Africa’s North Fork of the St Lucie

I felt like I was in Africa…

It’s strange to find perhaps the most untouched part of the St Lucie River in the heart of Florida’s eighth largest city, Port St Lucie. In fact a full trip up the North Fork goes all the way to Ft Pierce. Although many of the trickling branches once running to the river have been developed, some have not, and the immediate area around the oxbows was left wild. 

Poor water quality from agriculture and development’s runoff plague this 1972 designated Aquatic Preserve but nonetheless it is an incredible relic! Today I share phots and videos of this remarkable place. The photos of mangroves and sable palms look a bit flat and repetitive, but the videos really reveal the dimension of the experience. 

Port St. Lucie 1957, mouth of North Fork looking  from south, St Lucie River- Photographer,  Aurthur Ruhnke, Thurlow Archives, Sandra Henderson Thurlow

Ed and I took put the Maverick in at Leighton Park in Palm City. Other than screaming a few times when gigantic wakes almost enveloped us, it was a great trip- a trip I have not taken in many, many years.

This excerpt from  the 1984 Aquatic Preserve Management Plan notes that the North Fork was straightened and channelized by the U.S. Army during World War II, nonetheless much of the fork has the wonderful oxbows as you can see from my phone’s screenshot below. These oxbows are an incredible thing to see and definitely give one the feel of someplace wild and exotic like Africa. Like Florida was not too many years ago…

“Water is the one resource whose characteristics most directly affect this

             estuary’s habitability and healthiness for the plants and animals naturally

             adapted to living there. The drainage basin of the entire St. Lucie River has

             been modified by agricultural drainage and residential development. The North-

             Fork-St. Lucie River receives the outfall of two major drainage canals (C-23

             and C-24) and many other drainage sources in the upper headwaters. The

             freshwater flow from the St. Lucie Canal on the South Fork may also affect the

             North Fork indirectly. The uplands surrounding the preserve area are also

             modified by the extensive Port St. Lucie residential development and the other

             residential developments along the river. The North Fork was also modified by

             the U. S. Army during World War II. Those modifications involved the

             straightening and channelization of the upper section of the river

             (Environmental Quality Laboratory, 1980). The result of all of these

             modifications to the river and its basin is that rainfall that may have taken

             months to get to the river by natural drainage now takes only hours. The

             river that once meandered through a broad floodplain now flows down a deep

channel.” -1969 Internal Improvement Fund via 1984 N.F.A.P.M.P. 

Photos North Fork, St Lucie River January 3, 2021

-Pond Apple 

-My favorite photo! A turtle sunning itself! 

Videos St Lucie North Fork Oxbows

List of Birds/Wildlife/Plants seen 1-3-21 SLR and North Fork

Great Egret
5 ibis
Little Blue Heron
Blue Heron (young) 
Pair ospreys
2 Little Blue Herons
Turkey vulture
Floating flock of seagulls
Floating flock of pelicans
Kingfisher-N. Fork
Little Blue Heron
7 mullet jumping- Mud Cove
Little Blue Heron and ibis 
Little Blue
Pond Apple 
Frilly fern?
Leather fern
Saw palmetto
Seagulls hunting  S. of PC Bridge



14 thoughts on “Africa’s North Fork of the St Lucie

  1. My Great Grandfather owned Pruitt’s Fish Camp on the North Fork. He was an early advocate for the river. He was a designated wildlife officer before FWC existed. He eventually folded under pressure and sold to GDC, creating Club Med. The river was so different then, so much more life. He started the camp across from Spruce Bluff in the earlyr forties.

    1. Dear Rachel what a incredible story! My mother often talks of Pruitt Fish Camp – so famous in its day! Club Med was the first development I remember. My mother used to drive the kids “out there;” she would play tennis and we kids would swim. It was like going 1000 miles away from town (Stuart) I loved it out there. I bed you have some incredible stories from your Great Grandfather. So cool he was a river advocate and wildlife officer. I am sure his work helped a lot to at least make people aware. Maybe that is partially why the edges of the North Fork’s oxbows were not developed. Incredible feat. It is hard to overcome a tidal wave–GDC and Florida Development.

  2. Great pictures & post! There are still some remnants of Old Florida that remain. However they will be under even more stress with Florida’s population growth…

    1. Yes hi Mike. I read today that Florida was only second to one other state in new 2020 residents. I hope fertilizer gets outlawed and at least they make us all plant more Florida Friendly and Native Plants. As the land is the water!

  3. I’m glad to get your posts at my new email (MSN has blocked my news2notice) Now what about the $100 million proposal to dig deep wells? I haven’t read your reaction anywhere.
    I did see your previous approval of the woman who was a former ACE employee.

  4. Beautiful post and pictures Jacqui. I recall growing up in Port St. Lucie and many parts of that river remain a great habitat for birds and native foliage. You are not far off with the Africa comment either. I recall watching parts of the filming of James Bond’s Moonraker movie shot on the North Fork of the St. Lucie, the river chase scenes (except the waterfall) were not shot on the Amazon River, but filmed right here in PSL! Its beauty remains.

  5. Dear Jacqui, beautiful article on the beautiful St. Lucie River North.
    The only way we can maintain this lifestyle is if we keep the population down and not overbuilding the area. You are doing a wonderful job at cleaning up the St. Lucie. I have lived on the St. Lucie since 1946. I have seen the good and I have seen the bad. Keep up the good work.
    Richard Miller

    1. Dear Richard, thanks so much for your comment. I totally agree that population and how we build is completely linked to the health of the river. I will “keep on keeping on” as they say. Every day. I wish I could do so much more! Wow 1946 that is incredible that you have witnessed the St Lucie over all that time. I’d love to hear more. My grandparents moved here in 1952. Thanks again and Happy 2021.

  6. Dear Jacqui
    What the mind of man can conceive and believe, is what the mind of man can achieve!
    Let’s sow thoughts for the evolution of life. THANKS.
    Margarita y Diego.

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