Lake Kissimmee

Clyde is working toward completing a book on the
Everglades ecosystem from the headwaters to
the mangroves…from Reedy Creek near Disney
World to Florida Bay in the Keys.

He has photographed most of the system, however
there are places he has missed.

We have never been to Lake Kissimmee.
I didn’t realize how much beauty we were
missing in our life! What a glorious lake
and surrounding area!

We have a time-share and traded it for
a week at River Ranch on the Kissimmee River.
Oh my, it was a wonderful week! Peace,
quiet and a lot of nature! A perfect place to get
away from the hectic rush of life…

Road to cabin

White fences…cattle, rodeos, fishing, air boat
rides, and just laying around and enjoying
the peace, quiet and beautiful scenery.

The shopping area was very sweet…
a small country village.

They had long-horn cattle on the ranch
and they had buffalo. This is a baby
buffalo suckling it’s ma.

Our time-share unit was incredible!
I was totally spoiled!

The magnolias were in bloom. Not only do
they smell lovely, they make great images!
I had a lot of fun with my new close-up lens.

Close up of a magnolia

Early morning on the porch
was a great place for Clyde
to enjoy his morning tea

Into the Kissimmee River

Into the slough

We pushed the Gheenee/boat up into
the bushes to hold it steady while
Clyde took the photograph

Clyde photographing

Kissimmee River Slough

Clyde walking along the bank to
see if there are any photographic
opportunities from that angle

We took a turn off of Kissimmee River into
a little creek, which we named
Granma’s Slough

…under a bridge…

Heading further down Granma’s Slough

The creek we were on was on the chart, but it
didn’t have a name. When Clyde stopped to
photograph the oak tree hanging out over the
creek, we heard chimes. I turned and behind
us was a beautiful oak tree with trinkets
hanging from it, and a chime. In front of the
oak tree was a cross with the words:
“To a wonderful Mother and loving
I thought, how her children must have loved
her to use this tree as a memory tree.
As we waited for the light to be right, grandma’s
chimes sang music to us…it was a moment that
I charish when I remember our adventures
on Kissimmee River.

And soooo….we named the creek
Granma’s Slough

Clyde setting up his camera gear

Clyde photographing the oak

Granma Slough Oak

Leaving Granma’s Slough

Back out onto the Kissimmee River…
a good example of how straight the
core of engineers can make a river.

However, we do need to say that when
you ask the core to do something, by golly,
they do it! We asked them to straighten
the Kissimmee River…we asked them
to drain the Everglades…and they did it and
they did a very good job of it.
No one else could do it. I hope they can
fix it as well as they fouled it up…

We pushed the boat up as far as
we could into the plants so they
would hold it steady while Clyde
took the photograph
Kissimmee River #10

Kissimmee River #12


It was interesting to follow this cloud…
it seemed to hover over Kissimmee
River. But, when it got thick, we
headed for cover!

Heading for home ahead of the storm…

Heading into the marina before
a storm hits us…
another day…

We decided to drive around and see where we could
launch our boat into Lake Kissimmee. We were
fortunate to come across Grape Hammock Fish Camp.
It is a rarity…true old Florida. It felt so good to be
around scenery that reflected how Florida was
before it became paved, pruned and prissied.

Not only was the scenery comforting, but the Chandler
family who has owned this fish camp for generations
were gracious and thoughtful folks. We enjoyed
getting to know them.

Grape Hammock Fish Camp

House/fishing boat

House/fishing boat

Kevin Chandler helping Clyde get his gear
on board the air boat

Heading past the wonderful old Florida
houseboat row

Into Lake Kissimmee

As we entered Lake Kissimmee it was as
though heaven bent down and kissed
the earth…the clouds were so
close I felt I could touch them.

Kevin and Clyde running the edge
of Lake Kissimmee

Kevin helping Clyde carry
his equipment into oak hammock

Clyde photographing

Rocky Point #1

A wonderful little flying critter…
butterfly or moth?

Clyde setting up his camera

Rocky Point #2

Clyde photographing lake

Lake Kissimmee #3

Kevin patiently waits for Clyde
to finish taking the photograph

Clyde photographing lake

Lake Kissimmee #4
Kevin points toward the other side
of the lake where Twenty-seven
Palms is located…and we head
off in that direction…

Heading along the shore of Brama Island

Heading across the lake

Niki’s handpainted b&w photo
“Along the edge of Brama Island”

The further we went, the more threatening
the storm became, until we had to turn
and head in the other direction…
toward home…
Heading home…trying to stay ahead
of the storm

another day….

Jeff Klinkenberg, Barrett Chandler,
and Maurice (Moe) Riverbank joined us
as we headed out into Lake Kissimmee
and Brama Island

Jeff Klinkenberg is a journalist for the
St Pete Times. He writes wonderful stories
about the “real” folks of Florida. He gets
to meet some of the greatest and most
unusual people…what a life!

Clyde and Jeff

Anyway, Jeff wanted to interview Clyde,
so we met him at Lake Kissimmee for the
day. He brought us his new book:
Pilgrim In the Land of Alligators

Once Clyde and I started reading it
we had to fight over it because the book
was filled with so many real & unusual stories
about the strange folks that live in
Florida. We took turns each night
reading it…a very good book…check it out!

Jeff, Barrett, Clyde and Moe
getting ready to leave the dock

Heading out and past that wonderful
mysterious row of houseboats…

Moe filming the wind-blown Jeff, Barrett and Clyde

Moe filming Clyde

Lake Kissimmee #2

White Waterlily

Brama Island in the distance

heading down the road

The Lightsey family had just received an honor
for the environmental efforts of their ranch:
the 2009 Florida Farmer of the Year Award.
When Barrett Chandler, son in law of the Lightsey’s,
invited Clyde out to photograph their
ancient oak on Brama Island, we were excited to
be a small part of the life of a farmer/rancher who
loves his land enough to nourish it and
keep it healthy for generations.

Brama Island is 40,000 acres…”give or take a few
depending on the height of the water,” says Barrett.
Seventy-five percent of the property is in conservation
to preserve the land in its natural state for generations.
In addition to a small ranch, Brama Island contains
ancient Indian settlements, 28 endangered
species and 14 bald eagle nests.

Brama Island is a small portion of the lands owned
by the Lightsey family. To be invited to see this
special place was an honor.

Font porch of the Brama Island Lodge
hunting cabin

Porch at Brama Island Lodge

Barrett, Clyde, Jeff and Moe with
ancient oak tree thought to be
around 400 years old

Barrett, Clyde, Jeff and Moe

Moe getting some video to go with the
St Petersburg Times online article

Barrett and Clyde discussing camera lens angle

Brama Island Ancient Oak

Clyde resting against base of ancient oak

Clyde photographing from back of truck

Clyde setting up his camera

Brama Island Oak #2

Jeff, Clyde and Moe relaxing while waiting
for the right light to take the photo

Clyde photographing an oak tree
layered in moss

Brama Island Oak #1

Moe, Clyde and Jeff

Loading equipment into air boat

The end to another beautiful day…
racing the storm once again

another day…

Film maker Elam Stoltzfus and his son Nic
joined us for a couple of days out on the lakes

We have known Elam since 1989 when he was the
videographer of Clyde for the public television program
Visions of Florida. As Clyde puts it, “I’ve known
Elam long enough that we have gone gray
haired together!”

Elam has been filming Clyde for a long time
and decided it was time to put together all of that
film into a documentary on Clyde. With that
in mind, he comes into our life now and
then to film us doing ‘this and that’…
The goal is to get our recent projects into
the film. However, we seem to always have
more projects than he can keep up with!
When the documentary
airs, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Nic, Clyde and Elam getting ready
to shove off in Elam’s boat.

Clyde photographing 27 Palms

Elam getting out his equipment

Elam and Nic with gear

Niki photographing the guys

Elam filming Clyde

Clyde setting up his camera, then
waiting for the shot…under the
cool shade of an umbrella…

Lake Kissimmee #1

Nic holding the umbrella to provide
shade for Clyde…it was a VERY
hot day.

Lake Kissimmee #11

A seed pod from the water lily

Niki, Clyde & ElamA storm started forming and heading
straight for us!

Every afternoon we encountered a storm
this day was no exception. We ‘ran’ before
the storm hoping to get to shore before
it hit. But, my oh my, what wonderful
dramatic skies those storms created!

The storm we were running from

another day…

Elam Stoltzfus and his son Nic join
us in the adventure of finding
Reedy Creek.

Reedy Creek is the headwaters of the
Everglades ecosystem. We have been to
the area of Reedy Creek north of the Lake
Kissimmee ecosystem, where it pours into
Lake Russell at the Disney Wilderness Preserve,
but Clyde wanted another photo of where
it pours into the Lake Kissimmee area.
The search was on….

We moved out of our time-share at River Ranch
and into the Howell’s duck hunting cabin.

The Howell’s invited us to use their duck
hunting cabin, and we gladly took them
up on it. What a wonderful gift it was for
us. We relaxed in luxury. Thier generosity
made our trip much more
relaxing and wonderful.

The map on the wall is of Lake Kissimmee.

Getting ready to launch the Gheenee

Leaving Camp Mack and heading down
the canal toward Lake Hatchineha, then into
Lake Cypress and then, hopefully, into
Reedy Creek

…heaven kissing earth again…

Elam and Nic in the wild blue

There are no signs saying
We searched and searched. When we finally found the
right slit in the grass we were overjoyed! I felt like an
explorer of ancient times who had found my way…

Nic and Elam filming us as we head
down Reedy Creek

Entering Reedy Creek

Heading down Reedy Creek

Clyde putting orange filter over lens
so that the sky would be dark

Reedy Creek #9

There were a few interuptions in that
beautifully glassy water….

I took a picture of Nic photographing
Elam filming Clyde

Nic to a photo of Elam filming Clyde

Nic, Elam and Clyde at Reedy Creek

Nic and Elam

Heading home to Camp Mack

another day

A day with Buzz Busby, Maggie and
his children: Amry & Tyke

Leaving Camp Mack

Heading across Lake Hatchineha toward
London Creek

Heading down London Creek

Getting the boat tied up so it wouldn’t
float into the photograph.

Buzz handing Clyde his film

Maggie, Buzz and Amry looking on as
Clyde takes the photograph. It was a
hot day and Tyke jumped overboard
to swim around and cool off.

It was very deep in this area…one more step forward
and Clyde would have been over his head!

London Creek

At the base of the tree is Buzz’s son, Tyke. It gives
you an idea of just how large this tree is!

Down London River
Buzz, Maggie and Clyde

This was a tricky photograph. As you can see, Clyde
isn’t behind the camera. He set the camera up and
I clicked the shutter. Because the photo was taken
from the pontoon boat, someone had to hold the boat
still. No matter how he and Buzz tied up the boat
it still moved. The exposure was a long exposure, so
that meant that he and Buzz would have to get off
the boat, climb into the water (which was shallow
enough that they could touch bottom) and hold
the boat…and it STILL moved. So, Clyde went under
the boat and stood between the pontoons where
the platform is, and then lifted the boat up with
his head. He’d tell me when to ‘click’, he’d count out
the seconds, and then I’d release the shutter. We did
it several times hoping one of the negs would turn out.

London Creek #2

A nice place to dock, with a great tree to swing out
into the river…fun summer splashes…

Clyde, Maggie and kids hike up to the ridge

Maggie and Clyde hiking along the ridge
Looked like it was about ready to rain,
so no photography happened. Too bad,
because it certainly was a beautiful
area…lots of possibilities.

Got back just in time…and the rain poured down
another day

Kathy Howell
Lake Hatchineha & Lake Kissimmee

Kathy Howel and Clyde heading down the
canal and out to Lake Hatchineha

It took a while before Clyde could take
this photo because he was constantly
waiting for a boat wake to stop.
Just as one would stop, another boat
would appear and create another wake.

Twin Cypress

These two trees are known for the fun that
air boaters have zooming between them
at full speed!

Lunch on Lake Hatchineha

A storm heading our way…

Up with the roof

As the clouds build, we head for a
protected area on the lake where
we can sit out the storm safely

Kathy and Clyde

Kathy taking a peek at the scene under
the dark cloth

Oak Ridge

Heading into Lake Kissimmee
A good example of how straight the
core of engineers can make a river…

The question is: How did they get their
air boats all the way up there?

Kathy and Clyde
Heading out into Lake Kissimmee

Lake Kissimmee

We managed to get under shelter just in time!
It REALLY poured down rain!

Clyde loading his film. This is a process he does every night…
unloads his film and loads a new batch.

another day….

Buzz and his air boat take us out onto
Lake Hatchineha

Buzz arrived at the dock with his beautiful air boat
to spend the day with us out on Lake Hatchineha

…and heaven kissed the earth… again…

Heading into Dead River

Dead River got its name because of all the
twists, turns and blind corners in the river.
Air boats have a tendency to go fast, and
often crash into each other as they round
a bend…resulting in many deaths.

Buzz helping Clyde remove trash
from the scene

Unfortunately, after all the work of getting
the equipment out there and cleaning up the
garbage, Clyde developed the film and didn’t like
the resulting image. To much contrast…

Buzz helping Clyde carry his gear back
to the air boat.

Zooming down Dead River

Clyde points to an area he would like to see…heading
in a direction that only an airboat can take…

Zooming around the bends in Dead River

…and then we were out into Lake Hatchineha…

Clyde making his way into the forest along the
banks of Lake Hatchineha

Clyde photographing oak

Lake Hatchineha Oak

A sweet little yellow flower…

Heading back in to the cabin…

Buzz knew the owners of the Zipper Ranch. He also
knew they had an ancient oak on their property, so
he asked the Zippers if he could take us out to see
it. We jumped in an electric cart and headed out into
the property of the Zipper Ranch.

Zipper Ranch – a cabin for stays out in the wilderness

Orchids dangle from an oak tree

When we got to the tree it was surrounded
by cattle. Buzz ran around gently chasing the
cattle out of the photograph. However, they
LOVED the shade of the tree and were
constantly coming back into the photo. Buzz
did a lot of moving cattle before Clyde was
able to photograph the tree.

Buzz looking under dark cloth to see
image in the camera

As Clyde was setting up his camera I
noticed this cow heading toward him. She
was intent on Clyde. We’ve had interesting
encounters by many different kinds of
wild animals, but never, ever, by cows. Clyde
had no idea what to expect, but he stood his
ground and didn’t leave his camera alone.

As you can tell, Clyde put the tri-pod between
him and the cow. It is one BIG animal, with very
large horns. Clyde wasn’t at all comfortable
with the situation. However, the cow just sniffed
around and decided there was no food,
then meandered off into the distance….
much to Clyde’s relief.

I think Clyde feels more comfortable around ‘gators
than he does around cattle….

Zipper Oak

Buzz and Clyde standing under the Zipper Ranch Oak

Our trip to Lake Kissimmee was filled with the beautiful
glory of this earth, but that beauty was magnified
by the gracious generosity of the people we met.

3 thoughts on “Lake Kissimmee

  1. Wow, Niki, fabulous blog. I loved seeing the scenery and then Clyde's interpretation. We read "Pilgrim in the Land of Alligators" and loved it. Went on to read all of Jeff's books.

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