East word: Perspectives on the Braden River

June 14, 2009 

The series on the Braden River that begins in the Herald today started as a hair-brained idea a year ago.

“The Braden River — the way you’ve never seen it” was the unwieldy working title.

The premise was that other than those who live on the river or go there for recreation, few really know that much about it.

Except that it meanders a lot. A driver can meet the Braden River on Interstate 75, on State Road 64 on the east side of Bradenton, several times on State Road 70, along Lorraine Road, Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and elsewhere.

Wouldn’t it make for an excellent adventure to navigate from the headwaters of the river in East Manatee, all the way to where it sloshes past Pine Island and spills into the Manatee River?

What would we see and experience along the way?

Among members of the team who put in time in the river were Brent Conklin, who planned the series, shot video, prepared the graphics, designed the look and more; Sara Kennedy, who became the lead writer on the series; outdoors writer Nick Walter; and photographers Grant Jefferies and Tiffany Tompkins-Condie, who helped with our photo archives or shot new art.

An unforgettable image in my mind was seeing Sara Kennedy and her daughter, Kate, headed to Jiggs Landing with a really long canoe sticking out the back of a battered pickup truck.

What we knew going in was that Evers Reservoir, created by a dam on the Braden River, provided the drinking water supply for the city of Bradenton.

What we didn’t fully understand was where the river went east of Evers Reservoir.

Eventually, we went to the headwaters, where the river actually starts near County Road 675 and found dusty fields. Experts believe there are at least five fingers that feed into the river as it begins snaking its way to the west and north.

Because it was a drought, the river had taken a hiatus in some places. As we moved west, a stream began to emerge, but it could be intermittent.

All the way to Linger Lodge, boating could be difficult or impossible because of too shallow water or dense, jungle-like conditions.

But that’s part of the story: the river changes according to the season. And the look of the river changes according to the latitude and longitude.

We all acquired a new appreciation for the sheer gorgeous panorama that is the Braden River, its wildlife and the view that changes with every new curve. It’s a natural treasure that quenches our thirst and satisfies our need to be in touch with nature.

The Braden River, like we had never seen it, indeed.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 708-7916.

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