Postcard Perfect Day, Motorcycle Ride Around Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

 

The attached photo was taken on a post card perfect day in 2009 at Port Mayaca – the wind was calm, the Lake was still and the air was so clear you could see all the way across to Moore Have, some 30 miles to the southwest! I love how the water and sky blend together on the horizon. (Gary Goforth)
Looking at Lake Okeechobee from Port Mayaca in Martin County-sky and lake are one. (Gary Goforth)

Today I am going to share an adventure of engineer and St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon advocate Dr Gary Goforth. I will tie in his Lake Okeechobee experience with a few wonderful historic postcards from my mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow. Although you couldn’t get my mother on a motorcycle if you paid her, there is a common thread. The lone cypress…

“The Lone Cypress…” You may have heard of it? As we know, cypress trees live for thousands of years. There were large forest of these magnificent trees prior to their being cut down around the turn of the last century. But a few still stand. Like this one in Moore Haven.

Dr Goforth’s account of his ride around the lake is inspirational. I have done it a couple of times by car, most recently during the final session of my UF Natural Resources Leadership Institute in Clewiston. During Dr Goforth’s ride, he visits the ancient cypress tree–the one in my mom’s historic post cards. I find this really cool. I hope you do too!

Historic map from 1948 book "Lake Okeechobee" written in 1948 by Alfred Jackson and Kathryn Hanna as part of the Rivers of America Series.
Historic map from 1948 book “Lake Okeechobee” written in 1948 by Alfred Jackson and Kathryn Hanna as part of the Rivers of America Series gives some idea of where the many cypress tree forests and others natural systems were once located.

OK. Here we go! Lake O—–

From Dr Gary Goforth (http://garygoforth.net) 3-17-16:

“Hi Jacqui – I know you’re very busy as always – in fact more so these days I imagine. I got around to reading a recent blog of yours entitled “Taking the Emotion out of “Clewiston”-UF’s Natural Resources Leadership Institute, SLR/IRL.” I enjoyed it so much I thought I would share a trip I took on Sunday afternoon – a motorcycle ride around Lake Okeechobee.

It started out as a leisurely Sunday afternoon ride around the Martin County countryside. When I got to Port Mayaca I decided to head south for a couple of mile to the trailhead of the Lake to Ocean Trail – a 55-mile hike I’ll get around to tackling during cooler weather. When I got to the trailhead, I said what the heck – might as well circle the Lake. I’ve done the route before, and love to roll through the small towns that we are linked to primarily because of the Lake releases. Probably my favorite stretch is along the eastern shore of the Lake where the old-growth linear forests still remain – the magnificent cypress, bay, and others. My companion for the entire way around the Lake was the Herbert Hoover dike – almost always in sight off to my right along the small roads I took. Before I knew it I was passing through Sand Cut and Pahokee on my way to Belle Glade with their motto “Our Soil is our Fortune.” I thought of my Dad’s cousin Jack Fullenweider who was a general manager of the old Talisman sugar mill (bought by the State prior to construction of STA-3/4), and whose son, Jack, Jr. was a sheriff’s deputy in Belle Glade. I thought of Fritz Stein – a former District Board member from Belle Glade and all around good guy.

The traffic was light and the weather was beautiful. Before long I was riding along US 27/SR 80 with the big dike/dam to my right. The site of the 1928 breach and untold deaths. Along this stretch the ground level is the lowest of the entire lake’s perimeter; the Lake’s water level that day was a foot or two above ground level, which has subsided more than 6 feet since records began decades ago due to the drainage canals and ag practices. Around the rest of the Lake, the actual lake level is below the surrounding ground level.

Soon I was in Clewiston where the banners were hung announcing the upcoming Sugar Festival (today through Sunday). I thought of the many good folks who worry about the State purchasing US Sugar lands with the purported 12,000 people who would be out of a job – the folks that get angry at the estuary folks – and wonder who they turned their anger toward when US Sugar announced they had struck a voluntary deal to sell the land to Gov. Crist. What a missed opportunity, and to think the Legislature and Gov. didn’t go through with the deal – likely out of spite towards Gov. Crist – they didn’t want anything to do with extending his legacy. Deplorable. I put that out of my mind as I rode through Clewiston – a lovely little town.

 

Lone Cypress as it appears today.
Lone Cypress as it appears today.
Picture taken in 1917 showing Lone Cypress tree as it appeared during the construction of Lock No. 1 in Moore Haven. (via Gary Goforth)
Picture taken in 1917 showing Lone Cypress tree as it appeared during the construction of Lock No. 1 in Moore Haven. (via Gary Goforth)

Before long I was in Moore Haven and thought about the big history of that small town – the early Indian canal excavations, the early dredging/draining activity of Hamilton Disston connecting the big lake to the Caloosahatchee, the farming community, the devastating hurricanes and the Lone Cypress Tree which has stood as a sentinel along the Caloosahatchee Canal since the days of Disston. The Lone Cypress Tree! I have always wanted to find that tree! So I rode around till I found it along the banks of the river/canal. It was beginning to send out the bright green needles and was remarkable in its majesty!

A few more miles on US 27 and I turned north onto SR 78 – a pleasant ride along the west side of the Lake. Pretty soon the road drops onto the floodplain of Fisheating Creek – the only unregulated tributary feeding Lake Okeechobee. I was reminded how the flows into the Lake from Fisheating Creek increased 6-fold this dry season compared to last year. All along the west side of the Lake are small mobile home and RV communities enjoying the good life!

Before long I crossed the Kissimmee River and was into the south side of Okeechobee. White pelicans ushered me along the road lined with hotels filled with seasonal fishermen and women. On around the lake and passing J&R Fish camp – busy with Sunday afternoon bikers. Many days I’ve enjoyed the free hot dogs and music. Before long I passed alongside of the FP&L cooling reservoir – site of the levee failure that occurred just before midnight in October 30, 1979.

Then I crested the bridge over the C-44 Canal with Port Mayaca off to the right. The calm water belied the massive and destructive discharges that were occurring, sending tons of sediment, algae and nutrients on their way to the troubled St. Lucie River and Estuary.

A quick turn back to the east onto SR 76, past DuPuis (my favorite public land to hike), past the sod and cane fields where once there was citrus and before long I parked the bike in the garage – it was a good ride.

Enjoy!
Gary

The attached photo of me on the motorcycle was taken on a post card perfect day in 2009 at Port Mayaca – the wind was calm, the Lake was still and the air was so clear you could see all the way across to Moore Have, some 30 miles to the southwest! I love how the water and sky blend together on the horizon.

The attached photo was taken on a post card perfect day in 2009 at Port Mayaca – the wind was calm, the Lake was still and the air was so clear you could see all the way across to Moore Have, some 30 miles to the southwest! I love how the water and sky blend together on the horizon. (Gary Goforth)
…..
Dr. Gary Goforth ready to tour Lake Okeechobee.
Dr. Gary Goforth ready to tour Lake Okeechobee.

_______________________

After reading Gary’s account I kept thinking about that lone cypress standing like a sentinel as all has changed around it… I wrote my mother to see what she had in her history files. She sent the following four postcards from her historic collection:

We should all go ride and see it and make post cards or Facebook posts of our own!

1
1. Postcards courtesy of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
2.
2.
3.
3.
4.
4.

Blog post JTL: “Taking the Emotion Out of Clewiston” 3-9-16 (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2016/03/09/taking-the-emotion-out-of-clewiston-ufs-natural-resources-leadership-institute-slrirl/)

4 thoughts on “Postcard Perfect Day, Motorcycle Ride Around Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

  1. If only we could have a do-over on the dike construction. It should have preserved the flow way to Florida Bay with a spillway on the south end, and it was built two miles too close to the lake; if you fly over it, you will see it is two miles inside the natural bowl which used to be the flood plain. We can re-create a cleansing solution with the land buy and the flow way. Everyone needs to read Nat Reed’s letter in Monday’s (4/4) Stuart News and start barraging your congress (state and federal) to correct this horrible health hazard which is killing our recreational waters, our health, our water supply, and our property values. The primary purpose of government is to protect the public health and welfare and, ironically, it is our government which is doing this to us; not some big private corporation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Mac, thank you for your email. I often wonder what we would do if we were starting from the beginning. This ideal is helpful even if unrealistic. We have achieved more difficult things in the US. Here is the link to Mr. Reed’s letter although one needs to be a subscriber to read:http://www.tcpalm.com/letters-to-the-editor/letter-big-sugar-should-pay-for-damage-inflicted-to-our-waterways-2f5746c2-b1f0-6d8b-e053-0100007f77-374400341.html Since I have a copy sent out I will share here:

      Joseph Reed’s donations toward Hobe Sound and Banner Lake are well-noted. Very few Floridians ever took such a keen interest in the well-being of a county.

      Because of these and more, I want to see major changes in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

      I want an end of cane sugar subsidies that cost the American consumer millions of dollars in the increased cost of sugar. The world price is almost half of what is guaranteed for a small group of very wealthy individuals who own sugar plantation in the EAA.

      I do want the EAA landowners to pay the full cost of cleansing their agricultural pollution prior to draining it into the everglades.

      The vast majority of the cost of acquiring and constructing the thousands of acres of man-made pollution control marshes has been borne by the taxpayers of the 16 counties that make up the South Florida Water Management District, despite the fact that 75-plus percent of Floridians voted for a constitutional amendment which required the polluter to pay the full cost of cleansing its pollution.

      I believe it is both the federal and state government’s interest to construct a large EAA reservoir and add an extensive man-made marsh system to remove tons of phosphorus used drained by EAA sugar cane growers.

      I believe that converting a 10th of the EAA land to significantly limit the majority of agricultural runoff into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee is a sound investment.

      No one wants to destroy the farming industry south of the lake, but sugar cane should not be a subsidized crop paid for by American consumers.

      These entities should pay the full cost of cleansing their pollution like every other polluting industry in America. N.R.

      Like

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