Category Archives: aerial photos

Aerial Update St Lucie River/IRL-end July

My “River Warrior” team and I continue to document the health of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Thank you to pilots Scott Kuhns, and my husband, Ed Lippisch. Also my brother, Todd Thurlow, for his eyeonlakeo website updates and Florida Oceanographic for their weekly water quality report. As the summer temperature heats up, the water is not as clear as earlier this year, however, Saharan dust is keeping the rain and hurricanes away, seagrass is rebounding, and there have been no major discharges from Lake Okeechobee in over three years. Thank you to everyone and every agency fighting and advocating for clean water!

Florida Oceanographic Water Quality Report shows a C+ for the overall St Lucie Estuary with high scores near the inlet but lower scores in the main river and forks. See above link.

The seven photos below were taken by Scott Kuhns from his SuperCub on Saturday, July 30, 2022 around 11:30am.


-St Lucie Inlet area and confluence of SLR/IRL -Sailfish Flats with seagrass recovery but lots of attached micro algae


The ten photos below were taken by Ed Lippisch from the Vans RV-also on Saturday, July 30th, at approximately 2pm. No visible algae was seen visually at S-308, Port Mayaca or S-80 in the C-44 Canal although Lake Okeechobee was recently reported by FDEP to be around “50% algae coverage.” View here on my brother’s website  EYEONLAKEO under HAB-IMAGES.

-Port Mayaca’s S-308 at Lake Okeechobee -S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam, C-44 Canal

SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image and the only canal that connects to Lake Okeechobee.


Turquoise Today

Today’s post is a visual water update. My husband, Ed, flew over the confluence of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon on July 6, 2022. As you can see, it looks beautiful. Our waters near the inlet are turquoise today. The water is not this color throughout the estuary, only in the area where the inlet regularly flushes in and out.

May Mother Nature hold off her heavy storms and rains this summer; may the state and federal agencies recharge themselves to do all possible to be laser-focused on sending  water south.

As the heat increases, the annual algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee is expanding. Keep track on my brother Todd’s site, EYEONLAKEO.


Aerials, July 6, 2022

-St Lucie Inlet’s nearshore reefs -St Luice Inlet: confluence of SLR/IRL -Sailfish Flats with budding seagrass and macro algae visible -Sailfish Point, Hutchinson Island, Sewall’s Point, Stuart. Look at the color of the ocean! Ed gets into the Van RV pre-flight,  a plane I have not flown in yet. 🙂 Thank you Ed! Our “Eye in the Sky since 2013.”KNOW THE ENEMY: Canals of the Central and South Florida Plan. Only C-44 is attached to Lake O and can have long term human-made discharges. All canals negatively affect the St Lucie Estuary.

SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.



Visual Update SLR/IRL June 23, 2022

I am very fortunate to have a team of people, “River Warriors” who help me document from sky to water the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Today, I share photos taken by friend  Mary Radabaugh who overnighted in the area over Father’s Day weekend, June 18-19, 2022. She took amazing photos of nature: live sand dollars, growing seagrasses, wading birds, manatees, and sea turtles. Life is returning to the area.

Next, Dr Scott Kuhns shares five aerials he took the same weekend, on June 18,  around 11:30am. These photographs reveal clear waters with rain runoff plume over St Lucie Inlet and nearshore reefs. There is also a photo of the C-44 Reservoir filled to just over ten feet. This reservoir sits on the C-44 Canal and was just completed this past year as the first major CERP project. It is scheduled to be operational by 2023, although the ACOE is trying for earlier.

My husband, Dr Ed Lippisch, took his plane up yesterday. He shares four photos from June 22, 2022 around 12:30 pm that encompass the estuary from a higher altitude. The darker rain runoff is more visible. The estuary still looks good in the region near the St Lucie Inlet. Higher up the north and south forks the water is darker. There have not been major discharges from Lake Okeechobee in over three years. This is a very good thing and we must continue to make this our goal.

Thank you for all who fight for a clean and healthy St Lucie River!Periodic_Scientists_Call_2022-06-21


I.-Mary Radabaugh, living sand dollar and more life, Sandbar near St Lucie Inlet between Sewall’s Point & Hutchinson Island, 6-18/19-22


I am adding two more wildlife videos 4:35pm, 6-23-22

A. Spotted Eagle Rays at the Sandbar, June 19, 2022,  by my sister Jenny and her husband Mike Flaugh.

B. Trigger Fish, Powers family dock, S. Sewall’s Point, IRL side June 23, 2022.


II.-Scott Kuhns, SuperCub, June 18, 2022 near St Lucie Inlet and C-44 Reservoir, 6-18-22.


III.-Ed Lippisch, Van RV, St Lucie Inlet SLR/IRL  June 22, 2022. 6-22-22.

SFWMD canal and basin map.



Not too Bad…

I visited my mother yesterday and we talked about the tremendous recent rains. We sat inside to chat because the mosquitoes were so bad outside.

This is about how our conversation went:

Jacqui: “I just took a picture of another seven inches in my rain gauge.”

Sandy: “Yes, I have dumped out over fifteen inches of rain in mine since that tropical disturbance…”  (6-3-22)

In spite of all this rain, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon doesn’t look too bad. Here are aerials taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, and friend, Scott Kuhns, on June 11, 2022 to show what the area looks like. The St Lucie itself does look dark brown and there is a plume from runoff, but overall it is “not too bad…”

We will continue to be your eye in the sky documenting the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.


-Ed Lippisch, RV, June 11, 2022 10:30am. St Lucie Inlet. -Roosevelt Bridge, St Lucie River 

-Scott Kuhns, SuperCub. June 11, 11:30 am. St Lucie Inlet. -Shawn Engebretsen flies his T-6 on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean & IRL 

The St Lucie River Central & South Florida Project Canal System SFWMD-June 11, 2022 South Sewall’s Point, JTL. My mom lives in North Sewall’s Point. 

Post Tropical Disturbance Rains – A look at the St Lucie & Loxahatchee

-St Lucie Inlet plume, June 5, 2020, aerial Scott KuhnsThis year’s hurricane Season was off to a quick start with a rare Tropical Disturbance that originated as Hurricane Agatha in the Pacific. Most of the rainfall occurred at Stuart, Florida on June 3rd and 4th, 2022.

-Image from “SFWMD Weather” a great resourceTCPalm reported significant rainfall along the Treasure Coast. My rain gauge in south Sewall’s Point read over 7 inches.And as the system pulled out over the Atlantic Ocean, Sunday, June 5, 2022, the day after the rains passed, it was beautiful! Both my husband, Ed Lippisch, and friend, Scott Kuhns, took flight. I will share their aerials today. We can use these photos as a baseline as more water makes it way to the St Lucie.

The ACOE opened one gate of S-80 to the C-44 canal for about one day, certainly C-23 and C-24 and C-25 overflowed, and then there is the surrounding runoff. Luckily no discharges came in from Lake Okeechobee, today reported at 12.75 feet. 

So what did the St Lucie River look like one day after such rains? Here you go!


~Scott Kuhns’ aerials, Sailfish Flats/confluence of the St Lucie River & Indian River Lagoon, near St Lucie Inlet. One can see the runoff plume.-Hutchinson Island in distance-Plume coming out of St Lucie Inlet -Sewall’s Point and Hell’s Gate SLR -St Lucie Inlet  -Area between Sewall’s and Sailfish Point, IRL -Sailfish Flats -Below: approaching Witham Airport plane is over Sewall’s Point going to Stuart 


Ed’s photos below are from Lake Okeechobee to the Loxahatchee River to the St Luice Inlet area. Ed said the canal water of the C-44 looked like expresso but no visible algae from the airplane.

-S-308 at Port Mayaca, Lake Okeechobee -Development along C-44 Canal near intake canal of C-44 Reservoir-S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam along C-44 Canal was closed after being open for about a day -Loxahatchee River in Jupiter also with runoff -St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, Sailfish Flats, Hutchinson Island 

So let’s keep our fingers crossed for no storms the remainder of hurricane season!

The Old Stiller Bros. Fish House, Dad, and Mariner Cay

-My dad’s photo -bus for Stuart High School, Senior Trip to Havana, Cuba, 1954Why the “Stiller”name rings a such a loud bell for me is because my late, dear, father, Tom Thurlow Jr.  always loved to tell the story about his 1954 Stuart High School Senior Trip to Havana, Cuba. As you can see above, the bus was all written up in shoe polish!

I remember saying to my dad, “I get “Stuart Tigers” and “Havana or Bust”, but why does it say FISH FOR SALE, STILLER BROS. FISH HOUSE?” Dad would begin chuckling  and reply: “That was my classmate Freddy Stiller…” 

-Indian River State College President, Dr. Timothy Moore, JTL, Sandra Thurlow, Vice Chair District Board of Trustees IRSC, Tony George, May 24, 2022. Receiving a “Resolution of Appreciation” for my late father, Thomas H. Thurlow Jr. for his many years of service to the institution. -Mom holds dad’s Resolution of Appreciation. Thank you IRSC!Recently, after receiving a a beautiful plaque from Indian River State College in honor of my father for his service to the institution, my mother, historian Sandra Thurlow, and I visited  Mariner Cay where my dad’s friends Freddy Stiller’s family once fished.

During our visit, my mother pointed out that commercial fishing operations flourished along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon after the opening of the St Lucie Inlet in 1892. In the 1940s, the fishing was still wonderful. It was this year that Hubert Stiller, Freddy’s forefather, purchased 75 acres of land from the Jacksonville Partnership Corporation -for the principal sum of $11500.

In 1963, the Stillers sold the family property, except for three lots to Whiticar, Garlington and Dragseth who later also sold the property. This land, platted in 1973, other than the three lots, became Mariner Cay off of St Lucie Boulvard near San Sprit Park.

-Mariner Cay Marina in 2022

When my mom got home she sent me some historic aerials that I will share today. It is fascinating to see what the land once looked like at a time when men could pull thousands  of fish from our waters.


-Early photo of a Stiller Fish House ca. 1945, courtesy Thurlow Archives.-Thurlow Archives/all aerials marked 1964 of the Stiller lands that in 1964 sold to Whiticar, Garlington, and Dragseth. The St Lucie Inlet and Seminole Shores, (today’s Sailfish Point) can be seen in the distance over an undeveloped Rocky Point. -Mouth of Manatee Pocket also 1964, Stuart, FL

-My mother took this photo below of a remaining Stiller structure still located on one of “the three lots” not sold by the family in 1963. It remained/s separate. My friend and realtor, Julia Sansavere who lives in Mariner Cay informed me these “Stiller” properties have just sold. Nonetheless, they will remain a piece of history of my dad’s friend Freddy Stiller who once wrote on the Senior Trip bus to Havana in 1954: “Fish For Sale, Stiller Bros. Fish House…” 

-A remaining Stiller structure, on the once Stiller lands, within Mariner Cay, May 24, 2022, photo Sandra Thurlow.-Today’s Mariner Cay red balloon, Google Earth, 2022.


Clear Waters From Ground to Above

As I mentioned in my previous post, “Ed is on a roll…”

Yesterday, 5-24-22 around 11:30 am, my husband took the Maverick to the Sailfish Flats area and the sandbar that forms at low tide off of Sailfish Point. Next, at 2:30pm he took a ride in the RV to view from above. Beautiful.

Rainy season usually officially begins on June 1st. So if you can enjoy the clear waters near the St Lucie Inlet before the rains…

I wanted to share these photos so we can compare.

~On the ground

-Seagrass with Gracilaria, a common macro-algae in the Lagoon according to Mark Perry

~In the air

-RV: Sailfish Flats and Sailfish Point, Hutchinson Island, near St Lucie Inlet on March 24, 2022, around 2:30pm. The exposed sand in these aerials is the sandbar Ed walked on and took photos of above.

Thank you Ed, for being my eye in the sky.

Aerials Sailfish Flats- St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon May 2022

Ed is on a roll!

Yesterday, 5-23-22, at around 3:30pm, these aerials were taken of the Sailfish Flats, the confluence of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island.

The water looks great and I have had reports of seagrass-although sparse-growing in some parts of this region. KEEP THE LOCKS CLOSED and thank you Ed for documenting the St Lucie!

Mind you, the entire river is not this color. The water gets more tannin and darker as you approach the locks and upper reaches of the forks. These were once fresh and clear. In a hundred years, things have drastically changed…

As you can see, the proximity to the St Lucie Inlet allows for flushing/cleaning of this area. Since repeated blue-green algae laden discharges starting in 2013, and then again in 2016 and 2018, the grasses have become sparse mostly due to poor light penetration. The inlet cannot flush when high discharges from Lake Okeechobee and area canals are pouring through for long periods of time.

Some of the shading you see is macro-algae not seagrasses. It takes years for seagrass to recover. With three good recent years they seem to be recovering. Things are looking up so long as Mother Nature and politics don’t get in way. Please continue to advocate for our waters!

I am including all photos- although similar- so you may compare and get the feeling of


1977 aerial below by Chris Perry for historic comparison.

Aerial of seagrasses in 1977 in and around Sailfish and Sewall’s Point.


Lake O’s Edge to Pal Mar/St Lucie Inlet

Greetings. Ed and I have just returned from three weeks of touring Florida’s west coast in our trawler, Adrift. It was awesome!  I am nowhere close to being back in gear (I am recovering one could say) but my husband Ed is…

Yesterday, 5-22-22, around 1pm, Ed took the RV for a spin and got some great aerials. I wanted to make sure to share. I will be writing more soon. Hope all my readers are doing well and enjoying the water!


-C-44 Canal at S-80, St Lucie Locks and Dam. No algae at S-80 but we did see some bubbling up in our wake in Lake O.

-Sugarcane burning near Lake Okeechobee…

Pal Mar’s lands  are under siege as you may have read about

-Light plume from rains, St Lucie Inlet at Hutchinson Island, Sailfish Point. Water is looking great after three years of no major discharges from Lake Okeechobee.-Sailfish Flats as viewed over Hutchinson Island. Pretty with seagrass “budding back.” Let’s keep those discharges at bay so it can grow, grow, grow!


St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon Aerials 4-24-22

Today I share recent photos of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon taken by my husband, Ed, yesterday, April 24, at 2:30pm. The water remains a lovey shade of turquoise blue but there is a visible plume exiting south of the St Lucie Inlet. As there has been no documented discharges from C-23, C-24, C-44, or Lake Okeechobee of late, this must be the effect of recent rains and local runoff.

I am also sharing the SFWMD’s weather site; it is full of information, including scientific predictions. You can access through this link here or type in “SFWMD weather” as a search. As June approaches it is very important for us to keep our eye on rains and weather systems that will affect the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee’s level. 

As we know the St Lucie was once just a small river running in to the longer Indian River Lagoon, but the today she is connected to canals and Lake Okeechobee and it is killing her. The state and federal government are well funded and continue working  to improve the situation every day. We too can help: Don’t fertilize! Plant your yard with native and Florida Friendly plants.