Lettuce Lake was still flooded from Hurricane Elsa! The boardwalk was closed. Yes, this really did stink—not literally smelly though. And it was more noisy than usual with creature sounds heard on Lettuce Lake and the Hillsborough River. So, I closed my eyes again and took a deep breath. We came to see a gator, but since they are usually here at the boardwalk, we should also see at least an American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) in all of this water off of the trail!
Lettuce Lake Park is a riverine fresh water forested swamp that usually holds water—but not this much! It’s flooded now because this is a floodplain and it’s the rainy season. Wetlands are really great at holding floodwater and runoff, filtering the water of pollution before it flows into other water sources like rivers and lakes, refilling our groundwater, and keeping sediments down. Our favorite tree here is the Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum). You can also find Pond Cypress (Taxodium ascendens).
Yes, we did see a small alligator right next to us on the paved “Hammock Trail.”
This is an over filled water drain close to the parking lot:
We got to see a hawk at the very end of our visit. A bird of prey was also on our tertiary consumer food chain checklist. The kids didn‘t get a photo for ID, but it had talons and a sharp beak for sure! There were so many tadpoles and frogs to keep the kids occupied and we were just not fast enough.
Later, at home we tried an activity to tie our ideas and observations together. We used a Florida friendly wetlands plant that attracts butterflies we got from The Little Red Wagon. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/4h348
The water is clear! This is an example of how a wetland works to filter water and slowly release it into the aquifer: