“Go West Young Man! Go West?” St Luice River/Indian River Lagoon

Poppleton Creek and St Lucie River, April 17, 1952, courtesy archives Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

This remarkable 1952 historic aerial photograph shows Poppleton Creek and what were once pioneer Hubert Bessey’s lands near Downtown Stuart. Within the bucolic photograph early stages of C-23’s white sands, as seen piled on the land in the upper right hand corner of the photograph, foreshadow the river’s future. This canal divides Martin and St Lucie County and is considered the “most polluting,” excluding C-44 when open for Lake Okeechobee.

Looking across the beautiful St Lucie River we see in the distance the virgin pinelands and wetlands of parts of today’s Palm City. Interestingly,  if one continues west one will stumble upon the proposed lands to be developed by the Kiplinger Family, Pineland Prairie.

Go west young man, go west?

Time shall tell…

If we do, we may have more regard for the land than we did in 1952 and bring relief to the river that brought development and love of our area here in the first place.

You can use Poppleton Creek on the right as a reference point, Google Earth 2017
Google Earth image 2017.


C-23 Canal: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c23.pdf

Palm City History by Alice Luckhardt: http://archive.tcpalm.com/news/palm-city-celebrates-100-years-with-look-back-at-history-events-at-floridian-photo-gallery-ep-382954-343392342.html

Kiplinger’s Pineland Prairie website: https://pinelandprairie.com

Palm City Chamber: http://www.palmcitychamber.com/history-of-palm-city.html

“Go West/Manifest Destiny: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_West,_young_man

6-21-17 JTL



I am adding additional photos to this blog post for reference to questions posed. The Fairchild photos below are dated 1925 and in them you can see the white sands of the C-44 piled on the land connecting to the South Fork of the St Lucie River. The C-44 canal was built between 1915 and is documented to have opened in 1923. Dates vary by a few years depending on sources and it too was enlarged/deepened in the 40s and thereafter.

“What is that huge white stripe on the horizon??” I said. It’s looks like a giant 20-mile-long spaceship runway.

Well, it’s the spoil from the freshly-dug Okeechobee waterway. See it in the attached comparison from Google Earth.” Todd Thurlow


1925 Fairchild aerial, note white sands from C-44 canal in upper right area of photo. (Courtesy Thurlow Archives)
Another perspective showing white sands more clearly of C-44 canal linking with South Fork of St Lucie River.
My brother Todd’s Google Earth comparison showing C-44 and South Fork today. (Google/Todd Thurlow)


8 thoughts on ““Go West Young Man! Go West?” St Luice River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. Hi Ted. Sorry not to be clear. I changed what I wrote to: “Within the bucolic photograph canal C-23’s white sands piled on the land in the upper right hand corner of the photograph foreshadow the river’s future.”

    If you look in the photo’s right upper corner you can see C-23 having just been or being constructed. I have seen this phenomenon in other historic photos. The WHITE sand piled high along the dredged canals…

  2. Jacqui, The house circled in black on Riverview is the first house I bought in 1994.. It was Dr. Hipson’s house back in the day… Before he moved to the end of the street, the house you and Ed bought recently.

    Mark Hill


  3. Great resources, Jacqui, about the history of Palm City and the C-23 Canal. Thank you for sharing them with us! One of our key goals in planning Pineland Prairie is helping to improve C-23 water quality by diverting some of it onto our land during rainy seasons, passing it through sophisticated flow-through marshes (like the County’s successful version at Canopy Creek), and returning it to the C-23 a little cleaner than before.
    One thing that puzzles me about the 1952 photo, above, and whether it shows white sand from the dredging of the C-23, is this: The DEP Ecosummary on the C-23 says it was built between 1959 and 1961, almost a decade after this photo was taken. Can you shed some light on this?
    Many thanks, Jacqui, for continuing to bring us fascinating materials on the St. Lucie/Indian River Lagoon!
    — Knight Kiplinger, Sewall’s Point

  4. Dear Mr Kiplinger, wonderful to hear from you! Thank you so much for writing and sharing that your goals encompass the C-23 canal. This is great news.

    Yes, my comment on the “white sands” piled high from the dredging of the canal has raised some questions, and I too saw that the DEP Eco-Summary dates the C-23 canal and C-24 construction from 1959-1961.

    Here is my source for thinking those sands could have been from earlier like 1952…I have a Stuart News article from April 13th, 1961 with the annual report of the St Lucie Rivers Restoration League. In the article they note that “they were unable to prevent the enlargement of C-24 and C-23 canals which will cause increases fresh water flow from a greatly expanded North Fork discharge area.” Note they say “enlargement,” as the canals were already there. Also Ernie Lyon’s writings refer to the destruction of those canals in the both 50s and 60s if I am correct.

    Last, in conversations over the years with my mother she has told me that both the C-23 and C-24 were originally little creeks that ran into the North Fork of the St Lucie River and were slowly over time turned into ditches and channelized.

    I believe that C-23 and C-24 as canals were well underway by interested parties and locals after the “Flood of 1947,” and the official Florida Act of 1948, creating the Central and Southern Flood Control Project of the ACOE that “takes credit” for these canals.

    I could be wrong and it is very difficult to find good documentation on the history of these canals other than the 2000/DEP write ups I am so thankful for… I am going to add another photo or two to the blog, showing the white sands of the C-44 from a 1925 Fairchild aerial for comparison. Please go back into the post to view.

    Maybe those white sands in the upper right hand side of the photo are a just a road? Perspective is tricky! In any case, seeing it as the C-23 canals made for a much better blog entry!

    All the best,

    1. Thanks, Jacqui! Very interesting, and it all proves that history is full of seemingly conflicting evidence…can’t rely completely on any one piece. Fascinating to see, from the Stuart news stiry, that concern about the canals and their negative impact on the st. Lucie goes back more than a half century. Best, — Knight

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