Category Archives: History

As Far Away As One Can Go, Flamingo…

My primary 2021 New Year’s resolution was to write more, however my angst over our country’s political, social unrest and the worsening Covid-19 epidemic has caused me to experience  “writer’s block.” Nonetheless, today I will try to get going with my resolution. 

On January 9th, 2021, my husband, Ed, looked at me, “I’ve got a few days off; do you want to stick around Stuart or do you want to go somewhere?”

“Hmmm? Let’s go as far away as one can go, Flamingo.”  I replied.

“Flamingo?” Ed looked like he wasn’t quite sure…

“Yes, Flamingo, at the very southern tip of Florida.”

-Flamingo lies in Monroe County, inside the boundary of Everglades National Park (ENP)

The following day, Ed and I packed up and drove from Stuart to Lake Okeechobee taking Highway 27 south until we arrived in Florida City, just south of Homestead. Next, we drove about an hour along the historic Ingram Highway. It was a beautiful drive – like going into Florida’s past with marl prairies, slash pines, and tremendous bird life.

About forty miles later, we finally arrived in Flamingo. Now a ghost town, Flamingo was once the home of the American Flamingo -thus the name. Although these spectacular long legged, pink birds were all killed for their spectacular feathers a over a century ago, today there have been reports of a few returning. Most of us are familiar with the story of  Guy Bradley, the first Audubon warden hired to protect Everglades wading birds from poachers. This is his land.

Back in the early1900s when Bradley was trying to protect the birds, Flamingo, as all of South Florida, was thoughtlessly being sliced and diced with canals. Today, one can see this most pronounced at the Flamingo Welcome Center along the Flamingo, more modernly called the Buttonwood Canal.  Here lies a “plug” between Florida Bay and the mosaic of fresher/fresh waters in and near Flamingo.

According to our ENP tour guide, Mr Nick, this “Flamingo” or “Buttonwood Canal” was dug by Henry Flagler in the early 1900s and later abandoned when Flagler realized the canal failed to drain the land – instead, due to the tides and topography of the area, bringing  too much salt water from Florida Bay. A cement plug was later placed to ward off this saltwater intrusion.

I was pleased to see that a family of Ospreys had built their nest right on this plug in the midst of much human activity! The female osprey was hard at work, peeking over the side, protecting and incubating her eggs while the male intermittently delivered fish. The large birds appeared absolutely unaffected by people!

FLAMINGO or BUTTONWOOD CANAL                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -Salt water, Florida Bay side of plug-Below: brackish/fresher water on estuary/marsh side of plug leading to Coot Bay (Coots no longer come in droves as the water is still too salty.)-The cement plug cutting off salt water of Florida Bay from canal, note osprey nest! -Our ENP guide, NickThe first day Ed and I took a tour and Mr. Nick was our guide. The second day, we rented a Mako flats boat and followed the same path ourselves. We learned so much. It was incredible. While Ed looked for places to fish, I searched for the Shark River. The Shark River is one of many that extends out from Shark River Slough, the remaining ridge and slough, “river of grass,” of the Everglades. Some of its waters lead to Florida Bay. Taylor Slough, on the other hand, has shamelessly been cut off by development.

 

Flamingo Canal was full of wildlife: wading birds, manatees, and by far the most interesting, crocodiles, of which I had never seen. These southern waters of Florida are one of the only places on Earth where both Alligators and Crocodiles live together. This canal is so salty the crocs have the edge. Our tour led from Flamingo Canal, to Coot Bay, to yet another canal, and then into Whitewater Bay. This track is referred to as the “Wilderness Waterway.” (See map below.)

American crocodile, an endangered species -The most prevalent wading bird by far was the tri-colored heron-There were many baby crocodiles along the Flamingo Canal warming in the sun. It was 37 degrees in the morning of our second day at ENP! -Because of the plug, manatees must enter the protection of the Flamingo Canal by swimming into the rivers entering Florida Bay that lead eventually into  Whitewater Bay! A very long journey. 20 miles? -Our tour guide, Nick, called this tree along the Flamingo Canal  the “perfect mangrove.” -Flamingo/Buttonwood Canal opening to Coot Bay-Entering Whitewater Bay on a cold day!It is very hard to explain how gigantic this area is! Over ten miles long and more than half that wide. Irregular in shape. It was truly “liquid land,” with mangrove forests everywhere and smaller even more beautiful mangrove islands dotting the horizon. One thing was for sure, it would be very easy to lose one’s sense of direction and get lost in Whitewater Bay. No thank you! 

Ed and I spent hours tooling around but never made it to the Shark River as access is limited. Nonetheless, I got a much better idea of the lay of the land for sending water south. I am hoping Ed and I can one day return in a canoe.

I was happy to go as far away as one can go-FLAMINGO!-Learning about a Florida I did not know- Whitewater Bay islands of Flamingo -Ed practices casting-Islands within Whitewater Bay; all of Florida must once have looked this way! -Back on Land: A Walk down the Guy Bradley Trail-Ed watches a fisherman cast in Florida Bay-Moonvine once covered the southern rim of Lake O’s pond apple forest, now gone.-Ed poses with a giant Buttonwood tree-Morning Glory. Is there a more gorgeous flower?-Guy Bradley Trail and an end to a wonderful day!

VIDEOS: 1. FLAMINGO/BUTTONWOOD CANAL; 2. MANATEES; 3. CROCODILE 

A Ten Year Calendar View, Discharges to the St Lucie Estuary

A Ten Year View, Discharges to the St Lucie Estuary

Today I share images that help tell the story of the St Lucie Estuary over the past ten years. The first image is from the website eyeonlakeo. My brother, Todd Thurlow, takes data from D-Hydro of the SFWMD and puts it into a format that the average person can understand. 

The chart above shows the “S-80 spillway at St Lucie Locks’ cumulative discharges by CALENDAR YEAR, 2011-2020.”

Scientists use Water Years, May 1 of one year, through April 30 of the next year. This splits up the years making it more confusing to remember or understand. We, as people, live our lives in calendar years. 

We can see by looking at Todd’s chart that 2016’s calendar year is highest overall discharge year with 842,775 acre feet (one foot of water covering one acre) of water going to the St Lucie from what is called “local runoff” (all canals and surrounding areas) as well as discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

How large is 842,775 acres? Comparatively, Martin County is 347, 520 acres. 2020 is 188,723 acre feet and climbing. We are talking tremendous amounts of water! 

In descending order, we see 2016; 2013; 2017; 2018; 2015; 2020; 2012; 2014; 2019; and 2011.  The brown of line of 2020 crests 2015 as when the year is completed, 2020 will more than likely be higher than 2015.

I also wanted to share some very helpful charts I recently requested -in my research- from the South Florida Water Management District.  

This was my request:

“Could you please get me a chart or graph showing discharges to the St Lucie River for 2012-2020 by month. Please present this information from January through December of each calendar year and break it out from S-80 and S-308 and also give a total combined number. Please also note for each of those calendar years, the highest level Lake Okeechobee got that year.” 

To view this information, click on Charts in red below for visuals, and data in red below for numerical charts. As mentioned this information below is from the SFWMD. This compiled information provides great perspective. 

Charts

data

I, as many, participated in yesterday’s Army Corp of Engineers‘ Periodic Scientist Call. During the course of the call, it was alluded that the ACOE may be letting up or halting Lake Okeechobee discharges to the St Lucie Estuary soon. As soon as they do, we will begin to chart calendar year 2021. All things considered, everything in me believes it will be better than 2020! 

 

Early Newspaper Articles, Loxahatchee Wild and Scenic River

Lillies, and ferns along the Loxahatchee River, ca. 1980, courtesy/archives Fred van Vonno.

Loxahatchee Lesson 1

Loxahatchee Lesson 2

Loxahatchee Lesson 3 

Loxahatchee Lesson 4

Loxahatchee Lesson 5 

Loxahatchee Lesson 6

Loxahatchee Lesson 7

Life buds forth -along the Loxahatchee River, ca. 1980, courtesy/archives Fred van Vonno.

Today I share my final Loxahatchee Lesson, # 8.

“My husband Fred van Vonno worked as a Planner (GS-11) from June 1978 until 1982 for the Department of Interior,  National Park Service, Regional Office, Atlanta Ga.  His work involved assessing the “recreational potential of rivers and trails”. My  husband was the Study Coordinator for the Loxahatchee and Myakka Wild and Scenic River studies”. -Nicki van Vonno 

These news articles saved by Fred van Vonno, now loving shared by his wife Nicki, are now available for all.  I learned so much reading through them and most are not available on line. Now they are! May we continue to study our past so that we may work towards  the best future our beloved Loxahatchee River! 

The photos are organized by year: 

1980

STUDYING THE LOXAHATCHEE

PROTECTION BEING STUDIED

1981

RIVERS FATE

1982

C-18 SUIT SETTLED

WMD TO PROTECT

1983

RES IPSA LOQUITUR

Bromeliad in bloom along the Loxahatchee River, ca. 1980, courtesy/archives Fred van Vonno

1984

RIVER WAR IN PIVOTAL BATTLE

1985

LOXAHATCHEE WILD AND SCENIC

2001

CAN THESE CYPRESS TREES BE SAVED

2002

RIVER FRIENDS UNITELOXAHATCHEE VITAL

2004

UNIQUE ECOSYSTEM

No Date

STATE MOVES TO PROTECT RIVER

1978 Booklet

“Study By the Staff of the U.S. General Accounting Office, Land Use Issues”

General Accounting Office Study – Land Use Issues

Red-eared slider along the Loxahatchee River, ca. 1980, courtesy/archives Fred van Vonno

The above photos were slides

SLIDES RELATING TO THE LOXAHATCHEE RIVER (also see Lessons 4, 5, and 6 above)

Removed from a slide carousel used by Fred van Vonno who was a Planner (GS-11) from June 1978 until 1982 for the Department of Interior National Park Service, Regional Office in Atlanta, Ga. His work involved assessing the “recreational potential of rivers and trails.” The slides were used for presentations when van Vanno was the Study Coordinator for the Loxahatchee and Myakka Wild and Scenic River studies. It is a good idea to make sure these photographs are documented as many are more than 40 years old. I would think they would have been taken around 1980. ~Sandra Henderson Thurlow

 

 

 

 

 

DRAFT EIS: Wild and Scenic River Study, Environmental Impact Statement, Loxahatchee River, Florida, 1982

Wild and Scenic River Studies, Loxahatchee River, archives of Fred van Vonno

Loxahatchee Lesson 1

Loxahatchee Lesson 2

Loxahatchee Lesson 3 updated!

Loxahatchee Lesson 4

Loxahatchee Lesson 5 

Loxahatchee Lesson 6

Loxahatchee Lesson 7 

~History of Florida’s Wild and Scenic Loxahatchee

In the lessons above, I have been sharing the archives of Mr Fred van Vonno who worked as a Planner (GS-11) from June 1978 until 1982 for the Department of Interior, National Park Service, Regional Office, Atlanta Georgia.

According to his wife, Nicki, his work involved assessing the recreational potential of rivers and trails and Fred was the Study Coordinator for the Loxahatchee and Myakka Wild and Scenic River studies. 

One of the documents Mr van Vonno saved was the 1982 Wild and Scenic River Study, Draft  Environmental Impact Statement.  This declaration led to the Loxahatchee River being designated Florida’s first Wild and Scenic River. An incredible feat! 

You may ask, “what is an Environmental Impact Statement anyway?” Basically, it is a rigorous requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 and thankfully it is still protecting the environment even today. 

The FINAL Loxahatchee EIS is available on line. As of publishing this blog post, the DRAFT is too. It is always interesting to see the evolution of a document and to see what ends up on its pages, and what does not…

Please see link below for the DRAFT Wild and Scenic River Study, Environmental Impact Statement, July 1982, Loxahatchee River, Florida and thank you Mr van Vonno for saving! 

DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT LOXAHATCHEE  WILD AND SCENIC RIVER RIVER STUDY JULY 1982

Excerpt from the Environmental Protection Agency

What is the National Environmental Policy Act?

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was signed into law on January 1, 1970. NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. The range of actions covered by NEPA is broad and includes:

  • making decisions on permit applications,
  • adopting federal land management actions, and
  • constructing highways and other publicly-owned facilities.

Using the NEPA process, agencies evaluate the environmental and related social and economic effects of their proposed actions. Agencies also provide opportunities for public review and comment on those evaluations.

On this page:

  • What does NEPA require?
  • How do federal agencies carry out the NEPA requirements?

What does NEPA require?

Title I of NEPA contains a Declaration of National Environmental Policy. This policy requires the federal government to use all practicable means to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony.

Section 102 in Title I of the Act requires federal agencies to incorporate environmental considerations in their planning and decision-making through a systematic interdisciplinary approach. Specifically, all federal agencies are to prepare detailed statements assessing the environmental impact of and alternatives to major federal actions significantly affecting the environment. These statements are commonly referred to as Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) and Environmental Assessments (EA).

Title II of NEPA established the President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to oversee NEPA implementation. The duties of CEQ include:

  • Ensuring that federal agencies meet their obligations under NEPA
  • Overseeing federal agency implementation of the environmental impact assessment process
  • Issuing regulations and other guidance to federal agencies regarding NEPA compliance.

Learn more about the National Environmental Policy Act.

https://www.epa.gov/nepa/what-national-environmental-policy-act

 

Loxahatchee Structures, People…~Wild and Scenic Rivers, Fred van Vonno

Loxahatchee Structures and People, courtesy of Fred van Vonno, Study Coordinator for the Loxahatchee and Myakka Wild and Scenic River Studies

Loxahatchee Lesson 1

Loxahatchee Lesson 2

Loxahatchee Lesson 3

Loxahatchee Lesson 4

Loxahatchee Lesson 5 

Loxahatchee Lesson 6

~Loxahatchee Structures and People, Fred van Vonno, Study Coordinator for the Loxahatchee and Myakka Wild and Scenic River Studies.

As we continue to share the slides of the late Fred van Vonno,  today’s photos fall under the categories of structures and people. Lesson 5 contains Flora and Fauna, and Lesson 4 Aerials. Thank you to my mother for archiving these photos that were once slides in Mr van Vonno’s 1980s slide shows. Thank you to our friend, Nicki van Vonno for sharing her husband’s work. 

SLIDES RELATING TO THE LOXAHATCHEE RIVER

Removed from a slide carousel used by Fred van Vonno who was a from June 1978 until 1982 for the Department of Interior National Park Service, Regional Office in Atlanta, Ga. His work involved assessing the “recreational potential of rivers and trails.” The slides were used for presentations when van Vanno was the Study Coordinator for the Loxahatchee and Myakka Wild and Scenic River studies. It is a good idea to make sure these photographs are documented because some of the photos are more than 40 years old. I would think they would have been taken around 1980. 

Sandra Thurlow 8-20

STRUCTURES

PEOPLE

As I have room in this post, I am going to include two tother categories my mother achieved even through I first thought I would leave them out. The first my mother labeled as “bad.” Some of these photos may be technology not recognized today. The next is labeled “other places.” Mr van Vonno’s research as Study Coordinator for the Wild and Scenic River Program certainly took him many places and perhaps he wished to compare some of those places to Florida, thus I am including them as well. The purpose of these photos is to share and I am hoping some who see them can see and share something I don’t know. Please write if you do! Thanks. 

ELSEWHERE

Loxahatchee Flora and Fauna, River Scenes; Wild and Scenic Rivers, Fred van Vonno

Giant cypress trees, Wild and Scenic River Studies, courtesy archives Fred van Vonno

Loxahatchee Lesson 1

Loxahatchee Lesson 2

Loxahatchee Lesson 3

Loxahatchee Lesson 4

Loxahatchee Lesson 5 

The purpose of this post is to continue to share the slides of the late Fred van Vonno.  I presented charts and aerials yesterday in Loxahatchee Lesson 4. Tomorrow, or later today, I will add structures and people. Today we share my favorite, Loxahatchee Flora and Fauna as well as River Scenes. If you recognize anything interesting let us know! My mother noticed what appears to be old world climbing fern slide #7. A terrible invasive plant that costs millions of dollars for the State of Florida to manage. 

Thank you to my mother for archiving these photos that were once slides in Mr van Vonno’s 1980s slide shows. Thank you to our friend, Nicki van Vonno for sharing her husband’s work. 

SLIDES RELATING TO THE LOXAHATCHEE RIVER

Removed from a slide carousel used by Fred van Vonno who was a Planner (GS-11) from June 1978 until 1982 for the Department of Interior National Park Service, Regional Office in Atlanta, Ga. His work involved assessing the “recreational potential of rivers and trails.” The slides were used for presentations when van Vanno was the Study Coordinator for the Loxahatchee and Myakka Wild and Scenic River studies. It is a good idea to make sure these photographs are documented because some of the photos are more than 40 years old. I would think they would have been taken around 1980. 

Sandra Thurlow 8-20

FLORA & FAUNA

RIVER SCENES

 

Loxahatchee Charts and Aerials, Wild and Scenic River, Fred van Vonno

Wild and Scenic River Studies, ca. 1980, courtesy archives of Fred van Vonno

Loxahatchee Lesson 1

Loxahatchee Lesson 2

Loxahatchee Lesson 3

Loxahatchee Lesson 4

Today, I share “charts” and “aerials” from the archives of the late Fred van Vonno. My mother, historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow, was given these materials by Mr van Vonno’s wife, Nicki. Ms van Vonno summarizes her husband’s work below. 

“My husband Fred van Vonno worked as a Planner (GS-11) from June 1978 until 1982 for the Department of Interior,  National Park Service, Regional Office, Atlanta Ga.  His work involved assessing the “recreational potential of rivers and trails”. My  husband was the Study Coordinator for the Loxahatchee and Myakka Wild and Scenic River studies”. -Nicki van Vonno 

We share these photos and materials so that they are available to the public for reference and continued documentation of Martin and Palm Beach counties’ “Wild and Scenic River,” the Loxahatchee. Tomorrow, I will highlight more slides including flora and fauna, river scenes, structures and people. 

SLIDES RELATING TO THE LOXAHATCHEE RIVER

Removed from a slide carousel used by Fred van Vonno who was a Planner (GS-11) from June 1978 until 1982 for the Department of Interior National Park Service, Regional Office in Atlanta, Ga. His work involved assessing the “recreational potential of rivers and trails.” The slides were used for presentations when van Vanno was the Study Coordinator for the Loxahatchee and Myakka Wild and Scenic River studies. It is a good idea to make sure these photographs are documented because some of the aerials are more than 40 years old. I would think they would have been taken around 1980. The aerials are pre-I-95. There are a couple of scenes of Trapper Nelson’s place that are of significance. -Sandra Thurlow 8-20

AERIAL CHARTS

AERIALS

CHARTS

 

 

“Environmental Considerations in Wild and Scenic River Studies,” FVV’79

Loxahatchee Lesson 1

Loxahatchee Lesson 2

Loxahatchee Lesson 3

Few of us get to see our river dreams come true; Frederik von Vonno did. 

In 1979, while getting his master’s degree in City Planning at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Mr. van Vonno, wrote a paper entitled, “Environmental Considerations in Wild and Scenic River Studies.” In this paper he primarily juxtaposes the Obed River of Tennessee and the Myakka River of Florida to make his point regarding environmental issues. But the following year, van Vonno would be conducting the Loxahatchee River National Wild and Scenic River Study in Martin and Palm Beach counties with Luther Winsor, Chief, Division of Resource Area Studies for the Southeast Region of the National Park Service. (Evening Times, 1980).

Certainly van Vonno’s work on this paper was invaluable and set the North Star…

Map insert, Chapter 2.

Today, I share Chapters I-V of this paper; I see it as a seed of what became the Loxahatchee Wild and Scenic River and a clear guide to understanding the designation today. You can access a PDF of the report by clicking the link below. 

ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS IN WILD AND SCENIC RIVER STUDIES, Fred von Vonno, 1979.

In achieving the “wild and scenic” designation, the Loxahatchee River had a lot of competition as many of our nation’s rivers appear to be much more dramatic. But in the end, for Florida, the Loxahatchee’s stunning and calm sub-tropical beauty was honored first, to stand along side some of the most famous rivers of the United States.

Loxahatchee River https://lrpi.us

APPENDICES to Mr van Vonno’s report: A, B, and C. 

A: Wild and Scenic River Act

B: Guidelines for Wild and Scenic Rivers

C: Park Service Study Process.jpg

Full map insert from Chapter 2, van Vonno.

 

Mapping the Wild and Scenic Loxahatchee

Loxahatchee Lesson 1 

Loxahatchee Lesson 2

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love maps! Today I opened a map entitled “Physical, Hydrological, & Biological Characteristics of the Loxahatchee River Estuary, Florida, U.S Geological Survey,” that may not have been unfolded since the year I graduated from Martin County High School in 1982.

In June of 2020, my mother and her dear friend Nicki van Vonno, shared with me documents belonging to Nicki’s late husband, Frederik W. van Vonno. In 1979, as a student, “Fred” wrote a paper that he presented to his Georgia Institute of Technology professor,  entitled: “Environmental Considerations in Wild and Scenic River Studies.”

As we know,  the Loxahatchee River was designated a federal Wild and Scenic River shortly thereafter, in the momentous year of 1985. It was Florida’s first!

So this map is part of the history of the Loxahatchee becoming a Wild and Scenic River. There is a lot to talk about in Mr van Vonno’s documents, but I want to begin with this map. It will be our guide over the coming days. There are sections listed: Introductions, Purpose and Scope, Methods, History, Physical and Hydrologic Characteristics; Sediment; and Summary and Concluding Remarks -by Benjamin McPherson, Maryann Sabanskas,  and William Long -all of the Department of the Interior’s Geological Survey. You can peruse all of these sections  if you click on map below.

For purposes of time, and our goal to learn beginnings today, I will focus only on the historical building and demise of this great river, Loxahatchee.

History of the Estuary from map

The Loxahatchee River estuary owes its existence to a rise in sea level and an increase in rainfall. About 15,000 years ago, the shore of the Atlantic Ocean was several miles east of more than 300 feet lower than its present location and altitude at Jupiter Inlet. The climate was windy, cool, and dry. From about 15,000 to 6,000 years ago, sea level rose relatively rapidly at a rate of more than 3 feet per century. Near the end of this period, modern vegetation and climate became established and the rise in sea level slowed. Sometime near the end of the rapid rise in sea level and several thousand years ago, tidal waters began to flood the estuary embayment. Prior to this time, the embayment was  probably a flood plain or a freshwater marsh. From the time of the first tidal flooding to about 1900, the shape and bathymetry of the estuary were modified solely by natural processes of sedimentation and erosion…

The rest I will paraphrase:

In 1900 came the “progress” of man bringing with it two big shifts: 1. the dredging and permanence of the Jupiter Inlet which allowed much more salt water into the delicate estuary,  and a familiar foe, over-drainage – Ground water levels were lowered and fresh water inflows reduced.

The once fresh water inputs going into the Southwestern Fork (far left/down) from Hungryland Slough and the Loxahatchee Marsh -part of Loxahatchee Slough we talked about in Loxahatchee Lesson 1- were tamed by  the huge C-18 canal. The Everglades connection severed.

The Northwest Fork’s water (middle) was reduced due to development of the Central and South Florida Plan, all of the giant historic canals that are managed today by the South Florida Water Management District. Creeks Kitching and Cypress remain, but are anemic. A portion of this Northwest Fork -from  Riverbend Park to Dickinson State Park is the area that was deemed “Wild and Scenic” in 1985. In spite of this status, cypress trees have been replaced by mangroves due to less fresh water input and more salt water input. 

The North Fork (far right) is surrounded by development but a small portion looks untouched in its upper region. 

All things life changing begin with a dream. My writings will follow Fred van Vonno’s dream. 

The Loxahatchee is one of thousands of United States rivers that have been negatively transformed by agriculture and development; but, the Loxahatchee has more hope than most. In future blog posts we will explore this studying the Wild and Scenic designation and how this “dream come true” is not over yet. 

DOI Archives: 

Click to access 0001pt01.pdf

The Once Incredibly Long Reach of the Loxahatchee…

Excerpt Loxahatchee, 1839 Map of the Seat of War, Florida, Gen. Zachary Taylor
Page 48, Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, McVoy 2011

“The Loxahatchee River,” Seminole for “River of Turtles.” What a beautiful name. A name, a river, I really know very little about…

Let’s learn…

First, we must note that that today’s Loxahatchee River, located just south of Stuart, is the antithesis of the St Lucie River. Whereas the St Lucie’s watershed has been immensely expanded, the Loxahatchee has been amputated. 

Over the next few days, I will be sharing about the Loxahatchee, a river that partially lies in Martin County. However the majority of this once great river lies in Palm Beach County, home to over 1.2 million people! 

Let’s go back….

First, we have to think about where the Loxahatchee originally flowed, before drainage. The Loxahatchee’s story is an incredible one as the Loxahatchee was connected to the Everglades.

Look at the image below from Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, McVoy. Note the red drawn outline that represents the natural edge of the Everglades. Now look at the “arm,” the red formation in the upper right hand side of the image. This is what is called the Loxahatchee Slough, now gone, but today its remnant is Grassy Waters. This gigantic slough was indeed connected to the Everglades and in high water times the flow from the Everglades rose to swell inside the Loxahatchee Slough feeding the Loxahatchee River. Incredible! Today this gone. It, like everything else in South Florida has been channelized, drained, for agriculture and development. We drive over these now dry lands thinking this is the natural state. It is not, these lands were once a mosaic of the Everglades, our River of Grass.

Excerpt: SFWMD Facilities Map

So think about this for a moment.

The Loxahatchee  River “ran” from the coast, near Jupiter, to the Everglades. The river has been minimized, the slough is compartmentalized, but one remaining piece of this Loxahatchee Reach to the Everglades still alive is today’s Aurthur R. Marshal Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

This important refuge is easy to recognize as it is the “top oval,” in the images.

It is considered” the last northernmost portion of the unique Everglades. With over 221 square miles of habitat, the Loxahatchee Refuge is home to the American alligator and critically endangered Everglades snail kite. In any given year, as many as 257 specie son birds may use the Refuge’s diverse wetland habitats.”

These lands/waters are owned by the state through the South Florida Water Management District but are managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife. You will find the most intact remaining tree islands here. Deer and other wildlife live on these tree islands and sometimes in the early morning as the sun rises, the deer stand on the levee while bicyclists go by!

To the South Florida Water Management District the refuge is known and functions as Water Conservation Area 1, just west of Parkland, Florida. 

When I drive south on Highway 95 from Stuart to the South Florida Water Management District, I often wonder what these lands will look like one hundred years from now. Quite a thought isn’t it? What do you think? Who knows what will happen; but let’s continue to get to know the Loxahatchee! 

Southern Path to the Loxahatchee River: Time Capsule Flight, Todd Thurlow: (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/history-of-the-loxahatchee-river/)

 

St Lucie Connections – Lost Through Time

Excerpt from 1839 Map of the Seat of War in Florida compiled by order of Brid. Gen. Z. Taylor principally from the surveys and reconnaissances of the Officers of the U.S. Army.

The following of which you will recognize many names and places, was shared from my mother, Sandra Henderson Thurlow. For years it lie dormant in her history files.

Written in 1881 as an article in an old time newspaper, The Florida Star, the article describes the location of pioneers living near the river and the extent of the St Lucie River itself. It is told that the South Fork of the St Lucie was connected all the way “westward of the Jupiter Lighthouse having its origin in the Everglades.”  Since 1881, we have drained so much of Florida that we only know its remnant. Imagine what it was like. Read, dream, and enjoy! 

From The Florida Star, Titusville, Florida, February 23, 1881, “Indian River” by Elias B. Wager, transcribed by Sandra H. Thurlow 

One mile south of Judge Paine’s is the mouth of Taylor Creek; on the left bank of which is the residence of Mr. Alex. Bell. Opposite the creek the oyster bars decrease. Two miles south from Bell’s is the old parade ground at Fort Pierce some of the of which are yet visible, extending quite a distance back to where was a watch tower commanding an extensive view of the river. Here is a fine spring of water bursting out from under the river-bank. Here also is the site of a store kept by Mr. Hogg. Going southward from Fort Pierce and passing several old places along the  skirted western bank, we find Herman’s Grove about eleven miles from Fort Pierce. This grove, a valuable piece of property is owned by a man living at Key West. About two miles from Herman’s Grove, is the clearing and home of Mr. T. E. Richards, late of Newark, planted to orange trees and the pine-apple. He has a clearing on the east shore of the river also, for growing vegetables, etc. Six miles from Mr. Richards is Mount Elizabeth, crowned with hummock of Cabbage Palmetto, the home of J. S. Fowler, late of New York. The river at this point is some two and one-half or three miles wide. Nearly opposite Mount Elizabeth and on the east bank of the river is the “Old Cuban’s Place.” Here grows the bananas very luxuriantly. The distance from the eastern shore of the river to the beach, is some three or four hundred yards. The river from Indian River Inlet to the Narrows is called St. Lucia Sound. Some three miles south from “Old Cuban’s Place” is located House of Refuge No. 2. Four miles south of Mt. Elizabeth and on the west side of the river is the mouth of the St. Lucie River. This river has a North and South Branch. Some ten miles above the meeting of the Branches, the North Branch separates into three streams, called Five, Ten, and Eleven Mile Creeks, indicating the distance from Ft. Capron to the several Fords used in the Seminole war.  The South Branch comes from away down to the Westward of Jupiter Lighthouse, having its origin in the Everglades. It has two branches from the Westward which have their sources in the “Big Cypress” and are called Big and Little Cane Creeks, and abound in black bass.

Simple Version, Canal Network of SF w/Historic Imagery 1940-53, SFWMD

Current Canal Network of SF w/Historic Imagery 1940-1953 Map (Simple Version), SFWMD, created by supervisor of Geospatial Mapping, Dr Ken Chen, and his team: Lexie Hoffart, Nicole Miller, and Erika Moylan.

~Today’s map has almost the same name as July 11, 2020’s shared map, but it is “simple,” as the 298 drainage districts are not marked. To best view this image go to South Florida Water Management District’s Featured Map Gallery, click on the image, and then export the PDF to your desktop. An easy way is to link here to the image entitled SFWMD Current Canal Network with 1940-1953 Historic Images Simple Version  (2nd row, 3rd to right) then go to “File” and “Export as a PDF.”

Once downloaded to you desktop, you can zoom in and move up and down wherever you wish to go. North, south, east, west, central. What will you see? You will perceive the modern mapped canal network of South Florida atop hundreds of historic aerial photographs that have been stitched together. These maps are the first of their kind. 

This image gives us a clear idea of what canals drain South Florida. I don’t think ever in one place has this information been so visually available.

I will use the east coast of Florida to zoom into with screen shots for examples, as this is my home. Later, hopefully, you can use your zoom feature as described at the beginning of this blog post to downloaded the map as a  PDF for an even closer view. It will blow you away! 

In the images below, from north to south, we see St Lucie; Martin; Palm Beach; Broward; and Miami-Dade Counties with in the footprint of the  Central and South Florida Plan, now managed by the South Florida Water Management District. Mind you many of these canals in the map pre-date the SFWMD. 

Oh my gosh! Look at all these canals! Look at the wetland images they rest upon. Most children grow up today not even knowing…

The canals are almost everywhere draining what was once of the largest wetlands in the world. Think of all the animals that once roamed and swam here. According to Mark Perry, CEO of Florida Oceanographic, through these canals approximately  1.7 million gallons of fresh water a day is drained to tide.

Kind of weird isn’t it. Like we are living on a squeezed out sponge. Looking at this map makes me want to rethink Florida. How about you? 

CLICK ON EACH COUNTIES IMAGE TO ENLARGE AND SEE ALL OF THE CANALS OVER ONCE WETLANDS – as revealed in 1940-1953 aerials taken by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture.  

Again~

To understand the creation and complexity of the maps I am including the following words of Dr Ken Chen  Ph.D., GISP, Supervisor, Geospatial Mapping Services UnitInformation Technology Bureau, South Florida Water Management District. I had asked him to describe what was entailed with the historic imaging. Thank you to Dr Chen and Team whose talent, research, and time made these maps possible. 

  1. Historical aerials (1940 – 1953)

“Sources of historical aerials, especially 1940s and 1950s, are very scarce, especially for such a large area in South Florida. Therefore our focus was to get whatever we could find online regardless cloud cover or quality of images. As you know, all of those old images were recorded in an analog format (i.e. film or paper), instead of digital. Some (maybe all) of those films/paper images were later scanned and saved to a digital format and made available online. Scanning usually results in loss of imagery quality. For this canal map project, we were fortunately able to locate aerial index images (I would call them aerials index panels), after weeks of online research including data download and review. Each index panel displays a group of aerials in sequence over a specific area. For instance, say 200 images from #1 to #200 over an entire county. These index panels are usually used for aerial imagery management and archival purposes, just like a library index card for images. There is no information at all regarding how those index panels were created, but they are seemingly made via camera shooting or scanning of a group of stacked paper images or positive films. The index panels are simple graphics or pictures without any geospatial information, such as projection, coordinate system etc. The first step to process these index panels, prior to mosaicking, was to geo-rectify and inject geospatial information into the images. To do so staff needed to identify ground control points. It’s very challenging to identify those points in those very old images due to lack of apparent landmarks, e.g. road intersections. This is particularly difficult in the middle of nowhere across the vast wetlands in 1940s-1950s. So staff tried to use a very few of the intersections between rivers, canals and a few major roads to geo-rectify the panels and assigned appropriate geospatial information into them to make them georeferenced images. Then staff clipped each panel image to trim out the white or black edges before stitching all of them together for the majority of south Florida.

The original aerials were collected by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture. The aerials index panels were obtained from the Univ. of Florida’s Imagery Library. One thing to note – it’s very evident that there are strong image vignetting effects in the old aerials – bright in the center and getting darker toward the edges. That is an inherent optical artifact in the analog images and can not be corrected during the post processing.

This may be more than you asked for. I’m not sure if I have explained this clearly. To summarize it, this process can be simply illustrated in the following format:

Online search of available sources of data -> data download and review to accept or reject -> identify ground control points (GCP) in prep for image processing -> Using GCPs to georectify the index panels -> inject geospatial information into the panel pictures to make them georeferenced images -> remove the white/black edges -> Mosaick all georectified index panel images -> clip the mosaic to the district’s boundaries before use in the maps.

I forgot to mention the number of historical aerials we used to create the historical mosaic. We used totally 84 aerial index panels. Each panel consists of roughly 50+ to 200+ individual aerials, depending upon the geographic area each panel covers. I can’t get the exact number of aerials, my best guess the number would be ~7,000+-12,000.”

-Ken

Dr Chen

Current Canal Network of SF w/Historic Imagery 1940-1953 Map, SFMWD

South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) FEATURED MAPS: 5, *6, 7 https://sfwmd.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MinimalGallery/index.html?appid=1facf32f199240b49a326432258c102f

Today I am very excited to begin sharing maps created by SFWMD Supervisor of Geospatial Mapping, Dr Ken Chen, and team: Lexie Hoffart, Nicole Miller, and Erika Moylan. These maps allow us to “see” Florida in a way never seen before! 

I will start first with the map entitled Current Canal Network of South Florida with Historic Imagery 1940  to 1953 (298-linework). This map is best viewed after you export the PDF to your desktop. In Safari this can be done by linking to SWMDCurrentCanalNetworkHistoricImages, then “File” and “Export as a PDF.” 

Once downloaded to you desktop, you can zoom in and move up and down where you wish to go. What will you see? You will see the modern mapped canal network of South Florida atop hundreds of historic aerial photographs that have been stitched together. Incredible! 

Tommy Strowd, former Assistant Executive Director of Operations, Maintenance & Construction at the SFWMD now Executive Director of the Lake Worth Drainage District eloquently states: “These maps are beautiful completed puzzles that clearly show probably the best photographic evidence of what the pre-drainage landscape looked like before the the C&SF Project and the vast system of secondary and tertiary drainage ditches were constructed.”

So this map juxtaposes Florida’s pre-C&SF Project drainage landscape to the canals that drain that remaining landscape today…

The current canal system includes the Primary System of the South Florida Water Management District, Works of the District; Other Canals Streams or Rivers; and the Secondary /Tertiary System including 298 Special Drainage District canals, and other canals, streams or rivers.

As an example, let’s zoom into St Lucie, Martin, and northern Palm Beach Counties. The pastel colors denote 298 Special Drainage Districts, some like the Lake Worth Drainage District go back to the 1913 General Drainage Laws of Florida. The Central and South Florida Project -what we think of when we think of the SFWMD-was constructed starting in 1948. Just a quick glance reveals the extensive wetlands that have been drained by the primary and secondary/tertiary systems. Wow! Now we can “see” how we drained the land and contemplate our water past as well as our water future. 

What a great learning tool to understand and improve water quality!

Close up: St Lucie and Martin County: primary SFWMD canals (blue large), along with secondary/tertiary (smaller blue) some could be under purview of county or otherwise. Independent special/drainage districts-298s (color). Many historic creek/s were made into canals such as today’s C-243 and C24 in St Lucie County that discharge into St Lucie River. This area was once home to the famed Halpatiokee Swamp.
Palm Beach County has 18 298 special drainage districts! I counted a total of 66 within the SFWMD C&SF boarders.

To understand the creation and complexity of the maps I am including the following words of Dr Ken Chen  Ph.D., GISP, Supervisor, Geospatial Mapping Services UnitInformation Technology Bureau, South Florida Water Management District. I had asked him to describe what was entailed with the historic imaging. Thank you to Dr Chen and Team whose talent, research, and time made these maps possible. 

  1. Historical aerials (1940 – 1953)

“Sources of historical aerials, especially 1940s and 1950s, are very scarce, especially for such a large area in South Florida. Therefore our focus was to get whatever we could find online regardless cloud cover or quality of images. As you know, all of those old images were recorded in an analog format (i.e. film or paper), instead of digital. Some (maybe all) of those films/paper images were later scanned and saved to a digital format and made available online. Scanning usually results in loss of imagery quality. For this canal map project, we were fortunately able to locate aerial index images (I would call them aerials index panels), after weeks of online research including data download and review. Each index panel displays a group of aerials in sequence over a specific area. For instance, say 200 images from #1 to #200 over an entire county. These index panels are usually used for aerial imagery management and archival purposes, just like a library index card for images. There is no information at all regarding how those index panels were created, but they are seemingly made via camera shooting or scanning of a group of stacked paper images or positive films. The index panels are simple graphics or pictures without any geospatial information, such as projection, coordinate system etc. The first step to process these index panels, prior to mosaicking, was to geo-rectify and inject geospatial information into the images. To do so staff needed to identify ground control points. It’s very challenging to identify those points in those very old images due to lack of apparent landmarks, e.g. road intersections. This is particularly difficult in the middle of nowhere across the vast wetlands in 1940s-1950s. So staff tried to use a very few of the intersections between rivers, canals and a few major roads to geo-rectify the panels and assigned appropriate geospatial information into them to make them georeferenced images. Then staff clipped each panel image to trim out the white or black edges before stitching all of them together for the majority of south Florida.

The original aerials were collected by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture. The aerials index panels were obtained from the Univ. of Florida’s Imagery Library. One thing to note – it’s very evident that there are strong image vignetting effects in the old aerials – bright in the center and getting darker toward the edges. That is an inherent optical artifact in the analog images and can not be corrected during the post processing.

This may be more than you asked for. I’m not sure if I have explained this clearly. To summarize it, this process can be simply illustrated in the following format:

Online search of available sources of data -> data download and review to accept or reject -> identify ground control points (GCP) in prep for image processing -> Using GCPs to georectify the index panels -> inject geospatial information into the panel pictures to make them georeferenced images -> remove the white/black edges -> Mosaick all georectified index panel images -> clip the mosaic to the district’s boundaries before use in the maps.

I forgot to mention the number of historical aerials we used to create the historical mosaic. We used totally 84 aerial index panels. Each panel consists of roughly 50+ to 200+ individual aerials, depending upon the geographic area each panel covers. I can’t get the exact number of aerials, my best guess the number would be ~7,000+-12,000.”

-Ken

Dr Chen

 

 

Historic Property Dispute Over the House Of Refuge

The once home of pioneers Hiram and Hattie Olds as viewed from Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge after a shipwreck. Hutchinson Island, Florida. ca. 1904. Courtesy local historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow. 

I learned something form my previous blog post  that I think is really interesting. 

See the house in the distance in the above photograph? It was the Olds’ homestead that I mentioned in my previous post about Hutchinson Island. I had thought when I read about and discussed a property dispute between the Olds and the U.S. Government -that built the House of Refuge- that the Olds’ property was built first, as they were making a claim against the building of the House of Refuge-saying that they owned the land it was built upon. But that was incorrect;  the House of Refuge was built first, but built on land that mistakenly later was homesteaded to the Olds. Confusing! 

In thinking about this story the above photograph helpful because it shows part of the long strip of land that was homesteaded to the Olds as well as the proximity of House of Refuge -apparently built about in the middle of what became the Old’s very long parcel of land. The survey and documents below will help us unravel all this and why in the end, the Olds had to get an easement to access their own property with the Gilbert Bar’s House of Refuge like an island in between. 

To clarify the dates that I got confused about in my previous post, the Olds’ homestead was formally granted by the U.S. government in 1894 (as you can see below) and they built shortly thereafter. My reference to 1862 comes from the date of the Homestead Act itself. The House of Refuge was built in 1876. In spite of the dates, or the paper issuing of the homestead, somehow the Hutchison Island property was deeded to the Olds even after the the House of Refuge was built on it. (See History of Martin County below.) The House of Refuge was the first house built in today’s Martin County, but there is more to the story than just “being first.” Next time you visit this wonderful place, remember that even in the 1800s things could get very mixed up. 

STA_Patent_FL0860__.343

The Olds homestead shows well on this map.” Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

Email exchange after my prior blog post: 

Mom : “Jacqui, The Homestead Act of 1862 was what provided for Hiram Olds homestead claim of 1894. It is strange that he homesteaded after the House of Refuge was already standing but it happened. It was an error that it was granted and the government had to make amends later. The House of Refuge was the first build we know of in this area.” 

Jacqui: “So the Olds house wasn’t built first? Shouldn’t I still mention 1862, the first year of the U. S. Homestead Act?

Mom: “I don’t think 1862 should even be mentioned. It throws people off because it is a date when the country first was open to homesteading. Our first homestead was no earlier than 1883.”

Jacqui:” It seems to me, if they had rights to the land they must have gotten those rights prior to 1894 or there would not have been a conflict with the US Govt. regarding their construction of the House of Refuge in 1876. Right? It was granted afterwards? Strange. I’ll figure something out.”

Below: Explantation from page 52, The History of Martin County, Historical Society of Martin County, Florida.

Photographs by JTL at sunset of the House of Refuge we know and love today. If you’d like to learn more you can order Sandra and Deanna Thurlow’s Gilbert’s Bar, Home of History. You can visit too!