Barley Barber Swamp, which was closed to the public after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is now open for guided tours. Put politics and big business aside and get out and see the swamp. This is South Florida’s Greatest Legacy.
I have waited about 4 years to get a glimpse of Barley Barber Swamp , and today I actually got a chance to see it with my own eyes. There are a few times in my life where I can honestly say, I remember this day. Today it was bending my neck straight back in order take in with sheer amazement the height of these monster cypress.
The lyrics penned in John Anderson’s song “Seminole Wind” may have been different if he would of stumbled upon Barley Barber. In his song he writes…:
And progress came and took its toll
And in the name of flood control
They made their plans and they drained the land
Now the glades are going dry
And the last time I walked in the swamp
I sat upon a Cypress stump
I listened close and I heard the ghost
Of Osceola cry
Long before FP&L built their power plant in Indiantown, during the early 70′s, Barley Barber Swamp was one of many Indian trading posts that were established around Lake Okeechobee. An indian mound is still intact and can be seen at the half way point of the boardwalk tour. The mound is made from fill gathered most likely from a catchment pond that was dug just a few feet away. It is speculated that the mound was a viewing platform for tribe leaders to approve of trades by their people and the catchment area was actually dug out to capture fish.
So the Indians were the first people to disrupt the integrity of swamp for their own good. Next came the cattle farmers who cut a slough through the middle of the swamp to move water off the surrounding land. The slough is a welcomed addition to the swamp, loaded with native aquatic plants and wild flowers it is one of the highlights of the tour.
If song writer and country singer John Anderson was going to sit upon a cypress stump he would not have much luck finding one at Barley Barber. A loggers dream, its amazing that these mammoth cypress have not seen the flat side of a chain saw. A testament to past generations who have left these 800 year old plus giants alone. If Chief Osceola is crying over Barley Barber I’m pretty sure its happy tears.
The Barley Barber Swamp is under the complete stewardship of FP&L. Even to the point that FP&L regulates the water level of the swamp based on 100 year historical water levels and not so much based on the particular rainfall of the year. On the surface that may sound Orwellian, but someone controls the water levels, whether its the EPA or South Florida Water Management District. The Staff Biologist for FP&L has monitored Barley Barber for the last 30 years, and with the exception of some treated old world climbing fern and a few too many strangler figs for my liking I say he’s doing a hell of a job.
It has been pointed out to me many times by environmental activist that FP&L is dumping contaminated high temperature water into the swamp. This is an easy allegation to make, especially when the public knows that power plants dump warm water into the ocean. But I can’t imagine this is the case at Barley Barber Swamp. The retention pond that captures the cooling water is 10 square miles, the swamp itself is not directly a part of the cooling system. I looked at hundreds of cypress knees and saw no unusual high level water marks or long standing water marks. I’m of the opinion their is no compromise from the retention pond. The nesting eagles that are present before you enter the swamp may be of the same opinion as they hunt the area.
The Cypress in the photo is by no means the largest, You are going have to go see it for yourself because a camera just doesn’t capture its reign over the swamp.