Bringing Alive the “Dead Rivers” of Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

Florida Memory, early Everglades drawing, Anonymous.

We have really killed them. A Google Search will bring up practically nothing, although they were probably the most interesting Everglades’ feature of all. Lake Okeechobee’s “Dead Rivers,” entitled as such as they were “perceived not to go anywhere…” but they did…they flowed out of Lake Okeechobee, running through the custard apple forest, and then disappeared into the sawgrass river of grass, today known as the Everglades.

The engineer of Hamilton Disston stated that there were 17 rivers leading out of Lake Okeechobee. Some of the larger ones were named the Dead, Democrat, Dowell, Forked, Hidden, Copper, Hutchinson, Leatherman, Menge, Pelican, and Ritta. Some were miles long, over 100 feet wide, and many feet deep. These rivers flowed curvaceously through the custard apple/pond apple swamp that extended from the lake’s rim as far as four miles south. Today these locations encompass the cities south of the lake especially Pahokee, Belle Glade, South Bay, and Clewiston.

Presently, the south and eastern shores of Lake Okeechobee are devoid of these once very rich-with-life rivers as they have been cut-off, redirected into canals, filled in, or diked.  Apparently it was documented that the “dead” rivers could flow north or south depending on rainfall. We found it more efficient to drain the Lake and to eventually erect a dike destroying all of the wildlife highways.

The Boyer Survey: An Archaeological Investigation of Lake Okeechobee, 2011, by Christopher Davenport and others–from which these images and much of the information in this post comes from, show where some of these ancient and now “dead” rivers flowed. One thing is for sure, they were never really dead, until we killed them. I think it is important to, at least for our memories, bring them back to life; we will learn more about them.

IFAS: http://conference.ifas.ufl.edu/geer2008/Presentation_PDFs/Thursday/Royal%20Palm%20VIII/1040%20C%20McVoy.pdf SFWMD notes dead rivers “as a mile or less.”
The Boyer Survey: An Archaeological Investigation of Lake Okeechobee, 2011
The Boyer Survey: An Archaeological Investigation of Lake Okeechobee, 2011
The Boyer Survey: An Archaeological Investigation of Lake Okeechobee, 2011
The Boyer Survey: An Archaeological Investigation of Lake Okeechobee, 2011
The Boyer Survey: An Archaeological Investigation of Lake Okeechobee, 2011
Google Earth 2018.

Source: The Boyer Survey: http://www.flarchcouncil.org/reports/BoyerSurveyLakeO.pdf

13 thoughts on “Bringing Alive the “Dead Rivers” of Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

    1. The “correct” name is pond apples. However the common name used by the locals is “custard apple.” So even in Landscape and Hydrology of the Pre-drainage Everglades, C. McVoy uses custard apple in sync/honor of the local name used at the turn of the century and into the 1920s. Scientifically they are talking about pond apples. Confusing.

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  1. An interesting piece of information. Would it work to bring the rivers back, The EAA would have to go, any of the villages and towns in the area would have to go away. Lake O is in fact nothing more than a flood control structure. It is fouled by the water that flows in from the north and the engineers made the decision when the population 390,000 as compared to the 20M today. Will the rivers ever come back, no mostly because of the threat of flooding in western Palm Beach, Broward and Dade Counties. Can we clean up and redirect the flow into a more natural flow. The answer is yes. What has to happen is that the politician, the citizens and the people directly effected by the changes must all come together and accept the loss of jobs, homes, villages etc. The clean up begins at the head waters of the Kissimmee River. It will take a generation at least and will cost a great deal.

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    1. It is an interesting thought. Yes I believe the rivers would come back if conditions were right. I think even towns and cities could still exist just differently. Just like the Kissimmee River has where they have put back the oxbows, etc…there is basically a scar in the earth or pattern and the water WANTS to flow that way and can if allowed. River beds don’t go away just because we “erase” them.

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  2. Would like to say thank you for your efforts to keep us informed about our waterways. I had noticed that you spoke to Mikey Donn of Ecosphere Technologies during the nasty algae bloom problem, they were in the process of cleaning the marina. I was wondering why they were not considered for the Lake O cleanup even if just temporary until the had a better solution, because from what I seen it worked, what are they attempting to do, Unfortunately I live on the other coast.

    Thanks,

    Mike

    On Mon, May 21, 2018 at 11:44 AM, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch wrote:

    > Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch posted: ” We have really killed them. A Google > Search will bring up practically nothing, although they were probably the > most interesting Everglades’ feature of all. Lake Okeechobee’s “Dead > Rivers,” entitled as such as they were “perceived not to go anywhere…” >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There is a 3-4 mile stretch on the west shore of the IRL between 192 and EauGallie causeways.It is a 20-30 foot drop from US1 down to the shore. The whole distance is ganite rocks The base of these rocks are white from dead barnicals. Waves have beat violently all winter on these miles of barnical shells creating calcium peroxide and hydrogen peroxide cleaning all the chemicals that kill sea grass. Now there is miles of lush thick sea grass being eaten by all the creatures. State gov. and lieing media can all kiss my butt.

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  4. Wow, great blog post. Thanks for posting the pictures of the “dead” rivers and their location on the map. I have been through Fish Eating Creek which is beautiful. Its a shame these they are gone. May be one day Florida politicians will get serious about restoration efforts.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pond apples are Austraiia’s Brazilian pepper tree. They have invaded and they can’t get rid of them. Right now I am planting avacodos and 4 types of mangos . Nothing like a cool glass of mango juice on a hot summer day.

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  6. Jacqui– for years people despised saw palmetto and thought them useless then they found they could make prostate medicine from them and every thing changed. I have no doubt one day same thing will happen with the pond apple. Did you know America has 4% of the worlds population and 25% of the worlds prisoners? Have you ever searched on the internet to see how many little kids you taught are in prison now? I bet you will be surprised. Is it only people like me who see we are in a no holds barred economic war and our politicians are selling us out on every level ? I hope when you go back to Tallahassee all your energy and focus will be on inportant issues. Miles and miles of sea grass. Same thing could be happening there.

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