Sacred Waters
Steven Earl
(University Press of Florida)
It is as lucious as you could ask, six miles of virgin water that ultimately empties into the Suwannee ... a river filled with cypress, wild rice, eel grass, tall loblollys, herons, alligators, otters, turtles and manatees. 230 million gallons of clear, cool water come forth each day from the many springs springing forth.

Ichetucknee has more than 100 full-color photographs of turtles and flowers and moths and owls and waters so blue you think you could fall in and keep on falling forever until you reached the sandy white bottom.

But if you are looking for beaver, no: the word "Ichetucknee" is the old Timucuan Indian word for "place of the beavers," and they (the beavers, like the Indians) no longer exist. And yes: it's pronounced "ish-tuck-nee."

Also, hurry, you might even miss the clear waters. Ten years ago, with the assist of the Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a cement company was granted a permit to mine 800 acres near the Ichetucknee State Park, two miles from the river. And when asked why they would permit such a thing, Jeb and the local commissioners said it was the usual: to expand the tax base, more jobs in Columbia and Suwannee Counties. Save the beautiful river? Who wants to vote for a mere trickle of water?

We tried online to track the story down to what has happened since then, but all we found were articles from a decade ago that describe the usual malfeasance by the usual economic and political grobians. In this book, Earl says that "The Florida Park Service is working to protect the river," but after calling up too many scary articles about highway-building moguls and inevitable underground currents filled with bilge, I wouldn't be too sure.

Not too long ago, we reviewed a book called Big Trips. It made us even more nervous. An article by Andrew Holleran reminded us that we can "never look at Florida the same way again." Our reporter said,

    I grew up there, too many years ago. Fresh water everywhere, popping up out of the ground everywhere to make rivers, streams, lakes, swamps, everything overlain by great green-gray swatches of Spanish-moss hanging from the trees, the limbs like the limbs of the old, craggy, bent, knobbed.

"Holleran takes us into the new Florida, crosses into Fort Myers over the Caloosahatchee River ... This is the grid that men have laid upon the infinitely subtle, delicate ecosystem of this unique state: a grid of highways, strip malls, and housing developments that has taken something that used to be as exotic as Africa and turned it into another corporate, standardized replica of what Henry Miller called the Air Conditioned Nightmare."

So if you want to visit the river of the beavers, there just outside Live Oak ... hurry. The bulldozers are, possibly, as we speak, at the portals. The beauty, well shown in the pictures in this volume, may, soon enough, be a matter of dark history ... all in the name of Prosperity and Progress.

--- Linda Wallace, PhD.
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