Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Clyde Butcher and the NERR

Wednesday April 2, 2014
St. George Island State Park
Eastpoint, Florida


What in the world is it?





The NERRS System is the National Estuarine Research Reserve System a network of 28 Estuary reserves.  Five are on the west coast, 2 are on the Great Lakes and the remaining 21 are up and down the East Coast.








We’d been to the Wells Estuarine Reserve in Maine this past summer.  I was very impressed so I wanted for sure to see this one so close to the park.

This reserve was established to study, protect, and teach about the varied habitats of the Apalachicola River and Bay Systems from upland pine flatwoods to riverine forests to coastal marshes and bay waters.


As you would expect the building is very “environmental” for lack of a better word.  Their signage talks about their total reliance on Native Plants which require little or no watering for landscaping and the minimal disruption of the landscape for parking and walking area.  As everywhere, water is a precious commodity in Florida.  During dry times the Reserve taps into four under-building cisterns.  These 300 gallon cisterns collect rainwater from the roof.  

Another great environmental policy is that they encourage all their employees to bike to work by providing storage for their bicycles and a shower for their use.






I’m already impressed and  when, as I approach the building,  I see a banner outside proclaiming a Clyde Butcher photography exhibition, that seals it for me.  Butcher is a favorite of mine.  He takes classic black and white pictures of Florida natural landscapes.   He uses an old fashioned box camera and has done the Everglades, Big Cypress (where he has his studio) and possibly every preserve in the state.  He really is Florida’s official wild landscape photographer.







The maps on the outside deck of the building showing the Apalachicola watershed are very interesting.  The Apalachicola is the southernmost river in a three river watershed beginning north of Atlanta in Georgia and ending in St. George’s Sound at Apalachicola.   The Chattahoochee and the Flint rivers both flow south to make the Apalachicola River.


St. George Island State Park is located near the right hand end of the barrier island which separates St. George Sound and Apalachicola Bay from the gulf of Mexico






First we see the reserve’s film which highlights its mural and the natural landscapes which inspired it. 

Upon entering the large one room visitors center, I go immediately to see the Butcher photographs.  A dozen of them are hanging in an alcove of the museum.  Others are on the wall throughout the rest of the space.  The lighting makes it difficult to take pictures of the pictures but here are a couple that are fairly decent.  Obviously the color is the light reflections.



Many of the photographs in this exhibit were taken in this area particularly in St. Joe Bay or in the Thousand Islands area south of Naples.




I highly recommend this catalog of the exhibit if you have an appreciation of excellent black and white photography.   Is Butcher an East Coast Ansel Adams?  Judge for yourself.



Nearly one half of the rest of the building’s wall is taken up with the beautiful mural.  David tries to do a panorama of it but the mural is simply too large.





In the center of the floor are several aquariums.  The fish and turtles are wonderful but it is still sad to see them there when they should be swimming free.   .




He’s the diamond backed terrapin.  Isn’t he just totally cool???   I feel sorry for him here.












The barbfish is one I have never even heard of before.  He hangs out on the bottom and just waits for his prey to pass.






Nature is just so amazing.  The suction disc on the shark sucker’s head is actually a highly modified dorsal fin.  They will attach to a wide variety of marine fish, turtles and rays.  And to this aquarium glass in a pinch.  Poor thing.





There is a very nice children’s area in the museum with all sorts of educational games and books.  I’m sorry I didn’t take a picture of the little area in total as it was extremely well done.


A huge group of junior high school kids comes in and we take that as our cue.   As we leave, I particularly enjoy the tall wooden Great Egret and his prey.  Isn’t he great?










Once outside on the deck again, we see a trail in the back of the building.  It wasn’t mentioned when we asked about hikes on the property but it looks too inviting to ignore.  We walk down the back steps to see where it goes.

Out to the sound of course.




The Reserve owns quite a bit of property and completely undeveloped waterfront between the bridge to St. George’s Island and their building which appears to be at the back of their property.  We walk all the way down the bridge amazed at the oysters lining the sand and especially lining the water at the edge.  For sure you would not want to walk out into this water barefoot.









A group of mergansers entertain us.  There must be 50 of them










I know, I know, too many pictures.  But they were just so cute!





There are on going programs to reseed the oyster reefs and create new ones as well as this marsh planting project.






Having worked in Environmental Education I know that the best way to instill a love for and thus a concern for the environment is to enable the children to bond with a place and to feel they are connected to it.  This is a wonderful step in that direction.





There is an active eagle’s nest in a pine tree on the property but no one home today






As we head back, we agree it was a lovely unexpected walk along the St. George Sound this morning with only a few obstacles for one of us.







After leaving the reserve, we head into Apalachicola to pick up medicine at the CVS and visit the only two grocery stores in the area,  Piggly Wiggly (The Pig) and Gulfside IGA.   Can’t wait to get back to a Whole Foods.

In the later afternoon we decide to take that Slough walk we had not chosen on the day we walked to the Primitive Campgrounds. It is only a 3 mile hike so we set out in time to be coming back at sunset. But I’ll leave that for another post.


  1. Does everyone call Piggly Wiggly "The Pig"? My son does, but I never heard anyone else do it. It's so cute!

    Virtual hugs,


  2. I feel so bad when I think of any wild creature being contained, whether in a zoo, and aquarium, or whatever. My feeling is that if humans cause their near extinction, then we should let them go extinct - not keep the remaining few alive in captivity. There are no doubt very good arguments against my ideas.

  3. Once again I've learned something from you. I had never heard of Clyde Butcher before, now I have to look into his work.. The photos you showed of his are amazing!

    The check is in the mail for the learning session. Did you get the last dozen checks I sent you for the other things you've taught me??? ;c)

  4. Another beautiful reserve!!! Love Clyde Butcher's work and did spend some time at his studio in Big Cypress...AMAZING!!!

    When we moved to South Carolina about 30 years ago, the first commercial I remember hearing was for "The Pig!" They said, "If you can't buy it at The Pig, you might as well go home!!" The latest billboard I have seen says, "The Pig...how the South shops!!" Whoever thought of that name?!?!!

  5. We've never been inside the Clyde Butcher studio because it's usually closed when we are there. We really need to go there, I guess.

    Those shark sucker/remoras are interesting, except when they try to attach themselves to your legs while diving. I hated those darn things and could have gladly speared one of them!

    Al always called it piggy wiggy. I miss Nutrition S'mart.

  6. Butcher's work is beautiful and the nature center sounds informative indeed. I, too, think it's sad for the fish and turtles who are doomed to a life inside. They don't know what they're missing...although they are waited on instead of having to survive in the wilds. Still would pick the wilds. The Pig. Ha! Such a name for a food store :)

  7. Your post was very interesting today, as always. If you are nearby, Clyde Butcher, will be speaking at Ding Darling Refuge (Sanibel) next Friday (April 11th) at 10am and 1pm. It is a free event, however, it is sure to fill up quickly. I'd recommend coming early to insure a seat. He is an amazing photographer and has done so much to make people aware of the beauty of the Everglades and the importance of preserving it. His lecture is called "Florida: Where Water, Earth, and Heaven Meet".

  8. I was thinking the same thing, that this guy reminds me of Ansel Adams. He is (was) my absolute favorite photographer, and I got to meet him once at a book signing. Loved you commentary on this wonderful place you visited.

  9. I haven't heard of "the Pig" for years. Whole foods is much better.

    I just don't get the caging, even in water. Seems the natural would be a better teaching tool.

    LOVE the B&W photography!

  10. I had no idea there was a National Estuary Website. . .I am bookmarking this for sure. . .totally intrigued by them. . .fell in love with estuaries when we discovered the Armand Bayou Nature Center in Houston. . .

    Lots more research coming up. . .thanks for sharing! Wow. . .love it. . .

  11. That camera is doing good. We had a big group of mergansers around here all winter but they have moved north. They are fun to watch.

  12. Lovely pictures... with the new camera still?

  13. The Pig.....piggish prices! I surely love your new camera! YOU are making me green!

  14. Great photos with the new camera! Once again you introduced me to two new things: the NERR and the beautiful photography of Clyde Butcher. I think you are spot on calling him the Ansel Adams of the East Coast. It would be amazing to meet him and hear his views on the preservation of Florida's precious eco-systems.

  15. So happy you visited the Estuarine Research Center -- and of course, you shared so eloquently all of the information that you absorbed there. It gives me hope that this precious area will be protected if people understand the live-giving importance of the river, bays, and estuaries. (We saw the same flock of mergansers last week -- weren't they fun to watch?)

  16. We have The Pig here too, didn't know it was a southern thing. Darling mergansers, you're making me wish away the summer till we go there in the fall!


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