Florida Water Woes: Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park Through The Years
The following is a guest post from Milt Hays Jr. Milt has been tracking the water levels on the lakes in Florida’s Mike Roess Gold Head State Park which is located along the Florida Trail north of Keystone Heights. He sent some incredible USGS surveys going back to 1949 which can be viewed in the slide show. He also sent a photo of Lake Johnson that was taken in 1970 and one from the same spot just a few days ago. The surveys and photos are a good example of what has been happening to Florida lakes and waterways over the years.
Like many people who grew up here in the Jacksonville area, I have spent a good bit of time at Gold Head Branch State Park over the years. As a child, my family would rent cabins and go fishing on the lake, and I would spend happy afternoons wandering though the ravine and the surrounding sand hills. At night, I would watch the stars as they came out over the lake at dusk, sometimes bringing telescopes to take advantage of the park’s velvet-dark skies. Later, growing up, I learned about the ecosystems that I had explored as a youngster, and more and more came to treasure the park as a sanctuary both for its wildlife and for its visitors. At all seasons of the year, the park offers a beautifully preserved natural Florida sand hill setting, family recreation and camping, and — if you prefer — solitude. On one such occasion, inconsolable after the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia, I drove to the park just to be alone under the stars, a type of therapy that works for me when nothing else seems to.
The following is the slideshow based on USGS imaging and photography going back to the 1940s and through today (Certain browsers: if the animation does not start, click the image to view):
1. Gold Head Branch, USGS 7.5 Minute Topographic Map, Edition of 1949. Based on aerial photography obtained in 1946-47, field checked in 1949.
2. Gold Head Branch, USGS 7.5 Minute Topographic Map, Edition of 1970. Revised based on 1970 aerial photography.
3. Gold Head Branch, USGS 7.5 Minute Topographic Map, Edition of 1993. Revised based on 1987 aerial photography, field checked in 1989.
4. USGS photograph/Google Earth. Google Earth image based on USGS photography dated Jan. 2, 2008.
5. Pioneer vegetation colonizing the former bottom of Lake Johnson 2012.
6. Cracked mud on the former bottom of Lake Johnson
This is a side-by-side image of Lake Johnson showing what the lake looked like in 1970 and what it looks like today:
This is a wide angle mosaic of Lake Johnson taken just the other day:
By Milt Hays Jr
Thank you, Milt for all of the work you put into this and for sending it to Florida Politic.