creek, its a special creek.
A great video recap of the dark and bright spots of Kissimmee River’s recent history up to 2008.
Okeechobee: oki (Water) chubi (Big)
Early afternoon columns of cotton-white clouds march right above the glass surface of Lake Okeechobee