Bathtub Beach Historic Photos; “The Only Constant is Change.” SLR/IRL

Bathtub Beach has become a preoccupation this week, and its story “teaches us.” I asked my historian mother if she had any historic photos. Of course, she did, along with insights of this special place in Martin County.

The first thing she said was, “I have been fascinated with the giant black mangroves that used to appear when the Bathtub’s sands eroded. I have a bunch of these photos…”

In my childhood days, this sometimes appearing ancient forest was a conundrum, then a lesson, that things are ever-changing, and barrier islands really are moving. “How could there have been a forest there?” I’d ask my mother, “It’s in the sea?”

This part of Hutchinson Island was developed early on as “Seminole Shores” and there is one photo below that clearly shows the water washing out over the road way back then in the 50s (sepia colored aerial.) Interesting.

From the aerials, one can see how developer, James Rand added the marina we know today as part of Sailfish Point. This type of construction was later outlawed in the 70s due to its serious environmental ramifications. Many of our older area marinas were built this way.

Some may remember famous “Rand’s Pier” that withstood the ocean’s occasional violence for many years. It was still there in the photos towards the end of this blog post that I took in 2007. It has since washed away…

The circular, unusual, worm-reef, giving Bathtub Beach its name, is most beautiful. Although people are not supposed to walk on it, they do; and today’s constant/desperate re-nourishment sands washing back into the ocean must certainly have a negative effect.

As a kid I swam over the reef at high tide catching tropical fish with a net my mother made by hand. Once a moray eel put its face on my mask and I learned not to put my hand in a hole!

Look at photos closely and you will notice many details.

In the first photo, you will see there is no Wentworth house falling into the ocean, and then it appears; the ancient forest foreshadowing its fate.

The final aerial is recently dated and from a tourist website, shared by my life-time friend Amy Galante. This photo packages Bathtub Beach as we all envision it. Airbrushed. Restored. Never changing. And “perfect.”

Fortunately, or unfortunately, perfection takes constant change.

November 22, 1992, before the Wentworth house was built. Erosion reveals ancient black mangrove forest. Photo, Sandra Thurlow.
December 6. 2003, after the Wentworth house was built, also showing ancient black mangrove forest. Photo, Sandra Thurlow.
“This one is good because it shows the reef.” Photo, 1994, Sandra Thurlow.
“The date of the Seminole Shores photo that shows the pool, etc. was, July 6, 1959. They started dredging the marina in October 1957. The washout below would have been a little before then when they were improving the road to Seminole Shores.” Photo, archives of Sandra Thurlow.
“This photo shows the position of pier in Seminole Shores and a close up of added  marina in IRL ca. 1950s. Today’s Bathtub Beach is just north of the pier.” Photo archives of Sandra Thurlow.
“As mentioned, the washout would  have occurred when they were improving the road to Seminole Shores. (Look to southern portion of scraped and treeless area for washout over road.) Although this photo is the most detailed I have of the area,  unfortunately there is not an exact date on this Ruhnke aerial. It is before they began to develop Seminole Shores. Perhaps that log looking thing in the water is the first part of the dredge?” Photo, archives of Sandra Thurlow
1957, construction of Rand’s Pier. Again, Bathtub Beach is just north of this area. Photo, archives of Sandra Thurlow.
Dated, 6-26-49, this Ruhnke aerial reveals much from an earlier era: the St Lucie Inlet, the shoreline of south Hutchinson Island, the Clive House built behind the dune and Anastasia Rock formation, road cut through heavy vegetation, and reflecting coquina sands.  Drowned trees in the distance are visible in the crescent of the shoreline showing the remains of the black mangroves. Notice the dark peat underneath them along the shoreline. At low tide the worm rock reef is revealed creating what came to be know as Bathtub Beach. Photo, Ruhnke Collection, Thurlow archives.

The photos below were taken by me in 2007.

Bathtub Beach 2007, JTL Remains of black mangroves  in ocean looking towards worm reef is revealed by Mother Nature once again…
Bathtub Beach 2007, JTL
Bathtub Beach 2007, with tree trunks. JTL
Bathtub Beach 2007, JTL
Bathtub Beach’s famous worm reef, 2007, JTL
Bathtub Beach,  worm reef growing on ancient black mangrove trunk. This area fills with sand and then naturally erodes based on tides and storms.  2007, JTL
Bathtub Beach 2007, remains of Rand’s Pier. JTL
Beach re-nourishment, Bathtub Beach 2007, JTL
Erosion, roots hold in sand. Bathtub Beach 2007, JTL
Bathtub Beach 2007. Structures and walkways have been replaced many times due to erosion over the years. JTL
Worm reef grows on ancient black mangrove trees. Bathtub Beach 2007, JTL

Bathtub Beach aerial —

Airbrushed and in “all her glory.” 2016 advertisement for Martin County’s Bathtub Beach:

Earlier blog post “Bathtub Beach Bye-Bye”

History Seminole Shores:

8 thoughts on “Bathtub Beach Historic Photos; “The Only Constant is Change.” SLR/IRL

  1. Oh my gosh. I did not realize the worm reef was growing on the black mangroves. I guess they are not much different from rocks. The typed piece is only available because of the hard work and organizational skills of Greg and Alice Luckhardt.

    1. Jacqui, these are bittersweet photos of an earlier time on Hutchinson Island in the 1950s, before the bridge from Sewall’s Point, when virtually no one lived on the island, whether in Martin or St. Lucie county. Thank you and your mother for gathering these photos! To go to the beach from Sewall’s Point in the ’50s, we had to drive the full length of the Point to Jensen and cross the low wooden bridge by Poor Bob’s. And remember that weather-beaten luncheonette called the Sandpiper? It stood on the dunes near the present Jensen beachfront and parking lot, as I recall. I don’t think the road went beyond the abandoned House of Refuge until Seminole Shores got going in the late ’50s. — Knight

  2. Your incredible and I miss not working with you . Thank you for the passion and commitment to share with others.

  3. A couple of years ago I was welding pipes with a guy who retired from a oil company. He worked on off shore drilling rigs. He was confident that they WILL be drilling in Florida. US oil companies take in at least 500 BILLION every year. Thats 5 TRILLION dollars in 10 years. That is some serious bribe money. I think Floridas county commissioners would be happy to dump sewage on everybody for just 5 billion. Once the environment is messed up who will care about oil drilling

  4. What they need to be doing to stop the erosion is putting heavy coquina rocks to stop the ocean current and planting mangrove trees in and around the coquina rocks but that would be too simple and cost effective.

  5. Today was the first time I had been to bathtub beach in 22 years. I could not believe how different it was. I drove by The Rocks beach (“locals only”) and almost didn’t recognize it. I also remember the pier. Things sure have changed.
    We were at bathtub at low tide and the water was so high and deep. I remember the times of knee deep water and swimming out to the reef to see the sea life. I could barely see any of the reef except towards the houses which basically sat in water, 2 hours into low tide. It was so sad.
    I was so excited to share this special place with my children and though we had a good time it just wasn’t the same.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this and share.

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