Aerial Photo Explanation ~Kissimmee River Restoration

Aerial, Kissimmee River restoration, Gary Goforth, 2-9-20

My most recent blog post included the above photograph of Kissimmee River Restoration north of Lake Okeechobee taken by Dr Gary Goforth. My mother, Sandy Thurlow, commented: “ I would so like for Dr. Goforth to explain what we are seeing in his aerial of the restoration of the Kissimmee River.”

I wrote Gary on behalf of my mother and he provided such comprehensive and helpful insight that today I am sharing not just for my mother, but for everyone! Please read below.


~Dear Gary, 

When time allows my mother was hoping to get an explanation of the wonderful Kissimmee River restoration photo you shared in my blog post. Could you please write something? Thank you so much. 


~From Gary

Hi Jacqui,


The Kissimmee River Restoration (KRR) Project is one of my favorite projects on the planet!  In the 1960s, the historic 105-mile meandering Kissimmee River was transformed into a 56-mile ditch by the Corps of Engineers at the request of the State of Florida to help relieve flooding upstream.  Public activism convinced Gov. Bob Graham to support restoration of the River in the 1980s, and as a US Senator he was instrumental in having Congress authorize the Corps to proceed with restoration.  The SFWMD was way out ahead of the Corps (again) and had completed several phases of engineering design and prototype testing.  The initial backfilling of the C-38 Canal was begun in 1999, and when completed later this year, the project will re-establish flow in 40 miles of the old river and rehydrate about 12,400 acres of former wetlands that were over-drained by the canal.


There are many reasons I love the picture taken Sunday as Ed was flying Mark and I north of the Lake:

·        In the foreground of the photo you see a section of the meandering restored Kissimmee River!  The construction work in this section of the river consisted of backfilling the 300-ft wide and 30-ft deep canal.  It also included “re-carving” some sections of river channel that were destroyed during C-38 canal construction.  This work has routed water to the native channel and floodplain of the Kissimmee River, and reestablished hydrologic continuity between the river and floodplain for the first time since the C-38 canal was completed in 1971!  How amazing!


·        The photo also shows smaller secondary river channels and a colorful mosaic of wetlands on their way to restoration!  What has been amazing is that despite almost 50 years of over-drainage, there are tens of thousands (maybe millions) of resilient seeds of the former marsh vegetation in the soil that have regenerated upon reflooding!  This is truly amazing!


·        The photo shows the restoration area known as Phase II, located roughly in the middle of the KRR project.  This phase is almost complete, with the remaining canal backfilling to be completed later this year.  By the way, the balance of the restoration project should also be completed this year!!!


·        The left hand side of the photo, where the road crosses the floodplain, shows the location of what was the water control structure and navigation locks known as S-65C.  As part of the restoration project, structure S-65C was demolished in 2017.  For spatial reference, the old structure was located about 5 miles upriver from the Hwy 98 bridge and about 23 miles upstream of where the C-38 canal empties into the Lake.  About 30 miles to the north (left in the photo) is where the C-38 Canal exits Lake Kissimmee.


·        A Google Earth image taken in 2017 is attached below.  This image shows the S-65C structure prior to demolition.


·        In the photo taken on Sunday you can see the footprint of the backfilled C-38 canal in the center of the photo – on either side of the rectangular open water. You’ll need to zoom in to make out this detail since the inundated floodplain has almost covered up the former canal footprint!

A map of the project and a summary table are attached. Additional details are found in Chapter 9 of the SFWMD South Florida Annual Report.

Hope this helps!

Gary Goforth


~To say the least my mom was thrilled. Hope you are too! So interesting! So inspiring! Thank you Dr Goforth!




1 thought on “Aerial Photo Explanation ~Kissimmee River Restoration

  1. Jacqui, thanks for having Dr. Gary Goforth provide an overview on the Kissimmee River pictures! He is a great resource for the SFWMD, the Indian River Waterkeeper and for all of us who love South Florida and who demand clean water as our right.

Leave a Reply