The Destruction of the Kissimmee River, an Historic Flyover

Our recent focus on the Kissimmee River has inspired my brother Todd Thurlow to create a very special Time Capsule Flight. He has geo-referenced more than twenty 1940s historic aerials and topography maps revealing the destruction of this once remarkable, not just river, but vast floodplain. The outcome is epic! You will see this historic mistake as you’ve never seen before.

The 1962-1971 channelization of the two mile wide Kissimmee floodplain into a thirty foot deep C-38 Canal was perhaps the all-time worst act of the State of Florida and the Army Corps of Engineers. Why was the channelization of the Kissimmee any more destructive than any other of the Central and South Florida Plan atrocities? Because the Everglades south of Lake Okeechobee was already very compromised. This act not only  killed the Kissimmee, but just about everything below it.

Like a knife through flesh, the engineers cut deep, draining the life blood, water, from the surrounding marshes and curves to now shoot down, unfiltered into the Lake. In short order, with devastating ecological consequences, over ninety percent of the waterfowl that once graced the region, disappeared. Fish and other wildlife’s health and bio-diversity plummeted.  Today the ACOE and SFWMD recognize this huge mistake and are working hard to restore parts of the Kissimmee. But before we witness that, Todd will lead you through a time capsule flight of what indeed, we did do…

Please watch video directly below.

(The Destruction of the Kissimmee River, click here for YouTube with Todd’s full write up:

This video compares 23 USDA aerials from 1941 and 1944 to historical aerials from 1999. The early aerials predate the transformation of the river into a canal in the 1960s. The 1999 aerials show the canal before recent restoration efforts. Beginning in 1999, the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers began restoring sections of the river by dismantling the canal. Twenty-four miles of river have been restored. Aerials of those restoration projects will be the subject of future videos. ~ Todd Thurlow

13 thoughts on “The Destruction of the Kissimmee River, an Historic Flyover

    1. Mom you always have the right words. For me too, it is a spiritual experience to watch Todd’s video. An experience that make me even more of a Crusader for a better water future. How mankind, really at that time, ever thought channelizing the Kissimmee was a good idea is beyond comprehension. Yes, the flood of 1948 but even so. The C-38 was too drastic. Very old thinking.

  1. I have been writing letters to the Editor in the Stuart News for over 30 years that I believe all of the pollution we have had over the years come down from the Kissimmee River, and now it shows? Good job on the video.
    Walt Disney opened in Orlando in 1971, would you say it took 20 years for all the pollution we see now, to what it is today? We have to wonder where all that pollution went, from the millions of people that visit Orlando yearly, even if they just washed their hands.

    1. Hi. This is a very interning question. Absolutely pollution from farms and cities has been making its way south in high amounts -unfiltered- after the C-38 Canal was constructed. As you note, pollution goes right into Lake O and then where ever else that water was sent ~and thus since the 1980s, well documented, there have been major algae blooms, some toxic, from too many “nutrients” – a misleading word for “pollutants.” The state has a problem enforcing limits on this “pollution” because is not like mercury or lead, it is phosphorus and nitrogen the building blocks of growth. But now there are too many nutrients and too much growth ! I look forward to Todd’s coming videos about the partial restoration of the Kissimmee to offset this issue, but it alone is not a cure. Hope I address your question. Thank you for you comment and for reading my blog.

  2. What a great way to really show the man made difference in the river system. What man does, he can undo. Thanks Todd Thurlow for the great research. Thanks Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch for always keeping our natural treasures in your writings. Solidarity ya’ll!

  3. The single most destructive action that blasted water into Lake O and created multiple problems. Now we need to take EXCESS WATER DURING RAIN EVENTS out of the Kissimmee using DEEP INJECTION WELLS so the Lake does not overfill and the USACE is forced to send that same EXCESS WATER to sea out the C 43 and C 44. Ruining the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee.

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