1909 Drainage Map- Kissimmee and Caloosahatchee Rivers-Lake Okeechobee

Historic 1909 Drainage Map- Kissimmee and Caloosahatchee Rivers, and Lake Okeechobee, Florida. Captain J.R. Slattery, Corps of Engineers U.S. Army.

This post is for the map lover!

Realtor, Stephen Dutcher, shared this 1909 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers War Department Map with my historian mother years ago. To see in all detail click again to enlarge image.

The patient viewer will be amazed at the simple black and white map’s level of detail.

You’ll see the documentation of the upper Kissimmee Chain of Lakes being drained and connected via canals, as was the condition of Lake Okeechobee west to the Caloosahatchee River. However, at this time, looking east, there was no connecting canal from Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River!

Reading between the lines, one notes words not of agriculture or development but of Nature: “Pine; marsh; prairie; pine slough; cane slough; cypress; ponds…” many colors, full of birds and wildlife!

~Studying near today’s Stuart, the discerning eye will see that the famous  Allapattah Flats ran from the upper St Johns River basin near Ft. Pierce south many, many miles, all the way to the headwaters of the St Luice River! These clear waters flowed not into the Atlantic Ocean through the St Lucie Inlet as this sandbar was closed, but rather traveled north through St Lucie Sound (today’s Southern Indian River Lagoon) emptying at Ft. Pierce Inlet.

~The haunting names of the lakes reflect Indian wars of the past: Tohopekaligo, Kissimmee, Hicpochee, Hatcheneha,  just to name a few. In neat, handwritten print, a chart at the bottom of the page juxtaposes the levels of the lakes, “Ordinary Low Water” to “Extremely High Water” revealing depths certainly not found today.

~Lake Okeechobee? 20.6 to 24.4 feet!

~And in closure, the eye sweeps south; an open Everglades lies unmapped. A mystery for another day…

So 110 years of “progress” has slipped by, the stately virgin pines have been harvested, the coastlines scraped and modernized, the marshes, lakes, and rivers drained, and the prairies converted to pasture and farmland, but looking at this map, we can dream. We can dream beyond black and white~of what our dear Florida looked like, before she was changed…


Click below for full map

1909 Kissimmee Chain of Lakes

5 thoughts on “1909 Drainage Map- Kissimmee and Caloosahatchee Rivers-Lake Okeechobee

  1. Does it mean we have 9-10′ of nutrient rich muck at the bottom of Lake O. if Lake O. was 20.4-24.4′? The best suggestion that I have heard of to remove the nutrient rich muck is to place Deep Injection Wells in strategic locations where the muck level is the largest and send it fowmto the bolder zone.

    1. Although I am not supportive of DIW, in this case, I might entertain this idea!? I am unsure if the depth difference is entirely muck oriented. Probably not. I believe the lake had to be 21 feet to flow over the southern lip through the pond apple forest. I think we have drained this state like squeezing out a sponge. Like a giant sink hole of sorts. Hard to imagine. I will ask 💧

      1. Haveing put pipes underground all over south florida I know if you dig 5 foot or more you will need a well point system. The water is there but it is just below the surface.

  2. Jacqui, I too am not in favor of using DIWs. However, the SFWMD & USACE will need to remove the muck at the bottom of Lake O. to avoid stirring up the nutrients by tropical storms & hurricanes. The effects from Irma stirring up the Lake O. muck were obviously devastating to us on the West Coast.

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