Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tate’s Hell and the Dwarf Cypress Forest

Today we finally had a bit of sun and decided on “now or never” for visiting the Dwarf Cypress Boardwalk as there is rain and more clouds predicted for the next 3 days.  Today was mostly sunny in the high 70’s but storm clouds threatened while we were on the boardwalk.Dwarf Cypress 079
The road to the Dwarf Cypress Boardwalk is just off Highway 98, between Eastpoint and Carrabelle FL.
The link below will give you a slide show of the boardwalk showing the trees in summer dress. Now, the cypress have dropped most of their needles and become bare branches.
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“Several stands of the distinctive "dwarf" cypress exist in the forest. Visit the Ralph G. Kendrick Dwarf Cypress Boardwalk to observe these unusual trees. To reach a viewing tower, from US Highway 98, go north on US Highway 65 for 5.5 miles, turn right onto North Road go 1.7 miles then turn right on Dry Bridge Road. The boardwalk will be on your right.”
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This is the beginning of the walk to the boardwalk overlooking the dwarf cypress trees. I came here several years ago with my friend Pat Barlow. On both sides of this walk through are swamp! Halfway down the path we saw a huge alligator halfway up the bank.  I can remember fear rushing in but we both calmly walked past the gator, pretty much ignoring him. I say “him” because this was most probably a male “bull” gator just because of his size.  We didn’t see him until we were almost totally opposite where he was laying. Too late to run, these 2 chubby old ladies were in no shape to run from a gator! Gators can run FAST! They just lift that tail and GO! I saw on a TV show once that if you wanted to outrun a gator, run in a zigzag pattern. They cannot keep up with their heavy tails running in that pattern. Well, I didn’t want to have to prove that. Pat and I spent some time up on the boardwalk, hoping he would get bored and go away. He did not! We had to walk past him a second time!  This path is only about 8 or 9 feet wide… not much room for a zigzag pattern run even if we did try it! Fortunately, this alligators taste didn’t run to chubby old ladies and for that we were grateful!
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Never has a visit to the dwarf cypress happened without the dread of meeting another big alligator near the path! But this day, all Chuck and I met were 3 turtles on a log!
Some of these dwarf cypress are over 300 years old! Most are over 100 years old, the true “dwarf” trees averages 15’ tall!  There are a few of the bald cypress mixed in with the dwarf cypress.  Easy to tell the difference just by the height of the trees.
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“Florida bought the 202,437-acre property in 1994. 40 years of private ownership prior to that had seen more than 800 miles of roadways and drainage ditches built on the land to accommodate the commercial interests of a major timber corporation. Where previously there had been floodplain forest and swamp, wet prairie and flatwoods, baygall, seepage slope, basin swamp, sandhill, upland hardwood forest, dense titi thickets, pine ridges and scrub, most of the area had been drained and the vegetation converted to a pine monoculture. This caused a huge loss of varied habitat and the wildlife that goes with that. It also caused major changes in the water flow from the Apalachicola River into Apalachicola Bay (Apalachicola Bay is a Florida State Aquatic Preserve with shellfish propagation and harvesting as its primary designated use - the Apalachicola River is a designated "Outstanding Florida Water," and is managed for the propagation and maintenance of a healthy and well-balanced mix of fish and wildlife, with a side helping of recreation).

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Here you can see some of the cones still hanging on this tree, along with bits of Spanish moss.
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Those are normal sized planted pine trees in the background. Autumn has turned the swamp grass a rust color and left only a few needles on the dwarf cypress.
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At the top of the boardwalk, Chuck and I are far above the dwarf cypress.

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Looking down at the treetops
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This was Chuck’s first visit to the Dwarf Cypress Boardwalk.  As you look down, realize that these trees are standing in water…  this IS a swamp after all!

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Some of the trees have a personality all their own with their whimsical shapes .Dwarf Cypress 060

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If you look close, you will see an opening into the brush here, above the lily pads.  Alligator Alley!  A pathway from the swamp to the walkway path!
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Maybe I will come back in the spring and get photos of the Dwarf Cypress with their new green needles! But  I think you get to see more of the whimsical personality of the trees in their “winter” mode!  Remember, these trees were here before Florida was even a state! Ancient Ones.
Hope you enjoyed visiting this part of Tate’s Hell Forest!  An interesting corner of our world for sure!
Happy Trails from the crew of the MotherShip, Chuck, Geri, Radar, and DoogieBowser!
Pledge of Allegiance


  1. One cool place to see, especially when you on top of the trees looking down at them. I remember the advice you gave me if we saw an alligator. Believe me I was looking.

    1. I believe Pat and I were exceptionally lucky that we were not lunch that day!

  2. Well, gators aren't at the top of the list for good manners, but it sounds like you lucked out. I recall standing watching one in the Everglades and then nearly slipping right into the water. My knees had turned to mush. LOL

  3. I once visited a young man who happened to have gator tail steaks on the grill! To this day, that was the best gator I have ever tasted! If you have to meet a gator, on the grill is the way I suggest!

  4. Love all the layers of color visible thru the needless trees. Sure glad there was no alligator attack this time. But then Chuck would have beat it off, right. Or is it a matter of who can run in zig-zags the fastest.

    1. Gaelyn, hopefully we will never know what would happen if we met a gator!

  5. Hi Y'all,.. This was a great article about the Dwarf Cypress, really enjoyed it. And, sure glad you slipped past that gator alright...haha..We want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, and Merry Christmas holiday... Vic & Donna...

    1. Hi Vic and Donna! Glad you two had a chance to see some pics of the dwarf cypress forest! Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas to you both as well!


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