Weathering Rain, Setting a Swamp on Fire

After leaving the Everglades Headwaters, the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition team spent the rest of the first week immersed in the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve in Central Florida, a little known part of the state hiding within plain sight of Tampa’s and Orlando’s sprawling metropolitan areas.

Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition team member Mallory Lykes Dimmitt wades out into a swamp within the Green Swamp to capture a photograph. Photo by Carlton Ward Jr.
Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition team member Mallory Lykes Dimmitt wades out into a swamp within the Green Swamp to capture a photograph. (Photo by Carlton Ward Jr.)

The swamp spans five counties and 560,000 acres, a majority of which is designated as an Area of Critical State Concern for the purpose of protecting Florida’s water supply. As the headwaters of four of Florida’s rivers and an important groundwater recharge area for the Floridan Aquifer that provides drinking water to Florida and parts of Georgia and Alabama, the Green Swamp is a significant stepping stone in the network of protected areas that anchor the Florida Wildlife Corridor.

Wildlife is abundant in the swamp, and in order to keep track of all the birds and animals seen, the Expedition team recorded a species list, below, that we’ll update throughout the trek.

Florida Sandhill Cranes forage on a private ranch in the Green Swamp. Photo by Carlton Ward Jr.
Florida Sandhill Cranes forage on a private ranch in the Green Swamp. (Photo by Carlton Ward Jr.)

The highlight of our Green Swamp experience, after backpacking and camping in a soaking rain befitting of the region, was participating in a controlled burn with land managers from the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Fire is an important management tool across all of Florida, and the swamp is no exception.

We were lucky that favorable weather allowed the burn to happen as planned while we were in the region, and we were thrilled to help ignite, photograph, and film this fire. The benefits of prescribed fire are many, including reducing fuels to mitigate potentially hazardous wildfires, wildlife habitat improvement, insect and disease control, encouraging new growth of native vegetation, and maintaining habitat for plant and animal species that depend on periodic fire.

Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition team members Mallory Lykes Dimmitt and Joe Guthrie help ignite a prescribed fire in Green Swamp East. (Photo by Carlton Ward Jr.)

Glades to Gulf Species List (as of 1.15.15):

Wood StorkTricolored HeronTufted Titmouse
Florida Sandhill CraneLittle Blue HeronBlack-capped Chickadee
Red-shouldered HawkBald EagleGreat White Egret
Turkey VultureEastern PhoebePygmy Rattlesnake
Black VultureMallardBlack Racer
White-tailed DeerAmerican CootVirginia Opossum
RaccoonLimpkinNorthern Bobwhite
Wild TurkeyBarred Owl
White IbisOsprey
Eastern Grey SquirrelKilldeer
Common YellowthroatYellow-rumped Warbler
Palm WarblerSquirrel Tree Frog
Gray CatbirdBarking Tree Frog
Northern MockingbirdGreen Anole
American RobinLubber Grasshopper
American CrowRiver Otter
Great Blue HeronNine-banded Armadillo
Cattle EgretSoutheastern Pocket Gopher (mounds)
Northern CardinalCoyote (scat)
Eastern BluebirdCarolina Wren
American KestrelBlue-gray Gnatcatcher
Mourning DoveHairy Woodpecker


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Mallory Lykes Dimmitt is a seventh generation Floridian whose childhood was partly spent exploring the lands and waters of Central Florida. She pursued her passion for the outdoors into a career, receiving her B.S. in Natural Resources from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. She was also awarded a Doris Duke Conservation Fellowship at Duke University’s Nicholas School of Environment where she earned a Master’s of Environmental Management. Some of Mallory’s projects include protecting river corridors and large landscapes in Southwest Colorado and across the Colorado Plateau with The Nature Conservancy, research abroad for the International Water Management Institute and, currently, leading the Florida Wildlife Corridor as Executive Director. Mallory is passionate about freshwater conservation and the intersection of landscape scale conservation and agriculture.