Spoil Island History, Martin County, A Time Capsule Flight–Indian River Lagoon

Spoil island history, MC, FL
Spoil island history, MC, FL (A time-capsule  “flight” by Todd Thurlow.)

For today’s post, I am partnering up with my younger brother, attorney, Todd Thurlow. Todd, as all members of my family, is intrigued by history and maps. As he is a technology buff as well, he has learned to use Google Earth Pro (in this case a trial version) to superimpose old maps over today’s Google Earth aerials. The effect is amazing in that one can literally “see” the changes over time in land, shoreline, and in today’s case, IRL spoil islands. The islands that one sees in the IRL are not natural, they are dredge fill from the creation of a channel with its government beginnings in 1881. This includes some islands that are now exclusive neighborhoods, such as Island Edition and Archipelago, in Sewall’s Point. Fortunately, the birds got one too–“Bird Island” now a Critical Wildlife Area, (CWA) or MC2. MC2 is located just north, off the Archipelago.

Today our channels are managed by FIND, the Florida Inland Navigation District.

I will provide a summary TIME LINE of Todd’s notes below; nonetheless, be sure to watch the video in the link below, so you can “see!” It is amazing: you will feel like you are taking a time-capsule flight right over our beautiful and ever-changing Indian River Lagoon:

Link to IRL/SPOIL ISLAND TIME CAPSULE FLIGHT 1887-1970, by Todd Thurlow: (http://youtu.be/sODqzQ8EW9o)


Question: “When Did Spoil Islands “appear” in the Martin County Area of the Indian River Lagoon?”


1881: Florida Coastline Canal and Transportation Company was formed

1887: Aerial shows no spoil islands in IRL

1890: Dredging complete from Haulover Cut in Merritt Island to Jupiter

1892: Locals dig St Lucie Inlet by hand

1920: No spoil islands east of Sewall’s Point. US ACOE recommends dredging 8 feet deep and 75 foot wide from Jacksonville to Miami

1930: ACOE increases recommended width to 100 feet from 75

1935: Work complete-8 feet deep and 100 feet wide channel

1940: USDA map aerial shows spoil islands deposits on east side of Sewall’s Point (these became Island Edition and the Archipelago developments among other things…)

1945: Congress authorizes ACOE to dredge 12 foot deep 125 foot wide channel

1952: USDA map showing spoil islands DIRECTLY EAST of Sewall’s Point

1958: USDA aerial shows “break through/wash through” at today’s Bathtub Beach

1958: USDA aerial still shows no spoil islands on EAST SIDE of channel near Sewall’s Point (these are new islands, not the ones already deposited off of the near east side of SP)

1958: NOAA chart shows Seminole Shore’s, (today’s Sailfish Point) marina is undeveloped

1960: Due to ACOE determination, IRL portion between Ft Pierce to Miami is dredged to 10 feet rather than the 12 feet wanted in 1945

1963: NOAA chart shows new channel but no new islands still on the EAST SIDE of the channel off of Sewall’s Point

1965:  ACOE work complete– based on 1945 and 1960 determinations

1970: Aerial finally does show spoil islands on EAST SIDE of channel off of Sewall’s Point from dredging/channel projects

1970: Aerial reveals, if one looks closely, that the smallest of the spoil islands to the EAST of the channel off of Sewall’s Point has since disappeared….


Todd Thurlow has given presentations at Stuart Heritage and Florida Oceanographic (http://thurlowpa.com) Call him if your club would like a presentation. Todd and I will be doing more work together in the future!

*I must also credit my dear river activist friend, Ezra Appel, who recently got me interested in spoil islands all over again.  Ezra got involved two years ago with the Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves (IRLAP), when his company adopted a spoil island in Vero Beach. Now he is involved with  a newly formed group “Friends of the Spoil Islands, Inc, ” a 501 (c) non-profit, Community Service Organization working in partnership with the DEP and IRLAP.  Ezra sits on the board as the Treasurer. They have a Facebook page: (https://www.facebook.com/spoilislands) Check it out! Ezra also shares with me aerial photos from INDIAN RIVER BY AIR; they have some great shots of the spoil islands in their neck of the woods: (http://www.indianriverbyair.com/tagged/spoil%20island)


Prior blog post on Atlantic and Okeechobee Waterways and FIND, the Florida Inland Navigation District: (http://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/06/11/florida-inland-navigation-district-f-i-n-d-maintaining-the-okeechobeeatlantic-waterways-of-the-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

6 thoughts on “Spoil Island History, Martin County, A Time Capsule Flight–Indian River Lagoon

  1. Jacqui this is some terrific work that you and Todd have started to compile. Thank you also for mentioning Friends of the Spoil Islands – I really appreciate it. I would love to take you, Ed and Todd out to my island sometime.

  2. Jacqui & Todd….. Great work…. can’t wait to see more. When I give my talks about the Hx of Salerno, I often get questions about how the St. Lucie used to flow through the Manatee Pocket through the Miles Grant County Club area and exit through an inlet at Pecks Lake (thus creating a natural flushing of the pocket). I have never seen any maps that actually show that this was ever documented. But I also add that it does appear that this flow of the river existed at one point in history, but it was probably many hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago. Have you ever come across anything describing this path of flow of the St. Lucie River?

    1. Hi John – In one of my future videos I will show the 1850 GLO Plat that depicts the St. Lucie River flowing past the Manatee Pocket (as it does today), through the “St. Lucie Sound” and into the ocean out the Gilbert’s Bar inlet. That Inlet was about 2 miles south of the current inlet and about 1.4 miles north of Peck’s Lake. What used to be the St. Lucie Sound portion became open ocean when 2.5 miles of Hutchinson Island disappeared south of Sailfish Point. The headwaters of Manatee Pocket, on the other hand, are separated from Miles Grant by a 20+ foot high ridge that extends north to south from Rocky Point. The Pocket’s flow was from the five or so creeks that drain into it from the swamps west of that ridge. This shows on the old maps and aerials. Maybe I’ll figure out how to post a screen shot on Jacqui’s blog – or better yet a topic for a future video!

  3. Thank you to my Facebook friends reading my blog on Facebook. There were 15 shares and many likes and some comments really linking the video format, especially form Friends of the Spoil Islands. I appreciate your input. Thanks: Laureen Oliveira, Guadalupe Lippisch-Linder, Scott Trevisan and 6 others like this.

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