Historical Road Trip, Canal Point’s Cut at Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

Lake Okeechobee Road Trip Series, Canal Point.

Today’s Canal Point is easy to drive right through on one’s way to Pahokee, but the little town has an important past and seeded a great future. As we learn about it, we learn about ourselves, all part of South Florida’s giant drainage and development scheme that continues today. In the future, together, we must work to improve water quality that has been destroyed by development of the Everglades. In studying this area, one thing is clear, almost all has fallen away except the USDA Department of Agriculture Sugarcane Station still standing today, almost 100 years later: https://www.ars.usda.gov/southeast-area/canal-point-fl/sugarcane-field-station/

So how did Canal Point get on the map?

According to the book, Black Gold and Silver Sands, by James D. Snyder, Gilbert A Watkins, an expanding lumber dealer from “nearby” West Palm Beach, acquired lands in the area after 1896 when Hamilton Disston, (the man who first drained Florida’s swamp) died. The lands purchased by Watkins included 4,337 acres near the eastern lakeshore of Lake Okeechobee. Disston’s Southern States Land and Timber owned all the even-numbered, square mile sections east of Lake Okeechobee to the then Broward County line.

In 1917 when the West Palm Beach Canal was dug at the determination of the state’s Internal Improvement Fund, the board developing the state, it was decided to go through Mr Watkin’s property.  He became more than a timber owner but a developer as the little town grew. Sugarcane sprouted up as well, and laid the foundation for the success of today’s largest EAA sugarcane cooperations.

The little town that came to be known as Canal Point eventually outpaced  Pahokee, Okeechobee and Moore Haven. Tomorrow we will learn more about the United States Department of Agriculture’s Sugarcane Reasearch Center, and the road that got it there….Connors’ Highway. “Fingy” Conners– as his finger had been cut off.

The canal to Lake O became (Structure) S-352 to the WPB Canal as seen on maps below
Canal Point at Lake O. 1920s PBC Historical Society

Palm Beach County Historical Society: http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/canal-point

Map-of-Canals-1924-St-Archives 2
Map of Canals 1924 Florida Archives.
map, canals, South of Lake Okeechobee
Today SFWMD canal map

4 thoughts on “Historical Road Trip, Canal Point’s Cut at Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

  1. I LOVE the 1924 Map that you found of the Canals of South Florida. It’s absolutely essential to know and realize that these although they ultimately serve as “drainage canals” their initial purpose was to provide transportation access to the lands beig opened up for development along the Southern shores of Lake “O”. This map shows the area at approximately the time that My wife’s family made there way to the Lake Harbor and Moore Haven vicinity’s from Nebraska.

  2. One more comment, it’s also essential to know and appreciate that “historically” the overflowing lake elevation (that defined the lake limits shown on these early maps) prior to drainage and development was approximately elevation 22 to 24′ – hence the statements that “The River of Grass” flowing towards SouthEast Florida – and only a few natural river & creek outlets – cut through by these canals and their early locks – and South toward Florida bay was “only a slope of roughly 1 INCH PER MILE.. In South Florida, changes in elevation of INCHES made all the difference between lands habitable and developed and wild swamp lands.

Leave a Reply