Estuaries—those incredibly fertile environments where freshwater from the mouth of a river mixes with the saline waters of the sea—are often called cradles of life, and for good reason.
We’ve spent the last three days in the quiet historic fishing town of Apalachicola where the Apalachicola River empties into a large bay that is protected from the open Gulf by a string of barrier islands—a classic estuary. Apalachicola Bay is critically important in the life cycle a whopping 90-percent of the sea life in the eastern Gulf, much of which uses the estuary as a nursery. Apalachicola Bay is also one of the world’s great sources of oysters, and in the last three days we have eaten our share of them, prepared in a dozen different ways.
This is familiar territory for me, as seven years ago I spent several days in Apalachicola and its surrounding waters during the production of CGEE’s Waters to the Sea: Chattahoochee River program, which chronicles the ecological history of one of the most important river systems in the southeastern U.S. (To order a copy, click here.) The Chattahoochee begins its run to the sea at a lovely, modest spring high in the Blue Ridge mountains of northern Georgia. It passes through Atlanta, where a large reservoir taps much of the water consumed by the city’s 4-million residents. Further downstream, the river forms the Georgia-Alabama border before being joined by the Flint River just north of the Florida state line. Here the Chattahoochee does something unusual for a river: it changes names to become the Apalachicola River for its final stretch to Apalachicola Bay.
While the Boudreaux has been parked at the Scipio Creek Marina, we’ve biked about town and in neighboring Eastpoint to visit with oystermen, fellow coastal explorers, residents, and some of the folks who are hard at work trying to maintain conditions needed to support the wealth of life in Apalachicola Bay. There are many stories to be told here, and I’ll share some of the more compelling ones in the days ahead. By way of introduction, I’m posting a video we included in the Waters to the Sea: Chattahoochee River program that introduces the importance of estuaries and Apalachicola Bay—click the link below to view the video.
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