Today is a follow up to my recent post: “The Once Great Forests of Indiantown.” In response, my dear friend and well known engineer Dr. Gary Goforth commented:
“Jacqui, there is a beautiful linear park containing a diverse sample of trees similar to what was in the historic Barley Barber Swamp: the Lake Okeechobee Ridge Park. The park is the last remnant of the original shoreline of Lake Okeechobee. The Rafael E. Sanchez Memorial Trail runs throughout the length of the park and is a part of both the Big Water Heritage Trail and the Great Florida Birding Trail. The trail runs along the original sand/muck berm that was constructed along portions of Lake Okeechobee before the 1926 and 1928 hurricanes washed them out. Access is along US41 just north of the St Lucie Canal.”
The park in Port Mayaca, Martin County – next to Indiantown, is open from dawn ’til dusk, so yesterday afternoon, Luna and I went for a walk in the Rafael E. Sanchez Memorial Trail that Gary told us about. It was fascinating!
The skinny forest was stunning and even with the modern noise from the old Connors Highway ringing in my ears, it took me back about a hundred years. As I walked, I thought: “The park is the last remnant of the original shoreline of Lake Okeechobee; the trail runs along the original sand/muck berm that was constructed along portions of Lake Okeechobee before the 1916 and 1928 hurricanes washed them out…”
Soon after 1928, the state and federal governments’ answer materialized into the Herbert Hoover Dike, -forever altering the living-lake, shrinking it and blocking it from expanding.
Today I share Luna and my walk through this amazing remnant forest. Once periodically flooded, now dry, Luna and I saw only a few very tall and beautiful cypress trees. But we could imagine the old shoreline full of them with their knees pushing forth from the earth. Luna and I also saw massive strangler-figs and oaks and even the famous white moonvine that once graced the pond apple forest south and east along the lake. Luna and I also saw many cabbage palms. The leaning/curving palms, seeking light, were really beautiful. Certainly a hundred years ago the flora and fauna was very different, but Luna and I did get a “glimpse” and for that I am thankful.
For perspective, the FPL cooling pond lies to the east. The park goes on for six miles well beyond my image below. I hope you’ll check it out! Thank you Gary for your comment and for expanding my knowledge of the once great forests of Indiantown.
Raphael E. Sanchez Memorial Park address
Who was Rafael E. Sanchez who must have inspired this wonderful park?
8 thoughts on “Lake O’s Original Shoreline-Today a Remnant of the “Once Great Forests of Indiantown””
Hi Jacqui – so glad you and Luna enjoyed the walk in the park!
Thanks Gary! What a great adventure!
I worked for Jorge Sanchez, son of Rafael Sanchez, for many years at Sanchez and Maddux Landscape Architects in Palm Beach. He was a lovely, elegant, kind man. He sold out his portion of the family sugar business. He told me he didn’t like all the back-stabbing at the family dinners. Jorge said that his father was Batista’s right hand man. When Castro took over the Sanchez family hid Batista in a gated community on Palm Beach Island until Batista died in 1973.
Barbara, this is so fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing. Really something to have your personal stories and insight. Raphael E. Sanchez must have been an amazing person.
If you drive north on the hwy along the Lake and look east occasionally you can see remnants of the old historic shorelines. These are like old sand reefs that marked shores that were common from year to year as the unfettered Lake spread like a “puddle in a parking lot” with rain events (and more slowly and holding the same depth longer during the normal wet season). Inside the dike (under water) there is a very distinct shoreline that was exposed by the record low 8 feet Lake about 16 years ago. Lots of relics from indigenous peoples camps were exposed.
Today, we basically are dealing with a massive reservoir. But, Mother Nature still determines the “shoreline”. Even if just higher on the dike.
Newton, you are a poet! I love these words you share- conjuring such visions and secret unveiled. Thanks for commenting.
Outstanding, clarifying post that personalises history to bring community together.
Thanks so much Stephen. I’m glad to hear your words. I will try to more like this.