Sabal Palm, Drowned Forest, Florida. 2020.
A rotted-out sabal palm, the state tree of Florida, reaches towards a vacant sky in the Drowned Forest along the Ocklawaha River in Florida. This destroyed forest is a remnant of the Cross Florida Barge Canal project from the 1960s–a project that, even though now abandoned and an admitted failure, continues to impact around 15,000 acres of wetlands along the historic river.
An earthen dam was constructed as part of the federal project, flooding more than nine miles of river. The trees that weren’t crushed into the earth or burned to ash were left to slowly decay in a state of permanent flood. They eventually rotted away, leaving a landmine of mostly hardwood stumps just below the waterline. On rare occasions when the impounded water is released and the water levels drop by seven feet, this drowned forest is exposed and new growth begins to sprout in its shadow. The water releases are temporary, however, and soon the purposeless dam is closed and the waters rise up again, covering the lost forest and dissolving away any of the newly-emerged habitat.
Fortunately, concerted efforts to restore the Ocklawaha River and remove it from the 2020 list of most Endangered Rivers in the United States are underway. Breaching the dam is simple and straightforward. The land rights are secured. The studies have been done. The manatee and striped bass are waiting. The anglers and ecotourists are ready.
This was made with a Calumet 4×5 monorail camera using Ilford FP4+ 125 film and scanned with an Epson Perfection v850 Pro. Ilex-Calumet 215mm Lens. Shot near Orange Springs in Marion County, Florida on the morning of January 12, 2020.
Check out the Trip Report from this day to read more about the day this image was made!