THE LOWLAND SOUTH
a virtual fieldtrip - by Alan A. Lew
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The Deep South (click here)
The Gulf Coast & Florida (below)
New Orleans (click here)
- Physical Geography - Economic Activity - The Gulf Coast - Florida (north to south)
The outer edge of Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plains (the last 50 miles or so)
is very low with sandy soil and wetlands. Wetlands are either swamps (wet forest)
or marshes (wet grassland). Sugar cane and rice are grown in these areas around
New Orleans, southeast Texas and southern Florida. Citrus is grown in central
Green on this topographic map (above) indicates vegetation. "Black Lake" in Louisiana (in the topo map above) is a swamp with trees growing out of the water.
Below a freeway cuts through a swamp in southwest Louisiana.
The southwest Louisiana 'Cajun' country consists mostly of marshes. Flying insects thrive in
An alligator swims in one of the many man-made canals in southwest Louisiana that drain off some of the marshland waters to allow agriculture, including rice and sugar cane.
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The fossil fuel resources of the Gulf Coastal Plain (both on land and off shore) have produced the largest chemical industry concentration in the US. Ascension Parish is in Louisiana -- a 'parish' is what most other states would call a 'county'.
Natural Gas production areas and pipelines in the US. Notice the large concentration in the area from Louisiana through coastal Texas.
Houston and Galveston Bay
Oil containers near Houston, Texas. Houston is the largest city on the Gulf Coast and was built largely on the oil, natural gas and related chemical industries in this region.
Bhopal on the Bayou? (below) - Chemical plants periodically explode, typically resulting in employee deaths, massive fires and leaks into the natural environment. (The world's worst chemical plant disaster was the 1984 explosion of US-owned Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India in which approximately 3,800 people died, 40 experienced permanent total disability, and 2,680 experienced permanent partial disability.)
Tabasco is an older chemical manufacturing process of Gulf Coast Louisiana -- but one that was also based on the geology of the area. Avery Island, where the McIlhenny Tabasco plant is located, is a large underground 'salt dome' which was mined for the salt that went into Tabasco sauce.
2,000 gallon vats of churning Tabasco sauce - This is the toughest part of the tour for the guides who have a hard time talking in this room due to the intense pepper aroma.
The Gulf Coast is one of the two major rice producing areas in the US (the other is the Central Valley of California). Konriko, founded in 1912, operates the oldest rice mill in the US and is a maker of specialty rice mixes. It was founded by Phillip Conrad (KONrad RIce COmpany), an immigrant from Germany.
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THE GULF COAST
The Intracoastal Waterway is a 'canal' just inland of the coast. It extends from Brownsville, Texas (the Mexican border) to Boston, Massachusetts. Along the Gulf Coast it is dug through swamps and marshes.
A barge pushed by a tugboat on the Intracoastal Waterway in Louisiana. A ferry boat can be seen to the right.
Fishing on the Intracoastal Waterway.
Welcome to Cameron, Louisiana, a traditional fishing community town on the coast. Notice the elevation.
Fishing boat in Cameron, Louisiana
Holly Beach, Louisiana, on the Gulf of Mexico. This area is known as the Louisiana Riviera and is a popular vacation and second-home community -- it provides an alternative to more developed Florida.
Houses on stilts in Holly Beach, looking out to the Gulf of Mexico.
An offshore oil rig can barely be seen in the distance.
This is a photo of the reason these houses are built on stilts. The wind and cloud circle the eye of the hurricane in a counterclockwise direction. The superimposed numbers indicate latitude and longitude.
St. Augustine and the Colonization of La Florida
In 1513, over a hundred years before the Mayflower arrived in the New World, a Spanish explorer named Juan Ponce de Leon landed on a strange peninsula of land. He found this land so beautiful he named it 'La Florida', which means 'The Flower', in observation of Pascua Florida, the Spanish Easter holy day. In later years, Ponce heard stories of a 'Fountain of Youth' -- a place so beautiful and perfect one needed only to sip from local waters to remain young and strong forever. He was convinced that La Florida was that place and although he returned he did not find the fabled fountain. In subsequent years Spain made several efforts to establish settlements in Florida, but all failed. In 1561 Spain abandoned efforts to colonize Florida. However, in 1565 King Philip II of Spain received word that France had sent an expedition to colonize Florida, and so he ordered Pedro Menendez de Aviles to set sail and colonize La Florida, establish missions to Christianize the locals, and remove the French. On September 8, 1565, Menendez landed on the shores of Ponce's Florida, claimed the land for Spain, and named his colonial outpost in honor of the feast day of St. Augustine. He then sailed to the French settlement just north of St. Augustine and defeated and killed the 200 French soldiers who were encamped there.
St. Augustine - the oldest city in the US
The Spanish Quarter is the heart of old St. Augustine -- and its main tourist district.
The oldest wood school house in the USA - The house above first appears on St. Augustine's tax rolls in 1716, but it was constructed before then. By 1788, the building was only "in fair condition," according to a Spanish map of that time. Originally, the building was a small homestead belonging to Juan Genoply. Juan Genoply later married and the house became a school, so he added an extra room. The schoolmaster lived upstairs with his family and used the first floor as a classroom. Boys and girls shared the same classroom, making the St. Augustine school the first in the young nation to go "co-ed."
The first Spanish Flag, on the left, was the first flag flown over Castillo de San Marcos. Known as the "Burgundian Flag", it represents the cross of St. Andrew, who was crucified on two crossed tree branches, as represented in the design of the flag. Variations of this flag were also used as regimental flags and were decorated with crowns and other symbols of particular meaning to the regiment using it. Most of the architecture in old St. Augustine dates to the second Spanish period (1784-1821).
The Town Wall - 1704-1821 - "The burning of St. Augustine by the English in 1702 showed the need for additional defenses. The first of these was a palisade on this site. Later the defense was improved and extended around the town. Thereafter, no attack ever reached the homes of the people."
Castillo de San Marcos - the Spanish fort dates to 1672. Soldiers of that period show artillery that would have been used at the time that the fort was completed.
Alligators have been a visitor attraction in Florida for over 100 years. The Farm's alligator swamp exhibit (below) is a very popular nesting site for migratory birds. The swamp extends over approximately two acres of natural wetlands and is home to around 65 American Alligators and many native turtles. During the non-breeding season many birds fly into the swamp in the evening to roost, or sleep, over the alligators. Among these are Black and Yellow Crowned Night Herons, White Ibis, and Roseate Spoonbills.
Video of an alligator swimming in the Alligator Farm swamp. mpeg (optional)
The alligators provide protection for bird nests from arboreal predators such as raccoons, opossums, and snakes. Although the birds do lose some hatchlings to the alligators, their losses are far fewer than if predators raided their nests. A boardwalk gives visitors a closeup view of both the alligators and birds.
Video of feeding the young crocodiles. mpeg (optional)
An albino alligator - yes, it is alive!
A visit to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral takes a full day -- there is a lot to see.
The Vehicle Assembly Building (below) is one of the largest buildings in the world. This is where Space Shuttles are assembled before launch.
Launch pads stretch along the coast. In general, the oldest launch pads are to the south (right side) dating back to the 1950s.
These are the Space Shuttle launch pads. The tractor vehicle that moves the shuttle from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the pad takes up the entire width of the two lanes that go to each pad.
The Apollo-Saturn V Center - below contains a full size Apollo rocket and commemorates the missions that ended with the first human landing on the moon.
Alligators sunning themselves next to small ponds are a common site at the Kennedy Space Center, which also serves as a large wildlife refuge.
The Intracoastal Waterway winds through the sandy, flat lands of eastern Florida.
Recreational condominiums on Florida's Atlantic Coast.
Disney World - located in north-central Florida on the south edge of the city of Orlando.
Covering 122 square kilometers (47 square miles), Walt Disney World is larger
than many moderately sized cities. Less than one-fourth of the land area is
developed so far, and one-fourth has been designated as a permanent wilderness
preserve. Approximately 50,000 people work at the parks, hotels, and other sites
and facilities of Walt Disney World, making it the largest employer in Central
Epcot Center -- a permanent World's Fair. China and Norway displays can be seen on the right and middle of this photo. An Aztec pyramid rises just above the trees in the middle, and the Epcot Spaceship Earth ball is on the left.
Replicated tourism (below) to Venice, Italy on the left and Japan on the right.
One of the Disney Resort Hotels within the sprawling Disney World complex.
Disney World - The Unofficial Online Guide*
Kitschy tourist shops on the edge of Disney World. This one features 'Disney Souvenirs', T-shirts from $1.95, and a 'Shell Factory' (so that's what the lighthouse and mermaid were for!)
Even this McDonald's Restaurant is in the tourism business.
Topless sunbathing for women is fairly common here due to the large number of European tourists who vacation in Florida.
Some of the older (yet still very nice) art deco hotels that line Miami Beach.
Miami has a large Cuban American population. This map of Cuba is in a residential area of Miami's Little Havana district.
Ronald Reagan Avenue in Little Havana, Miami. Cuban Americans tend to be staunchly anti-Communist and politically conservative.
An infrared satellite image of the southern tip of Florida. The Miami metropolitan area is on the east coast. The Florida Keys are the islands reaching south to the bottom of this image. The Everglades marshlands and the Big Cypress swamp comprise the blue and black area in the middle of the image.
This major highway across the Everglades marsh and Big Cypress swamp is a major barrier to the natural flow of water from north to south through this region.
The Miccosukee and Big Cypress reservation of the Seminole Indians are located in the middle of the Everglades.
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Sam's Hideaway -- the most southern tavern in the continental US -- is located just before the sequence of bridges that take one on to the Florida Keys.
Highway bridges and causeways connect the Florida Keys.
The "Conch Republic" on Key Largo, one of the islands of the Florida Keys
Key West is the southernmost of the Keys and considered the most Caribbean city in the US. It is a a very popular tourist and party destination.
Sunset on the southern side of Key West island.