Time-Traveling River Excursions featured at Swamp Cabbage Festival

Posted 3/1/20

(Caloosa Belle/DanikaJ. Hopper) Scott Perry, founder of LaBelle Fossil Camp, shows the M/V River Queen passengers a 5 million year old oyster bed while traveling the Caloosahatchee River. A plethora …

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Time-Traveling River Excursions featured at Swamp Cabbage Festival

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(Caloosa Belle/DanikaJ. Hopper) Scott Perry, founder of LaBelle Fossil Camp, shows the M/V River Queen passengers a 5 million year old oyster bed while traveling the Caloosahatchee River.

A plethora of festival goers boarded the M/V River Queen for some exciting Caloosahatchee River Excursions that were again featured at this year’s Swamp Cabbage Festival thanks to the LaBelle Heritage Museum. The giant, custom-built pontoon boat was piloted by a knowledgeable and entertaining pair, USCG Master Captain John Cookman, and his wife, Kathy Cookman, who own and operate Manatee & Eco River Tours. They have provided exciting and educational eco-adventures along the Caloosahatchee and Orange Rivers for many years.

During at least one cruise, passengers watched as LaBelle’s locally famous 1967 amphicar motored up and down the river, challenging the M/V River Queen to a race, before driving back up onto the bank. On another trip, an old shipwreck was found using the vessel’s underwater detection equipment.

The journeys all included traveling into the old river, observing several oxbows, discussing native and exotic plants and animals along the way, as well as a up-close viewing ancient strata that contained a 5-million-year-old oyster bed.

Passengers traveled back through time with guest speaker Scott Perry, LaBelle Fossil Camp’s Founder and Director of Operations, as he talked about the river’s rich, ancient history and how it has been transformed from a narrow, shallow, winding river to the deep, straight channel it is today. Many were surprised to hear that there were excellent fossil hunting sites along the river as well.

An extra special tour included a talk by Larry Luckey, who has grown up living along the river, and remembers it well before the channelization occurred. He has watched with his own eyes as it transformed, his stories a wonderful insight into the river’s amazing history.

During the sunset tours, Margaret England and Steve Buczynski, of Hendry-Glades Audubon, were aboard to point out the variety of birds that live along the river. Birdwatchers reported spotting Great Blue herons, Cattle egrets, Great egrets, White ibis, a pair of Swallow-tailed kites, Ospreys, Wood storks, Yellow-Crowned Night herons, Anhingas, Purple martins, limpkins, and even a Peregrine falcon.

If you don’t want to wait until next year’s Swamp Cabbage Festival to schedule a river tour, you can contact John and Cathy Cookman of Manatee & Eco River Tours by phone at 239-693-1434 or by email at swfl.ManateeTours@gmail.com. They are located at 16991 FL-31 in Fort Myers. They can also be found online at manateeandecorivertours.com

The Hendry-Glades Audubon meets at the Hendry County Extension Service in the Dallas Townsend Building located at 1085 Pratt Blvd. in LaBelle on the 2nd Monday of each month. Their next meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 9, 2020 at 7:00 pm with Calusa Waterkeeper, John Cassani as the speaker. He will be speaking on problems and prospects for restoring the Caloosahatchee.

For information about Hendry-Glades Audubon Society contact Steve Buczynski stephenbuczynski@gmail.com or Margaret England hgaudubon@gmail.com 863-517-0202.

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