Category Archives: Guest writer

Timeless Waters ~Suwannee Springs, by John Moran

Today, I am honored to share “Timeless Waters ~Suwannee Springs,” a recent photo essay by renowned Florida nature photographer, friend, and fellow water warrior, John Moran. https://www.johnmoranphoto.com/about.html
Timeless Waters ~ Suwannee Springs, by John Moran
Hello Springs Lovers,
Happy Fourth! I’m pleased to share my latest night-time photographic collaboration with my friend, David Moynahan.
The object of our attention (and affection) this time is historic Suwannee Springs. A series of photos sets the stage for our nocturnal photo adventure to follow.
Unlike most Florida springs with their famously (or formerly) blue waters, Suwannee Springs is characterized by a honey golden color, infused with the distinct aroma of sulphur water.
These walls remind us of a time when trainloads of visitors would come to take the healing waters at one of the South’s most celebrated spa springs, on the Suwannee north of Live Oak. The spring pool and adjacent lands and river access are now publicly owned under the stewardship of the Suwannee River Water Management District.
I have a long history with Suwannee Springs. A photo of friend George Tortorelli in 1987 was featured in an exhibit of my Suwannee photographs, which the Museum of Florida History toured around the state for many years. The photo also appeared on the cover of the Florida Humanities Council magazine. They don’t call me Suwannee Johnny for nothing.

A couple of hundred yards downstream, within sight of the springhouse ruins, one of Florida’s most beautiful old bridges spans the Suwannee. Shot on color slide film in 1989, this early endeavor in “light painting” was created by triggering an electronic flash 88 times as I crawled across the bridge (to stay out of the photo); uplighting the superstructure as the stars pinwheeled around the North Star during the course of a one-hour star trail exposure.
Abundantly tagged with graffiti, the bridge remains a sweet spot to take in a view of the river that inspired Florida’s state song. The bridge would factor into the picture David and I were determined to create.
Back at the springhouse, and well before sunset, David and I set up and secured twin JohnnyPods—our homemade climb-able tripods. The J-Pods independently supported the camera and camera operator, enabling precise alignment of the hundreds of photos we would shoot during the course of the night to come. David is pictured above at the camera.
When the sun went down, the lights came out and the fun began. Nearly every facet of this scene was lit over the course of the next six hours with a mix of underwater video lights, electronic flash or moonlight. In the photo above, I’m probing the depths of the spring with my 20-foot JohnnyPole and custom bare-bulb underwater flash, which David remotely triggered from the camera.
Back home on his computer, David would commence the days-long task to artfully build the picture in Photoshop, layer by layer. After extensive evaluation and discussion by phone and email, and multiple proof print revisions on my Epson printer, all those many photos finally merge as one, revealing the magic of Florida that can only be found in the dark.

Photography is ordinarily a solo pursuit but David and I have collaborated on many such light-painting photos over the past decade. We gratefully acknowledge the on-site assistance of our friends, Anthony Ackrill and Oscar Psychas.

David has put together a fine blog post of his own on this project, including a nifty little time-lapse video that sequentially shows nearly the entire collection of individual photos we shot that memorable night, baked down to just 60 seconds. https://www.davidmoynahan.com/blog/2019/7/suwannee-spring-illuminations

Feel free to share this email picture report and David’s blog.

To learn more about our priceless and irreplaceable springs and what you can do to help protect them, check out the following online resources…

Springs Eternal Project  ~ http://springseternalproject.org
Florida Springs Council  ~ https://www.floridaspringscouncil.org
Florida Springs Institute  ~ https://floridaspringsinstitute.org

John Moran

A Funny Story: “Well Anyhow, He has the Oldest Fish in Town,” by Ernest Lyons

From Bill Lyons, Ernest Lyon’s son, in communication with my mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow: “Hi Sandy. Here’s a photo (jpg) of Dad’s “oldest fish.” It’s from the Eocene Green River Formation in Wyoming and is about 50 million years old (if you can believe those pointy-headed paleontologists). The Green River Formation was (is) famous for the abundance, variety, and preservation of its fossil freshwater fishes. The fossils were available for sale some decades ago (I don’t know about now), but I imagine Dad was right in boasting that he had the oldest fish in Stuart at that time. If you want to learn more about Green River fish fossils, you can Google Green River Formation Fish.” Bill

Today I share a humorous column by our beloved local hero and inspiration, Ernest Lyons, The piece is about “wishing for something.” For years, my mother, local historian Sandra Thurlow, has shared old columns from her transcribed works of Mr. Lyons’ writings about the old days along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. With patience and love, mom types out these old columns buried in the micro-fiche chambers of our local library so we can enjoy them today. Here is a new one she found. Timeless, funny, and classic Ernie, enjoy!

 

Ernest Lyons’ Column: https://flpress.com/hall_of_fame/ernest-lyons/

Stuart News

January 9, 1969

“Well Anyhow, He Has the Oldest Fish in Town”

If you want anything intensely enough, somehow you will get it, but that’s no guarantee it will be good for you.

The high voltage of your desire produces the results. Weak wishers get nowhere.  Back when I used to enjoy catching plain, ordinary fresh fish, Chuck Schilling called up one Saturday morning and said that he was bringing Jason Lucas to my home that evening “so you can get acquainted. You know about Jason of course.”

“Oh, Sure,” I said. “He’s on the staff of Sports Afield Greatest authorities on black bass in the United States probably the world. Catches them in those big western impoundments. Catches them in Minnesota when it’s freezing and no one else can. I have his book. Love to meet him.”

But in truth, I was seized with an awful wish. I suddenly desired to catch a bigger black bass than ever before in my life‒maybe not bigger than Jason had, but one that would give him a run for his money. While I was running around getting my tackle ready, my wife noticed the gleam in my eye. “You’re wishing again,” she accused. A high-powered wish can no more be hidden than the evil eye. “And whatever it is,” she said sadly, “it’s not going to do what you think it will.”

I brushed her aside. My desire pulled me with the intensity of a laser beam to a little backwoods pond covered with bonnets. I paddled out in a tiny bateau only seven feet long and two feet wide, the sort in which you have to part your hair in the middle to keep it from capsizing. Unerringly, I pushed my way to the edge of the only clear hole in the mass of vegetation.

I sat quietly for five minutes by the edge of that hole, which was not much larger than a dining room table, knowing that it held the big bass I was going to catch. It would be impossible of course to check the run of a large fish once it started off through that maze of bonnet stems. What’s impossible? I took one cast the surface of the hole welled up in a tremendous strike and I struck back. The giant bass leaped in air two feet from the bateau and I grabbed it by the jaw in mid-leap.

I sat on it all the way back to shore. A monster bass over 12 pounds not under 14, (I never weigh my bass) just exactly what I wished for. While we were sitting in the living room that evening, I artfully led the conversation around to how small bass would occasionally strike plugs. Jason Lucas agreed. “Why just today,” I said, “a little old minnow-sized bass hit my plug and gill-hooked itself so deeply that there was no use releasing it. I brought it in to show you.”

I went to the icebox, walked back into the parlor and held that giant fish under my guest’s nose. Did you ever in your whole life,” I asked, “see a smaller bass than this hit a plug?”

Well, I made my point all right but my wife remarked later that she didn’t think I had made a hit with Mister Lucas.

“But it proves,” I said, “that if you want something bad enough you can get it. Like if you were stranded on a desert island and you really, really wanted some ice cream, a yacht would come along, rescue you and the first thing you would get would be a big heaping dish of ice cream.”

“And, it would probably make your teeth ache,” she said. “As long as you’re wishing, why don’t you wish for something important, like a beautiful home on the river, a big bank account or an income for life?”

“Because it won’t work if you’re selfish” I replied. “It has to be something of peculiar value only to yourself.” She said she couldn’t see any difference but I can. I wish real hard for two early editions of Jonathan Dickenson’s Journal. Within a week, two sixth editions showed up printed in archaic English around 150 years ago. Then I wished real hard for some Cape of Good Hope triangles for my British Colonial collection. A dealer in London wrote that he was liquidating a philatelic estate and sent me a dozen for practically nothing.

My horizons widened, I announced that I deeply desired a fossilized fish. “Of all things,” said my wife.  “And why would you want a fossilized fish. What earthly good would it be? I replied that the important thing was wanting it, that I was wanting it harder and harder every day and pretty soon it would appear.

It did. All wrapped up neatly in a package from the Collector’s Shop of the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, a gift from a special friend of mine up there. There was a little note. It went two live million years old was the best I could do. Thanks, Beano, you don’t know what this means to me.

My Fossil fish is from the Green River Shales of Wyoming. Its silvery body fluttered down in a long-vanished sea mid-way in the Oligocene Epoch. Its bones are delicately imprinted eons before the appearance of primitive man on earth. Nature’s tip-off to Gruenberg.

Someday, some fisherman is going to come into the office bragging about his catch and I am going to ask slyly, “But how old was your fish?” I can’t help it, I’ve got to do it. I’ve resisted so far but one of these days, I will completely, absolutely floor whoever it is. Else what use is there in having the oldest fish in town?

Well Anyhow PDF file, original

Links, Green River Formation:

USGS: https://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/0496a/report.pdf

Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_River_Formation

Ernie Lyons’ St Lucie Places of Magic, by Bill Lyons

The creative seed for this blog post dates back to 2011. On November 1st in 2011, my mother forwarded Bill Lyons, son of famed Stuart News conservationist and newspaperman, Ernest Lyons, an email that had been sent to me by Mrs. Sheri Anker of the St Lucie County Conservation Alliance. Sheri had come up with an idea to erect a series of signs throughout the St Lucie River highlighting the favorite spots that “Ernie” so passionately and lovingly wrote about throughout his career.

The following essay is Ernie’s son Bill’s response to my mother’s inquiry for guidance on creating a historic Ernie Lyons’ St Lucie River tour, as Sheri envisioned: “Travels with Ernie on his Rio de Luz.”

Bill’s reply was insightful, poetic, and bittersweet. Bill updated the piece in 2014 -after reading about the St Lucie’s “Lost Summer” of 2013, the tipping point causing a tsunami river movement resurgence that even from the grave, through republished essays in the Stuart News, was inspired by the spirit of Ernie Lyons. Recently my mother rediscovered Bill’s essay in her files and now seems like a good time to rethink the sign idea.

It is my wish that after we read Bill’s tribute to his father, we follow through on Sheri’s idea for signage along the St Lucie River. Indeed, it is difficult to mark what is “favorite” when you love it all, but one thing is certain, we must ensure that our beloved river and the spirit of Mr. Ernest Lyons continues so that “progress” in the future won’t mean a bulldozer.

 

Favorite Places on the River, by Bill Lyons

Ernest Lyons, my father, first came to Stuart, Florida in 1913 and lived there for most of his life. He worked at the Stuart News for 40-some years, retiring as editor in 1975. Dad loved to fish and above all he loved the St. Lucie River, an affection evident in his writings. A few years ago an admirer of that writing suggested erecting signage at Dad’s favorite places on the River. This is my response.

Ernie Lyons as a boy

Dad’s favorite places changed with the moods of the River. For instance, I’m fairly sure North Fork Bay wasn’t his favorite place the day he couldn’t find shelter there from what he called a Blue Norther. He had gathered my mother, my sister and me in his boat and set off up the River to look at a piece of land. It rained and blew all the way up the River, abated for a while as he walked over the property, and then poured buckets all the way back to Stuart. Dad never owned a boat with a cabin or a cover, and I don’t recall that Mother ever got into one of his boats again.

Classic Ernie Lyons as a newspaperman, Stuart News

Dad really did love the North Fork, though. Willard Kiplinger commissioned Florida artist Beanie Backus to do a painting for Dad – “Just contact Beanie and tell him what you want” — so Dad requested a view from the shore where the narrow North Fork opens out into North Fork Bay. Beanie took a boat out there, sketched the scene, and the finished painting hangs in our home today. Many times in the nineteen forties and early fifties, Dad drove us to Burt Pruitt’s Fish Camp, rented a skiff, and motored down to where two branches of the North Fork converge. The River then was alive with fish and birds and alligators, but by the late fifties, it was gone. Drainage from the Rim Ditch Canal (C-24) did so much damage to that part of the River that it lost its sparkle. I don’t think Dad ever went back to the North Fork; after that, he just lived with the memories.

Bean Backus, “The narrow North Fork opening out into North Fork Bay.”

When Dad wrote about festoons of asters along the banks and sprays of orchids hanging from oaks over the River, he was thinking of the South Fork in summer. He took me there many times and we caught lots of fish, but the magical memories are of the flowers and of the tarpon and manatees that came rolling by while we sat quietly watching. During summer, sheet-flow from the Allapattah Flats converged in tiny rivulets into a deep pool with a sand bottom, the first of a series of pools connected by shallow streams of clear water that formed the headwaters of the South Fork. Dad loved that place, not just for its beauty but for its solitude. It could only be reached by Jeep during the wet season, so we hitched rides with the local game warden, who would drop us off and return for us later. Clyde Butcher’s photos of the upper Loxahatchee River are the nearest thing I’ve seen to what once was the upper South Fork. Then in the fifties, construction of the Florida Turnpike cut off the flow of freshwater to the River. Soon saltwater intrusion crept up the South Fork, impeding the spawning of its fish, and the River began to die. In 1962, a friend and I drove to the former site of the headwaters. The area had been bulldozed and the pool had become a cattle watering hole.

Fork of the St Lucie, Sandra Thurlow

Dad loved many places on the River. Some nights he would drive over to Lighthouse Point (the one with the restaurant on US 1, not the development). He took a lantern, a single-tined spear, and a croaker sack and went wading for flounders. He knew just where they would be, hanging at the edge of the bar waiting for unwary fish and shrimp to wash by. A few hours later he would come home, dump a bag of flounders into the kitchen sink, and start cleaning them. Then the mud from Lake Okeechobee washed down the River and the flounders went away.

https://www.savebromeliads.com/floridas-bromeliads

Dad loved the widest part of the River, where vast schools of mullet gathered along the north shore. Tarpon and snook, seatrout and jack crevalle would attack the mullet and drive them grey-hounding in waves across the River, often all the way to the shores of Stuart. Interactions between Plains wolves and bison were no more dramatic. Much of the action happened at night as we lay in our beds, listening to the mullet thundering across the River. When hurricane season approached, immense schools of fingerling mullet moved down the River, sometimes taking several days to pass Stuart. They too ran the gauntlet of snook and jacks, and residents flocked to the shore to fish. Who then could not love the River, unless he were a mullet?

Burt Pruitt’s Fish Camp, North Fork. St Lucie River

In my early years, Dad loved the lower St. Lucie around Hell Gate, that part of the River that separates lower Sewall’s Point from Port Sewall. Again, it was the fishing that brought him there. When winter storms blew, he could find shelter in the lee of Sewall’s Point, and that’s where he would be, trolling for bluefish or bottom-fishing for weakfish. After the months-long runoff from the ’47 and ’49 hurricanes, though, the fish did not return.

Where the River rounds Sewall’s Point it meets the Indian River Lagoon and together their waters flow over large seagrass beds on their way to St. Lucie Inlet. Dad loved casting for large seatrout on the grass flats, and it was there that he and I were fishing in Dale Hipson’s iconic photo that graces one of Dad’s books.

And of course he loved the inlet, where the River meets the sea. Dad was enchanted by the place he called the Sun Parlor, the channel that hooked north around Sailfish Point and spread out to feed the adjacent grass-beds. Ancient black and red mangroves hung in the water along the channel, and sheepshead and snappers could be seen swimming among the snags in the gin-clear waters on flood tides. Sharks were not uncommon in the channel, and queen conchs and large horse conchs lived in the grass-beds. If you wanted to see a roseate spoonbill in Martin County in the fifties, that’s where it would be. Dad spent countless hours in the Sun Parlor. Then the developers came in the late fifties, and it was lost.

“Ernie with son Bill and Pudge pop-corking at the Crossroads off Sewall’s Point, 1950s” Photo courtesy of Dr. Dale Hipson. Cover of The Last Cracker Barrel by Ernest Lyons

Dad loved Bessey Creek, a tributary of the lower North Fork, and once in the early fifties he accompanied me and two other boys on a camping trip to the upper reaches of the creek. Around the campfire at night, Dad told us of a remote pond connected to the main creek by a hidden stream that he found in his youth. We boys searched until we found it, and we took Dad back there to fish. Judging from the abundance of hungry bass in that pond, I don’t think anyone had been there for decades. There were no houses on Bessey Creek then, and we could spend days without seeing another human being. But around 1960 the county built a new road to extend Murphy Road across C-23 Canal. The road cut across upper Bessey Creek virtually on top of our old campsite and passed within 100 yards of the hidden pond. When I returned from the Army in 1962, I walked across a sand lot from the road to the bank of the pond and gazed at the empty bait cups and beer cans on its shore. Humpty Dumpty was off the wall.

Aerial maps suggest that Mile Lake and a few adjacent lakes in southern St. Lucie County may be ox-bows, formed as part of the North Fork but pinched off as the River meandered away. In his boyhood Dad camped and fished around Mile Lake, and he took me there many times. I don’t know if Dad knew Mile Lake had once been part of the River, but it may explain his affection for the place. He loved the River in all of its many parts, but I don’t know how he’d have felt about Mile Lake surrounded by homes and golf courses as it is now.

Ernie Lyons with Bass, possibly Mile Lake

Dad had a love/hate relationship with the St. Lucie Canal. Its discharges damaged the River downstream, and he campaigned tirelessly but futilely for the Army Corps of Engineers to manage it responsibly. Still, when many of his favorite places were gone, fishing remained good in the canal, and Dad could drive out and fish along its banks. Then, testing found some of the nation’s highest readings for pesticides and heavy metals in fish from the canal. That’s when Dad gave up fishing.

If anyone were to put up signage at Dad’s favorite places on the River, they would need lots of signs. And the signs should say “This was one of Ernest Lyons’ favorite places, a place of magic, until progress did it in. Sit quietly, look closely and try to imagine the sparkle that once was here.” If you can’t see the sparkle, it just looks like water. Or, more recently, like guacamole.

~Bill Lyons, son of Ernest Lyons

A mullet jumps at sunset, St Lucie River off of North River Shores, photo Todd Thurlow.

Biography of Bill’s father, Ernest Lyons

Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame, Ernest Lyons, 1994

Lyons began working as a reporter for The Stuart News in 1931. He also worked as an advertising salesman, printing salesman, then as advertising director for the paper. He became editor in 1945, serving until his retirement on March 1, 1975. He died April 6, 1990, at age 85.

Under Lyons the paper grew from a tiny independent weekly to a lively Scripps Howard daily. As editor, Lyons practiced community journalism at its best. He had a keen sense of what local people wanted to read and a zeal to guard their interests. Fearing that rapid population growth and urbanization might ruin coastal Florida, Lyons fought for  protection of endangered water resources and wildlife habitats.

In 1965, his newspaper columns won the nationwide Edward J. Meeman Award for conservation writing. His writings, some composed 30 or more years ago, still are quoted by conservationists because they ring with enduring concepts and timeless values.

Color-Coded Maps – Help Us to Understand the Flow of Lake O

MAP 1.

New maps denoting volumes in 1000 acre feet as presented by John Mitnick P.E., SFWMD – please note for readability, slides have been enlarged into two images.

Today, I wanted to share new map images, “Selected Release Volumes, November 1st, 2018, to May 7, 2019,” being presented at the South Florida Water Management District by Chief District Engineer, John Mitnik P.E. Thank you to Mr Mitnik and his staff for these great images. I really like them and I think you will too as they specifically break down the movement of water from north to south, using color-coding and arrows, making it easier to see and understand the water flows of the complicated Lake O system.

Looking above, notice that the map starts at the top with Orlando’s free-flowing creeks, the often forgotten headwaters of Lake Okeechobee and Kissimmee Chain of Lakes: Their names? “Reedy,” “Shingle” and “Boggy.” Sounds like names from an Everglades’ Seven Dwarves, don’t they?

As you study the map images, above, and below, you’ll catch on quickly with the color-coded arrows and numbers in acre feet. If you wish to compute, use my brother, Todd Thurlow’s easy conversion chart for acre feet: (http://eyeonlakeo.com/DischargeDataandTools/EyeOnLakeOAcreFeetConverter.html)

I’m not going to review each line, just some highlights…but please read through it all!

If you live in Martin or St Luice County, you may find of particular interest RED, RELEASES TO THE INDIAN RIVER LAGOON, (C-25 at Taylor Creek); and BROWNISH-RED, UPPER EAST COAST, DISCHARGES TO THE ST LUCIE ESTUARY, (C-23 and C-24);  for all of us BLUE, TOTAL RELEASES SOUTH, is always important! 550.6 thousand acre feet is really a lot of Lake water “going south.” The original Everglades Forever Act proposed 250,000 acre feet, but it has not always worked out that way.  Some years have been basically null. We should be very happy about 550.6!

 

Map 2

On the southern map you’ll see some of the same colors and number and new ones like OLIVE GREEN, LAKE RELEASES EAST AND WEST; and many more. Most interesting to me right now as the estuaries are not getting bombed is LIGHT GREEN, WATER CONSERVATION AREA 3 RELEASES TO EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK linked to the L-29 Canal along the Tamiami Trail. It is not just how much water is going south, but how much is getting to the right part of Florida Bay as it is hyper-saline, in parts, leading to massive seagrass die-off. This problem was the first to inspire change and it is still messed up….

In any case, I hope you enjoy these images as much as I do! And following such will certainly help us attain our goals!

To see this presentation in its original form please link here: (https://apps.sfwmd.gov/webapps//publicMeetings/viewFile/20884)

Source of Maps: https://www.sfwmd.gov

“Palm Beach County, Nature’s Masterpiece; Man’s Opportunity…”

The “Crying Cow Report” was of interest to many readers, so today I continue down that timeline, in fact, a bit before…

After reading the report, my mom, historian Sandra Thurlow, shared the following note and images from one of her many files. The small booklet is entitled, “Palm Beach County Florida,” and was published with a colorful tropical-farm cover around 1920. You’ll see that it was written to entice others. Also, one must remember that until 1925, Martin County did not exist and was part of Palm Beach County!

~For me, it is so interesting to read these old publications within the context of where we are ecologically today: “Nature’s Masterpiece; Man’s Opportunity.” It sure was! Now we have an opportunity to clean up the lands and waters made impaired by our dreams.

Please view below:

“Jacqui, I enjoyed reading about your viewing the Crying Cow booklet. It made me look in my rare booklet box and when I looked through this little 4 1/2 by 6 inch booklet I thought you’d like to see it. I chose these pages to scan. It is undated but it cites 1920 numbers and was published before Martin County was created in 1925. I wonder if Hector Harris Ritta is connected to Ritta Island? Mom”

Ritta Island is located inside the dike of Lake Okeechobee. These areas were once farmed,Google Earth Image.
This image is added to show changing counties of Florida. Excerpt, Florida Works Progress Administration, Creation of Counties 1820-1936, Historical Records State Archives, courtesy archives Sandra Thurlow. http://www.sandrathurlow.com

__________________________________________________

From my brother Todd, after he read this post. 🙂
“Good Stuff. Yes definitely “Ritta” refers to Hector Harris’ home town, like the others. The town of Ritta can be seen clearly on the map you included – at Ritta Island. Interesting notes about Ritta:”

Land by the Gallon: https://www.floridamemory.com/blog/2015/05/29/land-by-the-gallon/#more-11821
-Crazy big hotel built there.

Ghost towns: http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/fl/rittaisland.html

POST TIME: Who named Lake Okeechobee’s Kreamer, Ritta, Torry islands? : https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/local/post-time-who-named-lake-okeechobee-kreamer-ritta-torry-islands/iPUWYxxSck6bNHOmP4Lv6I/
– Not terribly helpful but says “Ritta is believed named for the daughter of an early settler of Lake Harbor”

Top 25 Discharge Years to the St Lucie and Calooshahatchee

S-80 Spillway at St Lucie Locks, Top 25 Discharge Calendar Years, 1953 to 2019. Source SFWMD DBHydro, courtesy of Todd Thurlow.

“Destruction by the Numbers” Lake O & C-44; S-79

Although the St Lucie River was declared “impaired” by the state of Florida, in 2002, the damage has been cumulative. The above chart created by my brother, Todd Thurlow, displays the damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee and the C-44 basin at S-80 spillway, St Lucie Locks and Dam, for the top 25 discharge calendar years on record, 1953-2019. (http://www.eyeonlakeo.com/DischargeDataandTools/Top25_S-80_DischargeCalendarYears.htm, source: DBHydro: https://www.sfwmd.gov/science-data/dbhydro)

Shockingly, the worst year, 1960, displays 3,093,488 acre feet of water coming through S-80 into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. For comparison, the highest year in the past decade was 2016 at 857,529 acre feet.  ~A difference of 2, 235,959 acre feet.

We know now that an “acre foot” is an easy calculation, “one foot of water covering one acre of land.” 3,093,488 acre feet of water would have just about covered St Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, and Broward counties as the acreage of these counties combined adds up to 3,293,440 acres. Hard to believe!

TT3

Even though in 1960, the lake was not yet prone to massive cyanobacteria blooms, fresh water itself is destructive to a brackish estuary, and over three million acre feet discharged into the river by, what would have been at that time, the Central and South Florida Flood Control District, (the predecessor to the South Florida Water Management District), must have wiped out just about everything.

Of course the question is: “Why such high a high number in 1960?” One would deduce, that the primary reason would be because there were three tropical storms and one hurricane that crossed over Florida during this era. According to NOAA’s Tropical Cyclone Rainfall in Florida chart: Judith, October 1959, 7.90 inches; Donna, September 1960 13.24 inches; Florence, September 1960 15.79 inches, and we do not know for the Unnamed 1959 storm.(https://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/tropical/rain/tcflorida.html)

But this is conjecture…

Going back to Todd’s graph, you’ll  notice that thirteen out of the twenty-five years listed had higher discharge number than 2016. Sobering, isn’t it? Staggering numbers, for a river that by Nature was never connected to Lake Okeechobee, and only a portion of the so-called C-44 Basin. We have drowned her, indeed…

Hurricanes 1959, 1960 NOAA, courtesy of Todd Thurlow.

Now for one final question.

The Caloosahatchee has data too, but only for years 1967-2019. Thus the Caloosahatchee’s  highest year for discharge of its top 25 years is 2005, at 3,731,056 acre feet;  followed by 2016, at 2, 950,926 acre feet and so on. Please click on the graph.

So what about the missing thirteen years of 1953-1968? Where did this water go? Did it go to the St Lucie? Was the Caloosahtchee off-line? Did it go through the Calooshahatchee but was not recorded? These are questions I cannot answer. But in any case, both rivers need a break, or they shall break themselves. History allows us to see the long-standing destruction and ecological disregard for our treasured Northern Estuaries.

S-79 Spillway on Caloosahatchee at Franklin Lock and Dam, Top 25 Discharge Calendar Years, 1967-2019, courtesy Todd Thurlow.

Above chart larger format: http://www.eyeonlakeo.com/DischargeDataandTools/Top25_S-79_DischargeCalendarYears.htm

Basin map SFWMD. Before it was connected by canals, the St Lucie River was a large fresh water “stream” that ran into the Indian River Lagoon.
Structures along the Caloosahatchee, courtesy Melody Hunt, Research Gate. The Caloosahtchee was connected to Lake O in the late 1880s by Hamilton Disston after he blew up the waterfall rapids at Lake Hipochee and dredged on to the Lake.

EyeonLakeO, Todd Thurlow: http://eyeonlakeo.com

 

The Gale of 1878, Ten Mile Creek, SLR/IRL

*Please note comments become public record.

Excerpt of a survey map, 1919, courtesy Mike Middlebrook, Natural Resources Manager, St Lucie County.

The following are two rare accounts of pioneer life documenting the extreme rain event of 1878. The first is from A. Hendry Sr., and the other by Emily Lagow Bell. These related families lived along the banks of Ten Mile Creek at the time of this flood. Their stories give us insight into a world we cannot even image today.

Historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, (http://www.sandrathurlow.com)
had transcribed these accounts from old newspaper articles and a book. Apparently, the News Tribune had the wonderful idea of a “contest for old timers” and people wrote in.

Sandra, my mother, recently came across her transcriptions again, after I visited the Richard E. Becker Preserve in St Lucie County and started asking questions.

Today I put these valuable recollections out for all to read. I think you will find them as interesting as I do.

We must not forget that are living in a Land Remembered!

Ten Mile Creek and Five Mile Creek are visible on this 1884 map – look just south of Ft Pierce. These “creeks” are the northern headwaters of the St Lucie River. They have been drained, tamed, and destroyed by the C&SFP canal system C-23, C-24 and C-25.

TWO RARE ACCOUNTS

I.

Transcribed by Sandra H. Thurlow

News Tribune

Nov. 26, 1978

“Miley’s Memos”

by Charles S. Miley

 

  1. A. Hendry was one of the first settlers of this area, and one of the pioneer cattlemen.

Born near Bartow, he came here with his parents at the age of 14, when there were but a handful of settlers in the area. As was the case with most other early settlers, he engaged in the cattle business during his late youth hood and all his adult life, reportedly being among the largest cattle owners in the state. He and K. B. Raulerson established the East Coast Cattle Co., which later became the Raulerson Cattle Co., forerunner of some of the present-day cattle operations.

He died at the age of 87 and he and his wife are buried in the Fort Pierce cemetery.

A son, A. A. “Buck” Henry, Jr., presently lives at 3576 N. E. Skyline drive, Jensen Beach, but spent most of his life in Fort Pierce and is well known among many of our residents.

When the News Tribuneconducted an old timer’s letter writing contest in February of 1934, the senior Hendry wrote a letter relating some of his experiences as an early settler of the area.

Here is the letter.

 

Fort Pierce, Florida

February 20, 1934

Within less than eight miles of White City, where I hope this will be read as a prize-winning letter, has been my home for 62 years, one month and one week.

For early in January, 1872, my father and mother and eight children left Polk County with two wagons drawn by oxen. After two weeks slow traveling over the old government trail, Ft. Meade, Ft. Kissimmee, Ft. Drum, we arrived at Fort Pierce. We drove our cattle with us and camped where night caught us.

We settled on the south side of Ten Mile creek, where later was located the Lisk and Roden Gove, later owned by B. J. Selvitz.

Of my father’s eight children, seven are still living, three still in this neighborhood, Mrs. Frank Bell, John Hendry and myself.

At the time of our arrival Henry Parker lived in Fr. Drum and Elias Jernigan lived on what is now the Standard Growers grove at Ten Mile; on the south lived Lang on St. Lucie River bluff just south of White City, clearing what has since become the Edwards grove, now owned by Mr. Martin East was the trading post. of the old fort, run by Alex Bell (who had arrived the year before) and a Mr. Smith; on the north lived Jim Russel and the Paine family at Ft. Capron. Beyond these points, outside of possible wandering trappers and hunters, there were no settlers short of Ft. Bassenger, Ft. Jupiter, where lived Captain Armour and Mr. Carlin, and Sebastian, where Col. Gibson lived.

An occasional band of Indians stopped on their way to the “fort,” where they would swap deer skins and other hides for beads, cloth, ammunition, salt, etc.

Their main cooking was what they called “sofkee,” ─ a tick soupy mixture of meat, grits, meal, potatoes, beans, or anything they might happen to have, boiled in a copper kettle swung over a slow fire. When done, they would squat around the kettle and pass around the one big spoon for individual use or would gorge out a handful and pour or suck off their fingers. First the bucks would eat till they had enough, then the squaws and pickaninnies. They liked white man’s cooking and lost no opportunity to enjoy it. They were especially fond of milk, never having any milk cows of their own. They would always divide with us whenever they had anything to eat that we did not have.

These Indians were of Old Parker’s band. They were known also as the Cow Creek Indians.

There were about a hundred of them in all. Their headquarters were in the Indiantown section.

September 7, 8, 9, and 10thin the year of 1878, there was a gale with a heavy rain. The Ten Mile creek’s banks overflowed. When the water came up in the floor of our cabin I built a rough boat in the hall and poled my people across the creek to Asbury Seller’s place. Finding them gone, I became somewhat alarmed. Then I poled on east to John Sellers and spent the night there with their family. Next day we all took refuge on the “mound” ─ still standing, what is left of it, just south of the road about a mile west of Five Mile.

There were 32 of us men, women and children and we spent there two days and one night. We had no shelter and were drenched to the skin. We managed to build a fire which we kept going with driftwood. We brought provisions along but were gladdened by the addition of a deer which swam up and which we killed with a pole. On returning home we found the water had been up two of three feet in the house, according to the marks on the walls.

We lived a rough, hard but healthy life. Plenty of clean food and plenty of outdoor exercise getting it. We had no Sunday schools or churches for years. We soon had a few months school for the younger children and we older ones picked up reading and writing as best we could. Mail, at best, came once a week by sail boat, newspapers were scarce, and magazines scarcer.

I have seen and used ox carts, mule teams, horse and buggy, railroad cars and automobiles on land, and the rowboat, sailboat and steamboat on the water; and overhead the airplane. What next?

Yours truly,

A. HENDRY, SR.

 

II.

About the Williams Mound:

 

Emily Lagow Bell, My Pioneer Days in Florida, 1928

 

I have a copy of this rare book

 

Sandra Thurlow

April 26, 2003

 

page 21:

 

…Alexander Bell and family, also Mr. Archibald Hendry’s family, Mr. Sellers and family were living at Ten Mile Creek. This was the 1878 storm.

The gale lasted 24 hours and the creek began to rise and James Bell and brother, Frank, and others found they had to get something to save the women and children, so took the floor out of the house , made a raft, and the water was in the house then! Well, he took his mother and children first to an Indian mound, which I think is near Ten Mile creek yet. He had to make several trips before he got them all and forgot his horse, and it drowned in the yard.

There were cattle, hogs, deer, snakes, and coons, possums, turkeys all coming to the mound. Hundreds of stock and animals drowned. They built fires on the mound and the second day the water was receding and all came into Fort Pierce.

 

page 28:

 

…Then there were several men hunting the frostproof part of the state for new groves, and my father-in-law had died, and the family decided to sell the Ten Mile place and a Mr. Sid Williams came about 1894 or 1895, and he bought the place at a very low figure, something like five or six hundred dollars, and he built up something like one hundred acres of groves which sold for a fabulous price. Now it is owned by the Standard Growers.