Category Archives: History

1924 Storm Damage that Almost Destroyed the St. Luice Canal

Florida Memory, Everglades Drainage District, St. Lucie Canal, undated.

Over the past year, I have been trying to learn everything I can about the history of the St. Lucie Canal. Details are hard to find, especially because the canal has served two masters: Florida’s Everglades Drainage District (1916-1930) and the USA’s Army Corps of Engineers (1930 to present).

I would be remiss if I did not thank the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers for making many outstanding and rare historical documents available to me.

In light of next year’s 2024 “100 Year Anniversary” of the St. Luice Canal, it is my hope that with sufficient access to historical documentation, the present and following generations will continue work to undo the massive ecological damage of the St. Luice Canal; this can only be accomplished with full understanding of its history.

Today, I focus on an ACOE 1954 document entitled:

Basic Considerations, Partial Definite Project Report, Central and Southern Florida Project For Flood Control and Other Purposes, Part IV, Lake Okeechobee and Outlets, Supplement 4–Design Memorandum, Effects of Fresh-Water Discharges Through St. Lucie Canal

The succinct history in this slender document really helps give insight into my previous post, The Great Rain of 1924 and the Postponement of the St. Luice Canal. The Storm of 1924, that occurred in October of the year the canal was “completed” caused serious damage to the St. Lucie Canal and was then followed by famously destructive hurricanes of 1926 and 1928 and then another serious storm in 1930. After such a run of Mother Nature’s wrath, the canal that had been built as the primary control outlet for Lake Okeechobee became too much for the state and thus the federal government took over.

In an alternate universe of my dreams, the St. Lucie Canal was overcome by Mother Nature. She shoaled in the manmade cut through her upland pine and pond cypress forests with the raging waters of Allapattah Flats. Lake Okeechobee was never diked and flows free as God intended. Wildlife abounds. Ofcouse that is not what happened, Humankind, the great controller, had another plan, and thus our world today…

Begin transcription of ACOE document:

c. History–Surveys for a canal route which would allow excess water from Lake Okeechobee to be released in St. Lucie River were made as early as 1905; however, construction was not begun until 1916. The location chosen was selected because it presented the shortest and least expensive route to tidewater. Original construction of the canal to a capacity of 5,000 cubic feet a second with Lake Okeechobee at elevation 15.6 feet was practically complete in 1924 by the Everglades Drainage District. It was controlled by two dams, one near the lake and the other near the lower end. Local runoff from the storm of October 18-21, 1924, overtopped the spoil banks in several places, cut deep channels into the canal, and carried a million yards of eroded material into the channel. The channel capacity was reduced to about 70 percent of the 5,000 cubic feet a second design flow. The spillway at the lower end of the canal was not opened prior to the storm and a channel about 65 feet wide was washed out around the dam down to a bottom elevation of -4 feet. Serious shoaling from local inflow also resulted from the storms of 1926 and 1928. The design capacity of the canal became available after excavation by the drainage district of about 2,000,000 cubic yards of deposited material in 1927 and additional 1,000,000 cubic yards in 1928. However, sand bars formed during the storm of 1930 and channel capacity was again reduced. In 1930 the United States accepted control of Lake Okeechobee as an authorized project and since that date the canal has been maintained and operated by the Corps of Engineers. Construction of fixed spillways at 16 inflow points along the banks of St. Luice Canal was initiated in 1933 in order to prevent sediment from entering the canal. The locations of those spillways are shown on plate 1. Crest elevations were below natural ground but high enough to provide stilling basins in the wash channels upstream. A constricted section about 6,000 feet long, in which the bottom width was only 65 feet instead of 155 feet as designed, was left in the canal near the lower dam. In 1937 that construction was removed and the waterway improved to provide a navigation channel 6 feet deep. The River and Harbor Act of August 26, 1937, provided for replacement of obsolete structures at locks Nos. 1 and 2 in the canal by a new lock and spillway at the site of the lower dam. The main spillway was completed in 1944 except for the Trainter gates. Temporary wooden flashboards were used until the seven steel Trainter gates were installed in 1950. The canal was enlarged in 1949 to provide a navigable depth of 8 feet and a discharge capacity of about 9,000 cubic feet a second with lake stage at 15.6 feet.

End transcription…

Page 3, History w/ my notes
Spillways map referred to in text

Next post, I will continue with Section 5. “Discharges through St. Lucie Canal.”



Adding Insult to Injury-C-23, C-24, C-25

A portion of the St Johns Marsh 1958

As we know, next year is the 100 year anniversary of the St. Luice Canal. Dug by the Everglades Drainage District 1916-1924, the canal was turned over to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1930 following the horrific 1926 and 1928 hurricanes and the U.S./Florida decision to build the Herbert Hoover Dike. During the 1930s through the fifties the canal was widened and deepened and repurposed as a cross state canal conveniently allowing even more discharge water from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River.

According to a November 4, 1954  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Central and Southern Florida Project report by Colonel H.W. Schull Jr.

“For quite some time, local interest in the Stuart-Palm City area have been very bitter and adamant concerning the release of water in the St. Lucie estuary. They have made numerous complaints to this office about the releases of muddy water and its effect on sport fishing in the Stuart area, as well as the effects of shoaling in the vicinity of Palm City. In November 1953, the local people formed the St. Lucie-Indian Rivers Restoration League, which has become appreciably influential; the League has now grown to the estimated membership of 1,250. The situation in the Stuart-Palm City area has become by far the most sensitive of any in the Jacksonville District. This office has received complaints from the league following practically all discharge periods. Full-capacity discharge is entirely untenable to local interests. Last spring, the League threatened to use all possible influence to block the 1955 fiscal year appropriations for the Central and Southern Florida Project unless they could obtain a definite commitment “to relieve the area of excessive flood discharge and its incidental damages.” It was brought out that if unable to obtain such a commitment local interest were prepared to attack the appropriations as discriminatory, to withdraw from the 17-county Flood Control District by legislative action, and would proceed with damage actions in the Federal Courts….”

And that was only 1954…

By 1959 the Stuart News ran articles quoting the St. Lucie-Indian River Restoration League and the Martin County Water Conservation Committee. These articles shared by historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, reveal continuation of bitterness and exasperation by the St. Lucie-Indian River Restoration League now together with the Martin County Water Conservation Committee.

By 1959, the “Great Flood” of 1947 had set in motion the enormous and expensive Army Corps’ Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project adding to the already built canals of the Everglades Drainage District – such as the St Lucie Canal. To complicate Martin County’s drainage issues, the Minute Maid Corporation bought 5,300 acres of St Johns River Marsh land fifteen miles from Ft. Pierce in neighboring St Lucie County. Also booming was ranch land north and west of Cocoa. Many were excited about draining the land and building Florida’s post-war economy. This would be at the expense of the St. Lucie.

It was the hope of the St. Lucie-Indian River Restoration League and the Conservation Committee that the Army Corps would build a gigantic reservoir west of Sebastian, Vero, and Ft. Pierce to hold the water that would be drained from these lands but instead the Army Corps decided to build C-25, C-23, and C-24 alone. “No reservoir. Too expensive.”

Excerpt from Stuart News, April 9, 1959. Proposed reservoir that would hold the waters of the drained southern St. Johns Marsh. Instead the land was never bought, and the reservoir never built.

Today these St. Lucie C-canals drain the lower St. Johns Marsh and and a large portion of St Lucie County into the St. Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. These canals, like the C-44, or St. Lucie Canal, can operate in any direction, and they are all connected, taking in water and then discharging wherever the engineers desire…

C-25, north of Highway 68 and west of Ft. Pierce, dumps into the Southern Indian River Lagoon at Taylor Creek in Fort Pierce; C-24 and C-23 discharge into the mid and lower north fork of the St Lucie River. As they are all connected so the water can be made to go through any outlet. Most water exits through the St. Lucie River heading to the St. Lucie Inlet,  Martin County – carrying with it a collection of agricultural and development pollutants.

The St. Lucie-Indian River Restoration League and the Martin County Water Conservation Committee fought hard for the St. Johns Marsh Reservoirs-also called a CONSERVATION AREA, but they were never built.

The League and Committee were so furious with the effects of all the canals  that they filed a suit for injunction against direct ad-valorem tax levies by the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District, the equivalent of today’s South Florida Water Management District. But the League did not prevail. The League expressed that one of the reasons this case did not succeed may be linked to “the Judge Chillingworth murder case occupying all of judge Judge Smith’s time.” Ironically it was the Chillingworth family that founded Palm City Farms.

Ernest Lyons, editor of the Stuart News wrote: “So that is why Martin County must demand now that the priorities of be changed on the project, making the reservoir purchase and construction No. 1 and the safety valve into Fort Pierce harbor (C-25) No. 2.

Otherwise we are going to wake up one of these days a find the beautiful St. Lucie, whose South Fork is now a drainage canal for the floodwaters of the Kissimmee River Basin has had its North Fork turned into a drainage canal for the St Johns River which historically flowed the other way.

Martin County is going to be made the dumping ground for another vast drainage area unrelated to this county unless our Congressmen, County Commission, State Representatives and other official demands that this scheme be changed by altering the priorities to do “first things first.”

It is kind of ironic that we continue to fight over reservoirs today.

The Stuart News, March 5, 1959.
The Stuart News, April 9, 1959.
The Stuart News, April 13,1961.

I recently visited the lands that the SFWMD has purchased north of Highway 68 to restore/ build a C-25 reservoir and storm water treatment area as part of ACOE’s  Indian River Lagoon South, CERP.

Learning the Beauty of Pre-Drainage Lands – St Lucie Canal

-Florida’s Everglades Drainage District  survey for St Lucie Canal, 1915. Chief Engineer, F.C. Elliott. The St Lucie Canal was built  from Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River from 1916-1924. Trees and water bodies to be cut through are written at the top of the two page survey and are a rare record of pre-drainage lands. Click on images to enlarge.

Page 1, EDD 1915 St Lucie Canal Survey Lake Okeechobee to Okeechobee Atlantic Divide, Florida Archives.
Page 2, EDD 1915 St Lucie Canal Survey Okeechobee Atlantic Divide to South Fork of St Lucie River, Florida Archives.

The pre-drainage lands between Lake Okeechobee and the St Lucie River have been drastically changed. Drainage, agriculture production, and land development have altered the natural system. What did it look like when the Everglades Drainage District engineers first saw these lands? Fortunately, Florida Archives contains surveys directed by chief engineer, Fred C. Elliot from 1915. These rare blueprints provide a broad idea of the native vegetation, trees, creeks, lakes, sloughs, and ponds of that era. Something many of us have no idea of today…

When you click on the two above images you will see that at  the top of the survey are written vegetation descriptions:

East to West they read:

Okeechobee Marsh, Flat Woods and Ponds,  Allapattah Flats, Pine Woods, Cane Slough, Pine Woods, and Creek Hammock.

Yes, along the east side of Lake Okeechobee where Lock 1 was constructed at Port Mayaca, lies the “Okeechobee Marsh” the “Edge of Glades.” This area was indeed part of the greater Everglades system as Lake Okeechobee would expand during rainy times, overall about thirty percent larger than today.

As the land rise east from the Okeechobee Marsh the survey notes “Flat Woods and Ponds.” These flat woods were mesic or wet. More than likely, it was slash pine and some other species. Ponds, sometimes dry, were everywhere, especially near Lake Okeechobee. East of the “Flat Woods and Ponds” was “Allapattah Flats,” a huge wetland, also called Halpatiokee or Alipatiokee Swamp. This “swamp” is well marked on historic maps and even mentioned by Buckingham Smith in the first U.S. Everglades survey of 1848.

We can see that “Allapattah Flats” cradled the higher lands and “Settlement of Annie” today’s Orlando Ridge and Indiantown. The wet marsh flowed south to the waters of the Loxahatchee Slough. The survey marks multiple ponds and the “Okeechobee Atlantic Divide” to the east of “Allapattah Flats.” Once the St Lucie Canal was built, these waters that mostly flowed south were directed to the St Lucie River.

Roads are noted on the survey, and the “Old Trail Jupiter Road” is cut through by the St Lucie Canal in the area of today’s Timer Power’s Park in Indiantown. Note “Plat’s Ranch” along the trail. Other roads that led from the “Settlement of Annie” were the trail south to Big Mound City, the trail north to Fort Bassinger, and the road east to Stuart that still exist today as Highway 76.

The survey notes more ponds and “Pine Woods” as the canal continues east. Pine Woods are more forest like with trees closer together than Flat Woods. Tall, stately, virgin slash pine (yellow pine) possibly hundreds of years old would have dominated this region providing excellent habitat for bears, panthers, deer, woodpeckers, and a plethora of other animals. For native Americans and European pioneers the lands between Lake Okeechobee and the St Lucie River was a treasured hunting ground.

Going east, right before the upturn in the canal, we run into an “Arm of Cane Slough,” on the east side and below the “Green Pine Ridge.” The Green Pine Ridge was surrounded  by “Pine Woods.”  A slough, as in Cane Slough, is a marsh-like shallow river. “Cane Slough Creek” merged with “North Creek” to feed the St Lucie River’s South Fork. Note the cypress dome and large lake in the area between the road to Stuart and the proposed canal just under the “Green Pine Ridge.” Look how large and wide Cane Slough became as it neared the St Lucie! Today this developed area is all but “history.”

As the Pine Woods fade, we come to  “Lock and Dam 2,” today’s St Lucie Locks and Dam & the 7 Gates of Hell. Interesting to see that the connection occurs at the head of “North Creek” where there a significant drop in elevation begins to the St Lucie River. At “North Creek,” the vegetation changes from “Pine Woods” to “Creek Hammock” containing a variety of close knit trees and shrubs leading to the South Fork of the St Lucie River.

During this time, 1915, the North Creek was located above Cane Slough Creek, the two merged and fed the South Fork of the St Lucie River. It is ironic that the canal survey that killed the St Lucie River provides one of the only records of the area’s pre-drainage glory.

Insert survey 2, 1915
Historic postcard- natural Florida creek, maybe North Creek that the St Lucie Canal was connected to looked something like this? Collection, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
1940 Aerials U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, UF -vegetation notes JTL

Thoughts of War – St Lucie River 1918

Greetings everyone. I have fallen behind in my new year’s resolution for 2023 – “write once a week on a historical aspect of the St Lucie Canal for 2024’s 100 year anniversary.” The St. Lucie Canal was built by Florida’s Everglades Drainage District from 1916 to 1924. In the early days many locals called it the “monster ditch” but it would reach much larger status in the years to come once turned over the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1931.

Today, I share one of my mother’s articles from the early days of the canal and river from one of Sewall’s Point’s most famous adventurer naval residents, Hugh L. Willoughby who came to Sewall’s Point in 1906. This article is an uncovered gem of a piece from The Stuart Messenger penned by Willoughby. The date on the front page is hard to read; to me it looks like 1918. My mother thinks it looks like 1916.

World War I occurred between 1914 and 1918 and thus the St Lucie Canal was first constructed during this difficult era. Also Congress was considering deepening the St Lucie Inlet after being opened by hand in 1892.

Thoughts of war are reflected in the article: “Willoughby Boost the Canal and Inlet, Both are of Great Importance. On the Completion of These Projects Submarines and Torpedo Boats Can Navigate East Coast.”

Hopefully, such thought are never something we have to ponder again…

Willoughby in aviation gear. Courtesy of Martin County Historical Society ca. 1920s.

1st aerial over St Lucie River and Inlet at Sewall’s Point-Willoughby. Courtesy Dale Hudson Stuart on the St Lucie, Sandra Henderson Thurlow ca. 1910s.
Archives Sandra Thurlow, ca. 1918.


Interesting Excerpts of Buckingham Smith

~This post is written as part of a series recognizing that 2024 is the official “100 year anniversary” of the infamous St Lucie Canal completed in 1924. 

Report of Buckingham Smith Esq., On His Reconnoissance of the Everglades  1848

If your’e a history person, or someone who likes to read about the Everglades, you have probably heard the name, “Buckingham Smith.” We learn that the drainage and destruction of the Northern Everglades to drain the Entire Everglades all started with his 1848 reconnoissance and report to the United States Treasury.

Perhaps Smith’s report was the first and major factor, but one can’t read it without noting Smith’s stunning description of the Everglades. Today such words, from someone hellbent on drainage would sound contradictory.

Today, I am transcribing parts of Buckingham Smith’s 1848 report. It was Florida’s Senator, James Westcott who asked the U.S. Department of the Treasury to make this study. Westcott was one of Florida’s first senators when Florida was admitted to the Union in 1845. Smith’s report came out in 1848 and has been reprinted many times. It is world famous. You can access the report partially reprinted in 1911 at the above link.

The link will bring you to Document No. 89 of the U.S. Senates’ 62nd Congress, 1st Session, entitled, Everglades of Florida, Acts, Reports, and Other Papers, State and National, Relating to the Everglades of the State of Florida and their Reclamation, Washington Government Printing Office, 1911.  The excepts below are of particular interest from that report.

Transcription page 49, Buckingham Smith Report:  (Draining Lake O)

“To reclaim the Everglades and the Atseenahoofa and Halpatiokee Swamps and the lowlands on the margin of the Kissimmee River and its tributaries, and the other rives emptying into Lake Okeechobee, this lake must be tapped by such canals running into the Caloosahatchee on the one side and into the Lochahatchee or San Lucia, or both, on the other, and the cuts must also be made from the streams on both sides of the peninsula into the Glades. Besides, after the height of the waters in the Glades should be decreased, even as much as 5 feet, there will probably be a necessity for several drains through the Glades and those swamps, by which the waters accumulating from the rains may be conducted to the ocean or gulf…”

This excerpt is interesting for me because San Lucia is the St Lucie River. Smith is saying the St Lucie should be tapped or cut to allow Lake Okeechobee to drain to the ocean. This is the first formally government documented statement of such an observation/recommendation. The Halpatiokee Swamp, also mentioned as the headwaters,  was located between today’s Martin and St Lucie counties. I am told by my brother Todd that Halpatiokee Swamp and “Alpatiokee Swamp” were used interchangeably. Both meaning “Alligator” in Seminole or some similar language stock. The Loxahatchee river, spelled “Lochahatchee” by Smith, was never connected to drain Lake Okeechobee but has been partially channelized and otherwise extensively drained. The Calooshatchee was tapped first by Hamilton Disston around 1881 to drain Lake Okeechobee and then widened and deepened multiple times as also with the St Lucie.  “Asteenahoofa,” a new work for me, was Smith’s word for today’s Big Cypress Swamp.

Transcription page 51, Buckingham Smith Report: (The unusual beauty of the place)

“Imagine a vast lake of fresh water extending in every direction from shore to shore beyond the reach of human vision, ordinarily unruffled by a ripple on its surface, studded with thousands of islands of various sizes, from one-fourth of an acre to hundreds of acres in area, and which are generally covered with dense thickets of shrubbery and vines.         Occasionally an island is found with lofty pines and palmettos upon it, but oftener they are without any, and not unusually a solitary majestic palmetto is seen, the only tree upon an island, as if to guide in approaching it, or a place of signal or lookout for its former denizens. The surrounding waters, except in places that at first seem like channel ways (but which are not), are covered with the tall sawgrass, shooting up its straight and slender stem from the shallow bottom of the lake to the height of 10 feet above the surface and covering all but a few rods around from your view. The water is pure and limpid and almost imperceptibly moves, not in partial currents, but in a mass, silently and slowly to the southward. The bottom of the lake at the distance of from 3 to 6 feet is covered with a deposit of decayed vegetable substance, the accumulated product of ages, generally 2 or 3 feet in depth on the white sand and rock that underlies it over the entire surface of the basin. The flexible grass bending gently to the breeze protects the waters from its influence. Lilies and other aquatic flowers of every variety and hue are to be seen on every side, in pleasant contrast with the pale green of the saw grass, and as you draw near an island the beauty of the scene is increased by the rich foliage and blooming flowers of the wild myrtle and the honeysuckle and the shrubs and vines that generally adorn its shores. The profound and wild solitude of the place, the solemn silence that pervades it, unless broken by the splashing of a paddle of the canoe of light bateau with which only can you traverse the Pahayokee, or by the voices of your “compagnons du voyage” add to awakened and excited curiosity feelings bordering on awe. No human being, civilized of savage, inhabits the secluded interior of the Glades. The Seminoles reside in the region between them and the Gulf. Except for the occasional flight of an eagle or a bittern, startled by the strange invaders of their privacy,  for for a view of the fishes in the shallow waters gliding swiftly from your boat as it goes near to them your eye would not rest on living thing abiding in this wilderness of “grass waters,” shrubbery, and flowers…”

This page 51 excerpt is interesting because this man who we have forever associated with the determination to drain the Everglades obviously also recognized its awe and beauty. Buckingham Smith was a very learned man of his era, a deep intellectual. I think it pained him in some way to recommend drainage. He had a job to do -survey – and he knew what the government wanted to do. In his full report, he did really present both options: the Everglades’ incredible beautiful essence, and then on the other, hand demonizing it as a filthy swamp to be resurrected for mankind, as below.

Pages 53 and 54: (Smith’s most quoted reference to why the Everglades should be drained)

“Eminent statements and philosophers have, in estimating the services of individuals to their county and to their fellow men, advanced the opinion that he who causes two sheaves of wheat to grow where one only grew before, better deserves the thanks of his race than the author, the legislator, or the victorious general. The degree of merit awarded by them to the particular act first specified may be extravagant, but no one of sound moral judgment will, it is presumed, deny that then increase of the agricultural resources , and the promotion of the the agricultural interests of a people already politically free, is the very highest service that can be rendered them, and most conductive to the preservation of their independence, prosperity, and happiness. The citizen, whether in executive or legislative station, or without either, who succeeds in making fit for cultivation, even if but partially, a region equal in extent to either of the smallest State of this Confederacy, now as useless as the deserts of Africa, will earn a rich meed of praise from the people of Florida and of the Union. The Everglades are now suitable only for the haunt of noxious vermin, or the resort of pestilent reptiles. The statesman whose exertions shall cause the millions of acres they contain, now worse than worthless, to teem with the products of agricultural industry; to be changed into a garden in which can be reared many and various exotics, introduced for the first time for cultivation into the United States, whether necessaries of life, or conveniences, or luxuries merely; that man who thus adds to the resources and wealth and independence of his country, who contributes by such means to the comfort of his fellow men, will merit a high place in public favor, not only with this own generation, but with posterity. He will have created a State. I feel that to be connected with the inception of a measure which, if carried out properly, will probably produce such results; to be identified, even in a secondary position, with the commencement of an undertaking that must be so eminently beneficial to my country, is a privilege of no mean consideration…”

This report has been used thousands of times to showcase the words “The Everglades are now suitable only for the haunt of noxious vermin, or the resort of pestilent reptiles.”  A sharp contrast to “Lilies and other aquatic flowers of every variety and hue are to be seen on every side, in pleasant contrast with the pale green of the saw grass, and as you draw near an island the beauty of the scene is increased by the rich foliage and blooming flowers of the wild myrtle and the honeysuckle and the shrubs and vines that generally adorn its shores. The profound and wild solitude of the place, the solemn silence that pervades it, unless broken by the splashing of a paddle of the canoe of light bateau with which only can you traverse the Pahayokee, or by the voices of your “compagnons du voyage” add to awakened and excited curiosity feelings bordering on awe.”

I wonder what Buckingham Smith would write if he were alive today?

Thomas Buckingham Smith 1810-1871

Courtesy, Find a Grave, Huguenot public graveyard, St. Augustine, Florida.




All welcome to attend “History of St Lucie Canal” presentation

Manuscript Collection, Florida Memory, circa 1921.

I invite my readers to attend a presentation entitled “The History of the St. Luice Canal.” Todd Thurlow and I will be using historic maps, newspapers, and photographs together with modern technology to give insight into a canal that has been “on the minds of men” since the mid 1800s and even earlier.

If you want to attend in person, please join us at the Rivers Coalition meeting, Thursday, February 23, at 11:00am, Stuart City Hall Chambers, 121 S.W. Flagler Avenue, Stuart , FL 34994. If you’d like to join via Zoom, please reach out to the the meeting administrator at and request a Zoom link.

I hope you’ll join us!

The St. Lucie Canal was built by the Everglades Drainage District from 1915-1924 (some records state 1925 or 1926). Its unnatural connection drains surrounding lands and allows “overflow” water from Lake Okeechobee to be directed to the St. Lucie River wrecking the estuary’s delicate wildlife ecology and spurring massive toxic blooms in 2013, 2016, and 2018. Of course, the canal has been a boon for agriculture and development of all South and Central Florida as it was built as the “primary drainage canal” of the Everglades.

As the official completion date of the St Lucie Canal by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is 1924, next year will be the 100 Year Anniversary of the St. Lucie Canal. Thus this year, in 2023, I am writing and presenting extensively on the history of this beloved and hated canal as we work to weave it into a better water future.

Lock No. 2, original structure at today’s St Lucie Lock and Dam.

Manuscript Collection, Florida Memory circa 1921

What wilderness it was!

Manuscript Collection, Florida Memory, circa 1921

See this link for more of Todd’s collection of photos from Florida Memory & the Library of Congress !

Stuart News Anniversary Issue, 1964 about history of SLC. Archives of historian Sandra Thurlow.

Palm City, “Empire of the Everglades,” Part 2

Today’s post is  Part 2 of “Palm City, Empire of the Everglades,” written for the upcoming, 2024, official 100 year anniversary of the completion of the St Lucie Canal. This canal was  renamed the C-44 Canal after the federal government’s incorporation of the canal into the construction of the Central and Southern Florida Project -post “great flood” of 1947.

I prefer to call C-44 it by its first and more personal name, the St Lucie Canal.

Below is part two of a transcription of an historic 1923 Miami Herald article from my mother Sandra Thurlow’s local Martin County, Florida, history archives. Today’s historic article gives insight into a world forgotten. A world of excitement for “drain baby drain,” with little if any concern or knowledge of the health of Florida’s state waters or the greater environment.

In the few remaining paragraphs of the article the reporter, William Stuart Hill, notes how many miles of ditches have been dug, what dredging contracts have been executed, what equipment will be purchased for even more ditching to drain into the St Lucie River and St Lucie Canal, and what roads are available – by today’s standards very few!

It was a world set out to drain the Everglades and a tremendous determination to create an empire of agriculture. In 1923, there was no Publix at every corner, nor FEMA to come help if a hurricane brought you to your knees and the drainage of the land to produce food became extensive.

Thank you to my mother for sharing these old articles and pointing out the important history of Palm City, Florida. As we learn about our past, we can build a better future.

I am posting this photograph to give an idea of what a drag line machine/excavator look like as referred to in the article as one hoped to use by F.A. McKinzie, via Florida Memory.


To read Part  1, click here.

Transcription Part 2 begins, paragraphs 8-12. JTL

The drainage district has recently sold bonds amounting to $100,000 to carry on a more comprehensive plan of drainage than the one originally intended and has awarded a contact to F.A.McKenzie, of Miami, for widening and deepening the original outlets and doing other work. Mr McKenzie’s contract provides for the payment by the drainage district to him of $75,000. Supervisors of the drainage district are: G. Wuckner, F.C Garde and O. Coffrin, all of Palm City. The drainage district was created under the general statutes by petition to the circuit court.

Map of Palm City Drainage District. This map is not from the Miami Herald Article, but from my mother, Sandra Thurlow’s archives. It shows the many ditches dug to drain the land of Palm City Farms in the Palm City Drainage District created in 1919.

Mr. McKenzie is making preparations to begin work immediately on the execution of an Economy drag line excavator, and intends buying a Bucyrus machine.

A hard surface road extension seven miles through the district, and leads from Palm City to Tropical City and thence back to Stuart, a total distance of 21 miles.

The Palm Beach County Land company, at its own expense, dug 40 miles of drainage ditches, exclusive of 80 miles  of road ditches, at a cost of $63,720. It also built more than 40 miles of dirt roads in Palm City Farms, on the outer lines of the sections, at an expenditure of $38,783.

Transcription/article end. JTL

Maiami Herald, 1923.

I am including the map below from 1928 (five years after the Miami Herald article) as it shows what roads were in the Palm City area although Palm City is not on the map. Road to the Glades, today’s Highway 76 or Kanner Highway, US 1 -some that was linked with today’s AIA or Dixie Highway, and what was known as “Loop Road” off of 96A (opposite direction of today’s Pratt Whitney Road going to Citrus Blvd.) are visible as is the infamous St Lucie Canal built first from 1916-1924. Again, thank you to my mother for sharing all of these historic documents in my obsession to document the history and thus aid in a better water future for the St Lucie Canal and St Lucie River.

Automobile Blue Book, 28th Year, Volume Five, Florida’s Gulf Coast, 1928. Courtesy archives, Sandra Thurlow.

Palm City, “Empire of the Everglades,” 1923 – Part 1

Today I share yet another remarkable historic article from my mother Sandra Thurlow’s archives. This time from the Miami Herald, 1923. The significance of this article, that I have transcribed and broken down into two parts, is that it tells the story of Palm City, Florida, as part of the “Empire of the Everglades;” this a past of Palm City that most of us don’t know.

Indeed, Palm City was founded partially as Palm City Farms and even had its own drainage district. We have altered the land so we can be productive and live here, and today, and in the future, we try the best we can to put some of the water back on the land to clean it and bring all back to health. Also this article is shared as 2024 is the official 100 year anniversary of the St Lucie Canal.

“Empire of the Everglades,” Miami Herald, 1923, Part 1 as transcribed by JTL

~Transcription begin

“The Great Prairie of Florida”

Palm City Drainage District Lets Contract for Additional Ditches

Will Expend $100,000 Supplementing the Original Drainage Plan; 900 Acres of Citrus Trees Growing In the Reclaimed Area; C.C. Chillilngworth Is the Developer.

By William Stuart Hill

Back of Stuart, in the Palm Beach county, lies Palm City, then Palm City Farms and the Palm City Drainage District, the latter extending almost to the St. Lucie canal and containing 14,300 acres of land and prairie.

Palm City is situate on the shore of the south fork of the St. Lucie river, and its inhabitants have access to the other bank by means of the Palm City bridge, and to Stuart two miles away, by means of a hard surface road. Another road, to the south, connects with the Dixie highway at a considerable distance below Stuart.

The Palm City drainage district was formed recently to supplement the work of drainage begun and achieved by the Palm Beach County Land company, original owner and developer of the Palm City Farms, C.C. Chillingworth, attorney, of West Palm Beach, is owner of the Palm Beach County Farms company and retains about 5000 acres of the original 10,000 acre tract. The remainder has been sold to settlers.

There are 28 citrus groves in Palm City Farms, comprising 900 acres. The largest of these, the grove owned by the Niagara Fruit company, contains 160 acres, and is said to be the largest citrus grove on the east coast of Florida. There are also considerable plantings of avocados and one guava grove in the drainage district, which takes in 6,200 acres not in the Palm Beach Farms.

The land within the drainage district is well adapted to citrus culture and has the double advantage of easy drainage and easier irrigation. The highest elevation in the district is 27 feet above sea level. Artesian water may be had, with flowing wells at a depth of approximately 600 feet.

During the years between 1912 and 1916, the land company spent $102,000 in the digging of drainage ditches and the construction of the roads within its 10,000-acre tract. Three main outlets were provided, one through Danforth creek, another through Bessey’s creek, and a third large ditch, emptying into the south fork of the St Lucie river near the outlet of the big St. Lucie Everglades drainage or control canal.

~Transcription end, part 1, paragraphs 1-7.

Maiami Herald, 1923.

To be continued.


Lake O Discharges 2023

St Lucie Canal, aka, C-44 at S-80, Ed Lippisch 1-22-23. ~Discharges began by ACOE from Lake O at 500 cfs on 1-22-23. For comparison, at worst times 5000 to 9000 cfs flooded the St Lucie on and off in 2013, 2016, 2018. 500cfs (cubic feet per second) is not good, but it is not high-level discharges. JTL

The St Lucie Canal, also known as, the C-44 Canal, is the property of the U.S. Government. Martin County public records show that in the early 1930s, as a result of the 1928 hurricane, the right of way of the Everglades Drainage District was taken as part of the Okeechobee Waterway.

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers holds jurisdiction and decision making over the canal and the water that flows through it from basins and Lake Okeechobee. Since the great flood of 1947 and the creation of the Central and Southern Florida Plan, there has been a “local partner” in decision making. That partner today is named the South Florida Water Management District, formerly the Everglades Drainage District…

In a modern world, every week, there are conditions calls regarding Lake Okeechobee and the environmental envelope, etc.  As in all things, these calls start with the “higher ups” and then end with a public call. The public call is the ACOE Periodic Scientist Call. During this call, stakeholders share conditions and concerns from all over south and central Florida. Most participants are government people or elected officials, but also heads of NGOs and members of the public chime in.

Grey is environmental envelope for Lake O

The process generally works as such: after all these calls, the SFWMD, the local sponsor, puts out an operations statement or recommendation to the ACOE. All of this information is available on line, but its like trying to find a needle in hay stack.

SFWMD Ops_Position_Statement_Jan_17_23_2023

Of course the ACOE and the SFWMD have been communicating all week. At the end of the day, because the U.S. ACOE holds jurisdiction over the C-44 Canal the ACOE is the final decision maker. More than ever, though, they are listening and even seeking public input. This is refreshing!

Pulse to average 500cfs -releases to the SLR from LO, via ACOEO and, Todd Thurlow

The ACOEs has been announcing their decision on the Jacksonville District’s media call on Friday of the week of all the other calls. This past Friday, the day after the SFWMD operations report was submitted, and all the “calls”, January 20, 2023, the ACOE held its media call, and the decision to start discharging from Lake Okeechobee was made make Col. Booth.

Going back a couple of years, Col. Kelly, at the ACOE, came up with an operations plan called a HAB DEVIATION or Harmful Algae Bloom Deviation. This was done after Governor Ron DeSantis put forth Executive Order 19-12 that did all possible to avoid harmful and toxic discharges to the northern estuaries, St Lucie and Caloosahatcee, as years 2013, 2016 and 2018 had been disasters. HAB DEVIATIONS, like all things Army Corp, is engineering-like and complicated, but goal was to allow a deviation from lake operations (LORS or LOSOM) if there was algae in the lake or it was possible there could be algae in the lake, like after a Category 4 hurricane stirs everything up and brings massive runoff…

I am not sure if what the ACOE is doing now qualifies as a technical HAB Deviation, but it is certainly in the spirit of one. Both SFWMD and ACOE have stated they are expecting a large post Ian cyanobacteria blue-green algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee this summer. High lake water in summer would set off releases so they are hopefully dodging a bullet by lowing the lake now.

Due to Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm, that obliterated the lower west coast of Florida, coming in just north of Sanibel Island and Ft Meyers, Lake Okeechobee has risen four feet since September 28, 2022 cresting at around 16.47 feet. Because the Herbert Hoover Dike was almost complete, the ACOE did not discharge right away. If the lake had been at the 15.50 limit as before dike completion, there would have been discharges, input or no input.

Yesterday, January 25, 2023, was the ribbon-cutting for the Herbert Hoover Dike Rehabilitation. It took eighteen years. This does not mean there is unlimited allowance of water in Lake Okeechobee, but it allows for more flexibility as will LOSOM. Sediment has been settling in the lake since September/October.

I for one, appreciate the flexibility of the ACOE. In the old world when I entered in 2008, they just followed the book and opened the gates toxic algae or no toxic algae. Now there is awareness and thought. And water quality remains the responsibility of the state. If the ACOE believe/agree a HAB deviation is necessary after a Category 4 hurricane in order to try to avoid toxic discharges in summer when the lake often cooks into a toxic soup, I am all for it. I do not want to go through those type of years again!

These charts below from my brother Todd’s website show how water was discharged to the St Lucie in 2016, 2018, 2021, and 2022. Although the ACOE is discharging at 500 cfs average now to the SLR, all will be done to avoid another “Lost Summer!”

2016 Lost Summer 2

2018 Lost Summer 3

2021 nice summer even with LO releases (green)

2022 great summer, no releases LO

Photos of Ed Lippisch taken on Sunday, January 22, 2022, the day the 500 cfs discharges began to the St Lucie. These photos are baseline photos to compare to the future. I takes a day or more for discharge water to reach the St Lucie Inlet. The differences in these photos is due to tide and light.

SLR/IRL 1-22-23 at 11am, Ed Lippisch

SLR/IRL 1-22-23, 5:45pm

Part III -The Boon of the Huge Monster Ditch, St Lucie Canal

-Stuart News 50th Anniversary Edition, 1964.Today I will complete part three, the final portion of my transcription of an historic 1964 Stuart News, anniversary edition from my mother’s archives. She actually shared this article with me over a year ago and I was so taken by it that I thought it may be an inspiration for a book. I never got around to it, thus now I am sharing on my blog as part of my 2023 new year’s resolution to write more and learn more about the St Lucie Canal. 2024 is the official 100 year anniversary of the St Lucie Canal according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

Here are links to Parts I and Part II.

~Interesting references in part three of the article are the mentioning of a “release canal,” south to the Everglades, something that never materialized; reference, once again, to cutting edge “scientific water control” and the amazing success of the agriculture industry; 1933 noted as the first extreme discharge year from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River and damaging effects to fisheries and tourism; and in the final paragraph, a future plan linking a new “C-23 Canal on Martin County’s northern border with a major channel which would extend westward to Lake Okeechobee, with a side link to St Lucie Canal, and another channel from St. Lucie Canal southeastward down toward Pratt & Whitney and the Loxahatchee Marshes;” Gulp!

This is a reference to part of the canal system proposed in the 1948 and many following editions of the Central and Southern Florida Plan that thankfully was never built. This reference also leads me to believe that I was incorrect in part two when I wrote the article was written around 1937 or 1920 in part one. With these references to C-23, the article must have been composed after the great flood of 1947 as it is referring to the Central and Southern Florida Project of 1948.  I am learning all the time as I sludge through this stuff. The St. Lucie Canal has had so many face lifts! It is hard to know what cut they are referring to!

~As we learn, we are more informed and able to change the future of this huge “ditch” that has defined, benefited, and destroyed the region of our St Lucie River.

So here is a transcription of Part III.

I have entitled my post “The Boon of the Huge Monster Ditch, St Lucie Canal,” as both terms “huge” and “monster,” are noted in full article. To me, the canal is a monster continuing to haunt and terrify. And just like in the movies, I know that until I meet this monster face to face, it wont go away. I hope you will encounter it with me.

You can click on images to enlarge.

Begin transcript paragraphs 11-25:

The great hurricane of 1928, which drowned about 4000 persons in the Lake Okeechobee area, resulted in the widening and deepening of both the St. Luice Canal and the Caloosahatchee River as well as major outlets from the lake. The widened and deepened canal was officially dedicated at ceremonies headed by Secretary of Commerce, Daniel Roper on March 22, 1937.

In the intervening years, the canal’s “good and bad” points have been the cause of growth in the agricultural lands of the interior and of damages to the fisheries and resorts on the coast in periods of excessive discharge. Today, as ever since 1933, when the first heavy discharge from hurricane rains was experienced, efforts are under way to so shape the discharge so that the canal’s benefit can be enjoyed without attendant harm. The U. S. Engineer Corp’s plans for a higher lake level by diking the entire lake may result in less necessity for discharge and a long-range plan has been advanced for diversion of excess water to Everglades National Park by means of a relief-valve canal.

However in the half century which has ensued since the canal was approved, one indisputable fact not clearly seen in the beginning has emerged stage by stage to justify it.

It is “scientific agriculture by water control.”

Thousands of pleasure craft and hundreds of barges, shrimp boats, and other commercial craft use the waterway today, but it never did develop into the “thriving artery of commerce” that was predicted in which ocean ships would sail up to Stuart and load the products of the Everglades Empire brought to the coast by the St. Luice Canal.

Nor did a plan advocated during World War II jell out to make it a major barge and oil transport canal to escape the submarines which infested the Straits of Florida, Yucatan Channel and the Gulf Stream.

What did “jell out” was an expansion all along the route of the the scientific water control for agriculture that was  proven at Port Mayaca by that pioneering agricultural beginning in 1925.

G.C. Troup and Troup Brothers at Indiantown on their former 20,000-acre holdings, demonstrated that the combination of irrigation and good drainage would unlock agricultural riches. Today the Minute Maid and Hood corporations are among the huge citrus firms which have planted some 10,000 acres of new citrus and the largest lemon grove in the world on former Troup lands and lands opened to agriculture through water control by P. L. Hinson and others.

On both sides of the St. Lucie Canal, in the entire twenty-five miles of its length, there are spreading pastures, ranches where blooded cattle graze, and the Indiantown area also has some of the country’s largest diaries.

The Bessemer firm that proved it could be done is “in there pitching” with some of the most outstanding modern developments including Westbury Farms 1, 2, and 3, the new Westbury Farms Valencia Groves on the south side of the canal, and the spreading Green Ridge Groves on the north side. George Oliver who manages the giant spread and Michael Phipps of the major corporation are proud of the agricultural and ranching growth but prouder still of St. Lucie Training Park, unique race horse training facility where, “hopefuls” of some of the nation’s top stables get their “running” starts.

They can be found at dawn watching the work-outs on the oval track. Both are skilled polo players.

“Scientific water control with ample supplies from the St. Lucie Canal, and drainage into the canal, is the key to our county’s solid growth,” commented Oliver.

Currently being pushed by Martin County agricultural interests is a new over-all water control plan for the county which would spread the advantages of irrigation and drainage to areas not continuous to the St Lucie Canal.

The new plan would link in C-23 Canal on Martin County’s north border, where huge  citrus planting have recently been made, with a major channel which would extend westward to   Lake Okeechobee, with a side link to St Lucie Canal, and another channel from St. Lucie Canal southeastward down toward Pratt & Whitney and the Loxahatchee Marshes. Private landowners would link in with these new canals by irrigation pumps and drainage outlet as they have done along the St. Luice Canal.

-End of transcript and article JTL

Part II: The Boon of the Monster Ditch, St. Lucie Canal

Today’s post is the second part of a story. A story from the 1964 50th Anniversary Edition of the Stuart News. Signalizing Half a Century of Growth and Progress in Martin County, Florida.” It is a huge special edition newspaper, 110 pages!

The article I am sharing is on page 6-H and is titled ” St. Lucie Canal Approved in 1914, Is Boon to Agriculture Here. Huge Citrus Growth Along Water Route; Mayaca Groves First.” I feel this remarkable article given to my mother for her history archives by family friend and real estate man, Ronnie Nelson, must be shared. As the 100 year “anniversary”of the St. Luice Canal is next year in 2024. At this time, I must state I am finding many different dates as to the completion date of the canal, but at this point I am sticking with an article from the Department of Environmental Protection, 1916-1924. (Ecosummary 2001, C-44 Canal)

Learning about the St. Lucie Canal can be confusing because it was “rebuilt” or “improved”  and, believe it or not, “celebrated” a few times. I think this article included in the 50th anniversary edition was written as the canal approached its second rebirth in 1937.

There is so much to learn about how the St. Lucie Canal was perceived in earlier times. And it is only through understanding the past, that we can create a better water future for today and for tomorrow.

Part I  Paragraphs 1-4 

Part II, transcription continued, paragraphs 5-11

1964 Stuart News, 50th Anniversary Issue, Thurlow Archives
1964, Stuart News 6-H and 7-H

Transcription begins:

“The completion of this monster ditch will mean much for the Everglades, for south Florida in general, and for Stuart in particular. The improvement of the St. Lucie Inlet and harbor will thus make Stuart the gateway to the Everglades, and millions of dollars worth of agricultural timber, fish, and livestock products will pass through the canal transferring at Stuart onto ocean-going vessels. The canal is, according to contract, to be completed in four years.

First tangible result of the canal for large-scale agriculture was the pioneering effort of the Port Mayaca development back around 1925, created by Bessemer Properties, Inc., a Phipps company which saw the opportunities for agriculture through scientific water control by tapping on to St. Lucie Canal with pumps to provide irrigation in dry spells. At the same time, a series of canals discharged excess water into the canal during wet spells.

Port Mayaca Valencia orange groves today represents the first big-scale successful planting of citrus in Martin County.

Port Mayaca could well be said to be the test plot on which millions were spent to prove, by trial and error, with the best possible scientific agricultural advice, what could be done by enlisting the aid of the man-made waterway.

Paul M. Hoenshel, now a resident of Stuart, was the first agricultural manager in the Port Mayaca development. He was backed by the vision and guidance of such able Phipp’s representatives in Florida as Paul R. Scott and Roy M Hawkins, as was Thomas Gartland when he took over the management in later years.

Port Mayaca was an outstanding “first” because it squarely faced up to the fact that the problems of drainage and water control must be solved if agriculture was to be successful in Martin County. The Phipps interests took the property of several thousand acres and divided it into forty-acre fields separated by drainage ditches, roads, and windbreaks.

About 100 miles of those ditches were dug in the Port Mayaca development, all linked by giant pumps to the life saving waters of the canal. Since Port Mayaca contained both muck lands and sand lands, it was an ideal test tube not only for for its initial 600 acres of Valencia oranges but also for various truck crops, gladiolus- then a major flower crop before chrysanthemums came along- and for experiments in the right grasses and mineral additives to make pasture lands where livestock could thrive…”

~End of transcription. To be continued. JTL

Google Maps 2023 shows Port Mayaca’s location on/near Lake Okeechobee, in Martin County, FL. Blue Dot is area of confluence of St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon leading to St Lucie Inlet.

Article about the history of Port Mayaca and Cypress Lodge by the late historian, Alice Luckhardt.

“The Boon of the Huge Ditch,” St Lucie Canal

Today, we will continue to study an article of a 1964 50th Anniversary Edition of the Stuart News from my mother’s history archives. We are doing this in light of the upcoming 100 year “anniversary” of the St. Lucie Canal.

The title of the this article, published originally in the 1920s is “St Lucie  Canal, Approved in 1914, Is Boon to Agriculture Here. Huge Citrus Growth Along Water Route; Mayaca Groves First.” In 2023with all of our water quality issues it is hard to imagine supporting the digging of this giant ditch. Back in the 1920s, it was a promise for a better future.

Looking west towards Lake Okeechobee. St Lucie Canal meeting the south fork of the St Lucie River c. 1920s. Thurlow/Ruhnke Collection.

TRANSCRIPTION, first 4 paragraphs of Stuart News 50th Anniversary Edition, 1964, page 6-H. JTL

“The St Lucie Canal, a twenty-five  mile artificial river tapping vast Lake Okeechobee, was originally approved back in 1914 as a drainage and navigation outlet from the lake, with great accent upon its commercial use as a barge waterway, but few foresaw that its greatest boon would be to agriculture. Digging began in September 1915, with dredges starting at the lake and working eastward.

Excerpt, Stuart News Anniversary Edition 1964.

The land from Stuart westward to the mysterious lake was a wilderness supporting a few scrub cattle and a few patches of “hit-and-run” tomato farms which were frequently drowned out or parched. Small scale citrus plantings, attempted on ten-acre tracts west of Palm City and Port Salerno were bringing heartbreak because of a lack of water control. There was either too much or too little.

Back on November 5, 1915, the Stuart newspaper reported the work of digging the huge St. Lucie-Okeechobee drainage and shipping canal is progressing nicely and is being hurried along with night and day shifts. Two dredges are employed in the work, each operating from the Okeechobee end. The small dredge, which precedes the larger, is now about one and one-half miles from the lake, and is advancing at the rate of about 600 feet a day. The large dredge which completes the actual work of digging the huge ditch has reached a point about one and one-half miles from the Okeechobee end and is excavating dirt at the rate of about 10,000 cubic yards daily. If this rate could be maintained constantly work would be finished in a year. Actual digging operations on the canal have been in progress for about five weeks. It is probable, the the Furst Clark Construction Company, the contractors, will also put a dredge at the St Lucie end of the canal so as to expedite the work, although no definite announcement to this effect has been made.

Manuscript Collection, courtesy, Florida Memory
Dredge “Culebra” on the St. Lucie Canal in the Everglades Drainage District, 1925.

The St Lucie Canal will be the main control canal of the immense Everglades drainage system, the largest drainage project in the world. The huge ditch will be twenty-five miles in length. 200 feet wide at the top, 160 feet wide at the bottom, with a maximum depth of twelve feet. It will empty into the south fork of the St lucie River six miles above Stuart, the waters reaching the Atlantic Ocean through St Lucie Inlet about the same distance southeast of Stuart. Indications are the digging operations will now go steadily forward until the completion of the canal and that no further hitch up will result  as the Internal Improvement Board of Florida and the United States War Department have come to a thorough understanding…” 

-End of transcription.

Florida Geology Collection, courtesy Florida Memory,
People along the Saint Lucie Canal near Indiantown. Note sand. Unlike other canals  constructed, at least partially along the alignment of natural creeks or rivers, the St. Lucie Canal winds through uplands with no natural drainage patterns (SFWMD historic timeline). The St Lucie has/had no natural connection to Lake Okeechobee.

The St Lucie Canal, now known as the C-44 Canal since becoming part of the Central and Southern Florida Project of 1948, runs from Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the St Luice River. The canal/ditch allows for both “basin runoff” (historically almost all of this water flowed south to the Loxahatchee system attached to the Everglades) and  Lake Okeechobee’s waters to be directed through the St Luice River. The “ditch” is also designed to flow backwards into the lake if the lake level is lower than the canal level.

The infamous St Lucie Canal in spite of its “boon for agriculture and Everglades drainage” has been, and continues to be, the most controversial canal in Martin County (in 1925 Martin County was created from Palm Beach County and a smaller part of St Lucie County) due to its potential for immense, longstanding, economic and environmental damaging discharges to the St Lucie River.

Thankfully and ironically, progress by the same entities that built this huge “ditch” is being made by the modern  Army Corp of Engineers (referred to in the historic Stuart News article as the United States War Department) and their local partner whose origins go back to the 1905 Everglades Drainage District now the South Florida Water Management District.  Yes, modern progress is being achieved through the Indian River Lagoon South portion of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. As we know, times change and so does the definition of what brings a better future!

As we work to improve the system it is important to understand the perceived positive and negative consequences of the history of this “ditch.” I will be writing a lot about the St Lucie Canal this year, as mentioned at the beginning of this post, next year, 2024, will be the official anniversary of the St Luice Canal.

Google Maps today in 2023. The red bubble is near Indiantown. The St Lucie Canal runs from Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River and out to sea at the St Luice Inlet, near blue dot. The St Lucie “ditch” cut through uplands of narrow strips of pine flatlands interspersed with hammocks, ponds, sawgrass, wide prairies, sloughs and cypress trees, severing the natural flow south of water from Allapattah Flats and connected lands that once drained almost entirely  into the Loxahatchee/ Everglades system that also has been severed.

Study of this historic article is to be continued…JTL


Coming to Terms With a Painful Environmental History-St Lucie Canal 1913-1937

-Part of a series leading up to the 100 year anniversary of the St Lucie Canal (built 1916-1924) as we continue to work to understand and heal this waterway…

-Left side of 1913 east coast drainage blueprint, Florida State Archives -Right side of huge 1913 east coast drainage blueprint, Florida State ArchivesTwo days ago was the first day of 2023. As there is always a chance we will once again be tortured by the “C-44 ,” now seems like a good time to review it under its original title: the St Lucie Canal.

The above blueprints are from the Florida State Archives and they are enormous documents. Ed and I visited Tallahassee in order to lay eyes on these remarkable pieces of history. Laid out on a large table in the library one can piece the two pages together to read:

Territory From lake Okeechobee to the Atlantic Ocean,

Between Townships 37 and 43 South,

Showing Routes Examined for Proposed Drainage Canals,

Made Under the Direction of F.C. Elliot,

Acting Chief Drainage Engineer, March – April 1913.

The St Lucie Canal was built by the state of Florida’s Everglades Drainage District from 1916 through 1924 when Martin was Palm Beach County. Over the holiday I read through some of my mother‘s historic newspaper articles. They were sobering.

A 1923 Stuart Messenger headline reads “Wednesday Next is the Day Set for First Flow of Water From Lake to River Through St Lucie Canal.” It sounds a bit like today, fishermen and tourism had major concerns, but the chamber of commerce folk celebrated with visions of expanded inland agriculture and a port of commerce. The truth of the matter is that the primary reason for the St Lucie Canal, since Florida’s earliest fantasies, was drainage.

In fact most bragged about it. An April 29, 1920’s Stuart Messenger article expressed with pride: “The St Lucie is the main control outlet for Lake Okeechobee.”

On July 7, 1923, the same paper wrote: “the St Lucie is the key to the entire Everglades drainage project.” On November 6, 1931, not long after the deadly hurricane of 1928, The Florida Developer printed something that today makes me sick to my stomach:  “The east locks of the St Lucie Canal were closed Saturday, after being open nearly two years. In that time the level of the lake has been reduced from 18 to 14 feet.” 

Unbelievable! Four feet off the lake through the St Lucie!

In 1937, the year the St Lucie Canal was federally rededicated as part of the Cross State Canal to Ft. Meyers -another jaw breaker. In a 1937 February 27 Stuart Daily News article written by famous journalist and horticulturalist Edwin A. Menninger it reads: “…work on the St Lucie had begun when the pioneers realized the that canals through muck lands were unless as they refused to carry water out of the lake. Four of them had been dug and were utterly worthless. The St Lucie Canal was completed in 1924 and for 13 years has been the only functioning outlet from Lake Okeechobee to the sea.”

The St Lucie Canal the only outlet for 13 years?! No! Kill me please!

A Daily News Article of the same day has a title reading: “New Ortona Locks to Alleviate St Lucie Flow.”  According to this article, apparently until made part of the Cross State Canal’s Okeechobee Waterway in 1937, the Caloosahatchee’s drainage of Lake Okeechobee had not been functioning at least since 1924. 13 years! 

Upon reading through these old articles, I just about cried. I drank a lot of wine. I have studied this for years but nevertheless. And there were more articles…

The worst was a Stuart News January 9, 1964 anniversary issue article, the year of my birth of all years. There is a photo is the upper right corner with a picture, it reads again with pride: “Old Aerial View shows the island and lock formerly at Port Mayaca where the canal enters Lake Okeechobee. These works were removed in 1936 to give unimpeded discharge from the lake.”

They removed the structure at Port Mayaca so the most lake water could flow through? What’s wrong with you people?!!!!!! No!!!!!

As I was losing my mind, my husband, Ed, pointed out to me that the lake was not polluted at that time. True, but nonetheless! Fresh water is a pollutant to a brackish system! No! Another glass please!

Excerpt, Stuart News Anniversary Edition 1964.

To think of all the destruction the St Lucie River has experienced! As written in the archive timeline in the hallways of the South Florida Water Management District whose official close date for the St Lucie Canal is 1925:

“Recommended by the Randolph Report and begun in 1916, …unlike other canals constructed at least partially along the alignment of natural creeks or rivers, the St Lucie Canal winds through uplands with no natural drainage patters. Its sole purpose is to channel excess water from the lake to the Atlantic Ocean.”

SFWMD timeline

In closing, there is some good historical news, if you click on the blueprints above and study them you will see that in the design work for 1913 there was a proposed canal from Lake Okeechobee trough the Loxahatchee to Lake Worth. Boy they are lucky that canal was never built.

After a long drive, Ed is reflected while taking my picture in front of the Florida State Archives, 2022.


A Florida River, St Lucie 1950-2050?

Looking up the North Fork of the St Lucie River towards what became Port St. Lucie 1957, Ruhnke Collection, courtesy Sandra Thurlow.

A Florida River, A Look at Wildlife 1950, by E.W. Dutton.

“This film shows a trip down the St. Lucie River with E.W. Dutton. Viewers see gators, blue herons, and many plants and flowers. The film also shows a red-shoulder hawk, sandhill crane, armadillo, black bear and cub, rattlesnake, land crab, and a gator being fed by hand. “Now a NO! NO! “Viewers see pelicans, mullet, cormorant, deer and a Florida panther.” ~Florida Memory.

Click on arrow below or the link here to view short film. 

Recently, my mother sent me this wildlife video filmed by E.W. Dutton, well known for his work of the St Lucie River and for area Chambers. His films bring one back to a time when not as many people lived here, and wildlife was prolific including animals unable to live along the river today such as deer, bears, and panthers. At this time the North Fork was a game sanctuary and conservation laws were respected in the South Fork.

E.W. Dutton, Ruhnke-Thurlow Collection

Wikipedia shows the population of St Lucie County as 20,180 in 1950.

And the population of Martin County as 7,807 in 1950.

The UF Bureau of Economic and Business Research projected population leads me to think that by 2050 there may no wildlife left anywhere in the region of the St Lucie River unless we curb development, work to “wild” our yards, work to live with wildlife rather that eradicate it, get more serious about highway over and underpasses and promoting and supporting the Florida Wildlife Corridor, including parts of Martin and St Luice County. Let’s make 2023 a turn in that direction! Kudos to the Loxa-Lucie Headwaters Initiative in Hobe Sound that added lands this year.


St Luice County:  1950 population 20,180; 2020, 329,226; high projected  population by 2050, 601,400.

Martin County:  1950 population 7,807; 2020, 158,431; high projected population by 2050 – 277,700.

*Sources: Wiki and UF Bureau of Economic and Business Research

12-27-22 bio E. W. Dutton

Draining Palm City

My recent blog post featuring my brother Todd’s time capsule flight of Palm City 1966 Then & Now received great interest. So today I am going to take the subject a bit further in our study of area canals that drain wetlands into the St Lucie River.

If you have never seen the 1940s Aerial Photos UF Collection, you must! These historic aerials were taken when the United States had new-spy plane technology. They are our earliest comprehensive, aerial wetland accounts of Martin County, St Lucie County, and all of central and southern Florida. (All the dark in the photos is little ponds and sloughs!)

Just recently, through the help of archivists at the South Florida Water Management District, I was able to verify important historic information regarding canals C-23, C-24 and C-25. Again, these canals were constructed as part of the Central and Southern Florida Plan after the great flood of 1947. What is most interesting is that these canals were dug atop already existing local drainage ditches…

According to the SFWMD:C-23: “Acquisition began in April 1951 and concluded in 1961. There was an existing creek and ditch known locally as the Bessey Creek Canal. The Corp’s As Built Survey is dated November 18, 1964.

*I would think this local ditch had been dug by the Palm City Drainage District.

C-24: Acquisition began in August 1958 and concluded in October 1962. There was a existing canal know as the Diversion Canal, which was under the jurisdiction of the North St Lucie River Drainage District and they converted their interest in the canal to the SFWMD in August 1958. The Corps’ As Built Survey dates June 22, 1962.

NO PHOTO for C-25. (1940 aerials do not contain the Belcher Canal as the plane did not fly that far north. There are later aerials of the Belcher Canals after 1940, but I am sticking with 1940 today! the Belcher Canal, now C-25 is starts in Ft Pierce at Taylor Creek dumping into IRL.)

C-25: Acquisition began in October 1949 and concluded in September 1962. There was an existing canal known as the Belcher Canal, which was under the jurisdiction of Fort Pierce Farms Drainage District and they converted their interest in the canal to the SFWMD in January 1961. The Corp’s As Built Survey is dated July, 8 1964.”

Full view 1940’s Aerials  1 & 2

For me,  it is important to know the history of these canals. The C-44 south, and connected to Lake Okeechobee is our greatest water quality nightmare, however C-23, C-24, and C-25 are also extremely destructive. Yes, they allowed great growth of agriculture and development,  but they, as all the canals of the Central and Southern Florida Plan continue to killing our environment and the wildlife that once flew, roamed, ran, hopped, and dug freely, not to mention water quality issues.

The ACOE and the SFWMD are in the process of Northern Everglades restoration through the Indian River Lagoon South component of CERP.  This is wonderful news! We must be mindful of this before we continue to allow more growth and development and more drainage within these lands.

Indian River Lagoon South an overview

C-23/25 Recevoir & STA under construction


SFWMD basin map for SLR showing C-canals draining lands into the SLR.

In Search of the Calusa 2

-Ed, Estero Bay, Lee County, FLIn Search of the Calusa 2-Mound Key to Marco Island, May 8-13, 2022.

In Calusa 1, Ed, Mindi, and I learned about villages of the Calusa that once existed right in downtown, Ft Meyers. Soon after, we visited an even more remarkable remnant, the Mound House seven miles away on Ft Meyers Beach.

Continuing our journey, we headed south along Estero Bay, an aquatic preserve connected to the Caloosahatchee River.  As Adrift’s draft was too deep, we viewed Calusa site #3, Mound Key Archeological State Park, from a distance. Archeologists have determined that “Mound Key” was the capital so to speak, the ceremonial center, of a sprawling Calusa Kingdom that influenced much of South Florida. Over centuries, high shell mounds and a grand canal were built on Mound Key by Calusa hands as explained in Trail of Florida’s Indian Heritage. Seeing the famous key from a distance was quite remarkable and really and gave me a reference point for the Calusa people and their travels throughout the remainder of the trip.

III. Mound Key

-Image Florida Museum

-Mindi and Ed lead Adrift through to Estero Bay

-Ft Meyers Beach and Estero Bay to Mound Key, Google Maps.

-Wider view: Ft Meyers to Marco Island, Google Maps.

IV. Marco Island

-Rounding into Marco Island, Gulf of MexicoThe boat trip to beautiful Marco Island, Calusa site #4, cradled in the Gulf of Mexico, was rough, but once we got there about six hours later, it was calm and beautiful. I knew -here as well- we could not experience Calusa culture first hand as its most famous archeological site is now developed and covered over  by the Olde Marco Inn. This photo below is close to this area.

Key Marco as documented in the Pepper -Hearst Expedition of 1886

The Key Marco/Marco Island’s story is fascinating. Around 1895, landowner, W. D. Captain Bill Collier, no relation to the famous Collier family, was living-subsiding-on Key Marco of today’s Marco Island. While digging on his property, he noticed artifacts. Serious artifacts. Shortly thereafter, anthropologist, Frank H. Cushing, sponsored by the Smithsonian, University of Pennsylvania, and William and Phoebe Hearst was called to excavate. The “Key Marco” location became one of the most famous North American archeological sites of all time as Cushing basically “unearthed remains of an entire Calusa village.”

-The Calusa used many beautiful and once abundant shells for various aspects of their amazing culture  -All photos are replicas of Cushing’s finds, Randell Research Center, JTL Most famous among the 1896 finds is the hard-wood, in tact, gorgeous “Key Marco Cat,” and many ceremonial masks that were painted by Wells M. Sawyer before they disintegrated or fell apart. Eventually, the artifacts, photos, watercolors, and drawings were split-up among well known institutions after Cushing’s death only four years later in 1900. Thus it is difficult to view them all in one place.

Thankfully, the most famous, the “Key Marco Cat” or “Panther Man God” is on loan from the Smithsonian to the Marco Island Historical Museum until 2026. You can learn more about the iconic Florida artifact by watching this video by Pat Rutledge, Executive Director of the Marco Island Historical Society with her guest, Curator of Collections, Austin Bell.

Unfortunately, Ed and I did not get to see the Marco Cat as I left Marco Island to attended a South Florida Water Management District governing board meeting in Key Largo. But Ed and I are planning a trip back to Marco Island to see the famous feline! This is a must! Our in Search of the Calusa tour is ending up being one of our all time favorite trips! So much to learn about our Florida!

Screen shot of slide via above link to video, Austin Bell.

-Not a replica. Image of Key Marco Cat or Panther Man God, Smithsonian Museum Florida Museum of Natural History reconstruction of  ancient Calusa chief/dolphin images-Ed meets a modern street dolphin while walking Marco Island -As you can see from this photo, Marco Island is built up today as is most of South Florida…-Advertisement for the Marco Cat at the Marco Island Historical Museum!-Goodbye Marco Island! Next stop Pine Island north of the Caloosahatchee River. Ed and I look forward to taking  you there for our final Calusa visit!

Memories of Maggy Hurchalla

On February 19, 2022, famed environmentalist Maggy Hurchalla passed away. I shared shortly after this time, that I had asked my historian mother, Sandra Henderson Thurlow, if I could see her, “Hurchalla file,” and she that handed me a box.

The box included news articles from the life of Maggy and of her family as well. Today I share some of what was in that box so that it is available to all as we remember the great environmental and controlled-growth heroine of Martin County.

Earlier News Articles and Columns

Al Burt’s Florida, “Scrub Pines & Saw Palmettos,” Maggy Hurchalla


Stuart News, Edward Filo, Maggy In For 4th Term, (Pg. 1)


 PBP, Janet’s Little Sister, Carolyn Fretz


Political mail-out Maggy Hurchalla 


Stuart News, Hurchalla Reflects, Dan McCue


Stuart News, National Award, Jim Turner


 Stuart News, Maggy Hurchalla,”IRL Poster Child for Everglades Restoration”


PBP, Hurchalla Lauded for Everglades Work, Jennifer Sorentrue


PBP, Maggy’s Development Fears, Michael Browning


Maggy Hurchalla’s speech, “Sugarland Rally” 

O-2013 (1)

Stuart News, Hurchalla Fighting to Protect Her World, Sade Gordon

O-2013 (2)

Stuart News, Reno Remembered as Janny, Tyler Treadway

O-2016 (1)

PBP, Growing Up With Janny, Staff Report 


Various articles/publications, “Maggy & Lake Point”

Authors include Lisa Broadt, Eve Samples, Kimberly Miller, Gil Smart, Patricia Mazzei, Mellissa Holsman and Donald Rodriguez.

O-2018 (1) O-2018 (2) O-2018 (3) O-2018 (4) O-2018 (5) O-2018 (6) O-2018 (7) O-2018 (8) O-2018 (9) O-2018 (10) O-2018 (11) O-2019 (1) O-2019 (2)O-2019 (4) O-2019 O-2021 O-2022 (1)O-2022 (5)

Maggy’s passing

Stuart News, Max Chesnes and Lamaur Stancil

O-2022 (3)

Stuart News, Blake Fontenay


Family Obituary of Maggy Hurchalla

O-2022 (4)

Articles on Maggy’s mother, reporter, Jane Reno, and sister, U.S. Attorney General, Janet Reno

1979, TROPIC, Andy Taylor (incomplete)


1979, TROPIC, Robert Hardin


Maggy Hurchalla, 2015, Capitol Steps Tallahassee, “swimming in solidarity fish” in the fight for no harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges to the St Lucie River, created by artist Janeen Mason. (Photo, JTL)

Sandra Henderson Thurlow’s full list of articles. As I wanted to focus on Maggy, not all articles were used in this post. Reno/Hurchalla-amazing family! 

1979, March 11, TROPIC, Andy Taylor, “Calamity Jane”

1979, March 11, TROPIC, Robert Hardin, “Reno: Year One,”

1983, July 12, PBP, “Newspaper Pages a Treasure Trove for Miami Family, 1984, “Scrub Pines & Saw Palmettos,” Al Burt, MH,

1984, July 22, MH, R. A. Zaldivar “Reno sticks to low-key defense of job as prosecutor,”

1984, Sept. 19, MH, Margaret Landers, A Model Comes Home (Hunter Reno)

1985, March 10, MH, Margaria Fichtner, “Janet Reno”

1986, Nov. 5, SN, Edward Filo, “Maggy in for 4th Term.”

1987, January, Mademoiselle, Hunter Reno on cover

1988, Oct. 2, “Democrats whoop it up,” Photo with Buddy McKay

1991, June 7, SN, Edward Filo, “Alleged assault by Hurchalla investigated”

1992, Dec. 23, SN “Jane W. Reno,” obituary

1993, Feb 11, Prodigy, “Clinton Taps Miami Prosecutor to be Attorney General.”

1993, Feb. 14, PBP, Carolyn Jay Wright, “Janet Reno, Jane’s Daughter”

1993, Feb. 20, “Reno’s song,” (rapper Anquette’s “Janet Reno”)

1993, July 12, Time Magazine cover story, “Reno the Real Thing”

1993, June 12, PBP, Carolyn Fretz, “Janet’s Little Sister”

1993, March 29, People Magazine, “’General Janny Baby’”

1993, March 9, SN, “Demos want smooth sailing in Reno confirmation hearings”

1993, May2, Parade, Barbara Gordon, “Let’s Not Mix Things Up”

1994, Fifth Term Mailing with eight articles

1994, December, USAir Magazine, Rudy Maxa, “For Janet Reno, home will always be the wood-and-brick house that her mother built in Dade County, Florida?

1995, May 15, The New Yorker, Peter J. Boyer, “Children of Waco,”

2000, Feb. 13, SN, Dan McCue, “Hurchalla reflects on past battles in politics,”

2000, November 19, Parade, PBP, Peter Maas, “’I’ve Tried To Do My Best,’”

2001, Jan.22, SN, Terry Spencer, “Janet Reno back in Miami, but has little to say,”

2003, April 12, PBP, Jennifer Sorentrue, “Hurchalla lauded for Everglades work”

2003, May 20, SN, Maggy’s speech in Washington D. C.-

2003, April 8, 2003. SN, Jim Turner, “Hurchalla receives national award.”

  1. Jan.9, PBP, Michael Browning, “Maggy’s Developing Fears.”

2012, July 12, MH, Elinor J. Brecher, “Robert Reno, brother of former U. S. Attorney General dies.”

2013, March 17, TCN, Sade Gordon,  Hurchalla fighting to protect her world”

2013, Sept. 1, “Sugarland,” speech by Maggy Hurchalla

2014, Nov. 22, SN “Mark Wood Reno,” obituary

2016, Nov, 8, PBP, Carl Hulee,“Janet Reno 1938-2016 First female attorney general endured major controversies.”

2016, Nov. 8, TCPalm, Tyler Treadway, “Reno remembered as ‘Janny’ by sister in Stuart.”

2016, Nov. 8, USA Today, Jane Omyanga-Omora and Kevin Johnson, “Janet Reno, first female US attorney general, dies,”

2016, Nov. 8, PBP, “Growing up with ‘Janny’”

2018, Feb. 13, USA Today, Lisa Broadt, “Hurchalla trial goes into its second week.”

2018, Feb. 14, USA Today, Lisa Broadt, “Hurchalla takes stand in civil trial.”

2018, Feb. 15, PBP, Kimberly Miller, “Mining firm wins $4.3M judgement,”

2018, Feb. 15, USA Today, Lisa Broadt, “Hurchalla found liable, must pay $4.4 million.”

2018, Feb. 4, USA Today, Eve Samples, Hurchalla heads to trial against

2018, Feb. 6, USA Today, Lisa Broadt, “Hurchalla Case Begins.”

2018, Feb. 7, USA Today, Lisa Broadt, Opening statements in Hurchalla case.”

2018, Feb. 8, USA Today, Lisa Broadt, “Lake Point lost millions because of Hurchalla, company contends.”

2018, July 18, PBP Kimberly Miller, “Ex-Martin official loses car, kayaks in judgement.”

2018, July 22, USA Today, Gil Smart, “’I will not be destroyed,’ says defiant Hurchalla.”

2018, Sept. 30, USA Today, Lisa Broadt, “Sierra Club, ACLU continue fight for Hurchalla.”

2019, Aug 9, Maggy Hurchalla 2020, Email “Lake Point Escape.”

2019, June 20, PBP, Kimberly Miller, The $4.4M email: Ruling goes against

2019, June 21, TCPalm, Melissa E. Holsman, “Hurchalla loses $4.4M appeal to 4th DCA.”

2019, June 9, USA Today, Maggy Hurchalla, “Fixing Lake O levels means sharing pain.”

2019, March 11, PBP Kimberly Miller, “Environmentalist’s $4.4M appeal: Influential emails versus protected speech.”

2019, Nov. 25, News Services of Florida, Jim Saunders, High court could decide fate of Reno homestead.”

2019, Sept. 8, New York Times, Patricia Mazzei, “2019The Florida Activist is 78. The Legal Judgement Against Her is $4 Million.”

2020, April 15, USA Today, Melissa Holsman, “State Supreme Court rejects Hurchalla appeal.”

2020, April 16, Hobe Sound Currents, Barbara, “No Surprise in High Court’s Ruling on Maggy Hurchalla’s Appeal.”

2020, Jan.12, USA Today, Melissa E. Holsman, Maggy Hurchalla’s appeal denied by Supreme Court.”

2020, June 16, Maggy Hurchalla, “The Merrill-Lynch Bull.”

2022, Feb. 19, USA Today, Max Chesnes and Lamaur Stancil, Environmental advocate Maggy Hurchalla dies at 81.”

2022, Feb. 19, “Margaret Reno Hurchalla,” obituary

2022, Feb. 23, USA Today, Blake Fontenay, “For activist Hurchalla, ‘fighting the good fight’ never ended.”

2022, Hometown News, Donald Rodrigue, “Martin County loses Maggy Hurchalla.”



Everglades Coalition Conference #EVCO22

The 37th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference took place at Hawk’s Cay in Duck’s Key, January 6-8 2022. I’ve attended almost all of the conferences since 2012 and this year’s was another one for the history books: Everglades Restoration: “Investing in a Climate Resilient Future.”

I am sharing all pages that include the program schedule and award winners. You can reference full program from above link. I will also include various photographs, and a my phone’s video of legend, Mr Dick Pettigrew’s acceptance speech – He was awarded the “Hall of Fame” award. He is 92 years old and still going strong! What a wonderful conference. 

It was impressive to see almost the entire SFWMD board and executive staff in attendance and the ACOE’s Col. Jamie Booth, and LTC Todd Polk – along with ACOE staff. So many participants from so many perspectives! We are listening and all have the same goal: to adapt and restore America’s Everglades.

-Martin County legend  Mark Perry, was awarded the Conservation Award (Ed and JTL, Nancy and Mark Perry, Eve Samples)

Historic look at EVCO through the years! 

-Rev. Houston Cypress was awarded the Grassroots Award (w/Eva Velez USACOE)Dr Evelyn Gaiser was awarded the Public Service Award

-Various photo gallery, sorry I have not named all, will try later!

-Photos of presentation slides and gallery photos

-Mr. Dick Pettigrew Hall of Fame awardee (L) with Ernie Cox

Dick Pettigrew’s acceptance speech


-Below: Old friends reunited! Dick Pettigrew, Maggy Hurchalla, James Murley, Kim Taplin, Rock Salt, Daniella Levine Cava.

A River Kid Grows Up – Veronica Dalton

If there is any child that epitomizes the River Kidz  movement, it is Veronica Dalton. The date was August 3, 2013, and Ed and I were out of town. We were somewhere in North Carolina when my phone started blowing up. “There is going to be a Lost Summer protest at St Lucie Locks and Dam. Surfer, Evan Miller, put a Facebook invite, and over 5000 people are coming!”“Holy cow Ed!” I said. ” I can’t believe we’re gone for this. The River Kidz need to be part. What should I do? There is this newer member, she has written her speeches out before the group for other events, Veronica Dalton. I’m going call her parents, Tammy and John and next, Rivers Coalition leader, Leon Abood, and see if Veronica will do it.” Her parents put Veronica on the phone. Leon supported.

The rest is history.

Eleven year old Veronica Dalton, a student at Port Salerno Elementary School, in her own words- spoke before a crowd of over 5000 people. In the photos sent to me, I could see the crowd loved her and she was beaming!“She has never been nervous about public speaking since,” I am told by her parents John and Tammy Dalton of Stuart. Veronica graduated from South Fork High School’s  International Baccalaureate Program. She is now a Sophomore at the Department of Theatre at Florida State University in Tallahassee. I had a chance to catch up with her when she was home during the holidays in late December 2021.

JTL: “Veronica! Great to hear your voice. Tell me about yourself!”

Veronica: “So I’m a theatre major with the School of Theatre at FSU. I’m focusing on design production so I am more on the technical side of theatre and film. I’m learning to design costumes, build costumes. I took a welding class last semester. It’s all hands on work. I am presently working in the costume shop as a stichary, so I’m getting show credits for all of the productions being put on so far. I’ve joined in a non profit organization named MUSED PRODUCTIONS. The goal is to bring focus to artist in Tallahassee. We basically put on live music events that are themed. In April, we’re putting on a ball which is going to have a fashion show element to it as well. So I am the creative director of that event.”

JTL: “Very impressive! I know you were into theatre at South Fork as well. Has Covid waned a bit or is it still defining university?”

Veronica: “At least this year, 2021, it doesn’t seem to be as prominent as last year. FSU isn’t allowed to require students to wear mask so they just highly encourage wearing a mask and getting vaccinated. It’s been normalized now. In 2020 it was pretty intense, we had no in person classes, I was like doing performance theater in my bedroom in front of a camera. It was very strange. This this year having a personal connection is really nice.”

JTL: “Your River Kidz experience of your youth, are any of those skills translatable to what you are doing now?”

Veronica: “Well, yes. So all of the public speaking I did has prepared me to better articulate my ideas especially when I’m coming up with designs and then I have to present them to a director – getting my ideas across – and now I’m doing event management so I’m like really learning how to stay in conversation and host events and organize with other groups of people who have similar interest. So that’s all been very helpful. The communication aspect of River Kidz has really helped.”

JTL: “This makes me so happy Veronica. That’s the thing with skills such as public speaking, especially speaking before a political group, politician,  or a crowd, that is applicable to all things in life. It instills confidence.”

Veronica: “My end goal is to go into entertainment law and help costume designers and fashion designers have quality and equal pay – not living unworkable hours -start helping the economic side of theatre.

~”Also what I’ve I learned in the theatre and the fashion industry is that every thing is very wasteful. They have fast fashion brands like Sheen or Forever 21 that are over-utilizing resources abroad and it’s just causing more waste to be produced. I want to work for creating more sustainable fashion and sustainable fashion houses. We really need to start working on that. There’s so much that goes into it. There’s copyright law because Sheen is always stealing designs off of Instagram and selling them at a cheaper price and they are cheaply made. Usually, those outfits are only worn once or a few times  because they are poorly made and they end up in a dump and the cycle just continues.”

JTL: Wow, I would have never thought about that.”

Veronica: “There’s so much sustainability that needs to be brought into theatre and film just to keep it a sustainable art and not something that over time becomes difficult to do because we don’t have the resources we need.”JTL: “Wow the River Kidz recycling education is in you Veronica! I’m so proud! Do you have any words of wisdom for the next generation of River Kidz?”

Veronica: “It’s kind of cliche, but get out of your comfort zone. I say this…. It’s all because, the River Kidz, was an accident chance occurrence- you pushing me onto the stage to speak… 🙂

-Photos shared by Veronica of herself and her boyfriend Trey. Thank  you Veronica! 



Mom’s Christmas Gift: “Beyond the Fourth Generation”

Last night, I began reading the book, BEYOND THE FOURTH GENERATION, by Lamar Johnson. My mother gave me this 1974 book as a Christmas gift. On the package was written, “Recommended by Howard Ehmke.”

“Wow.”  I thought. “Mr Ehmke is an institution of the South Florida Water Management District, – forever – lead surveyor and mapper, and designer of the agency’s beloved logo.”

I read late into the night, and recognized early in chapter one, that author, Lamar Johnson’s childhood account of the 1921 Everglades was absolutely captivating and included an event that I had attended “100 years later,” -through the South Florida Water Management District in 2021.Lamar Johnson tells many incredible stories. The one that follows his dog, Lassie, getting dragged down deep to her death in the Miami Canal by a giant alligator includes his boyhood account of the murder of G.C. Douglas, the first Deputy Sheriff in Lake Harbor, once near Bare Beach, in Palm Beach County. As alluded to, I had been exposed to this story of the Deputy – and invited in August of 2021, to the 100 year later – memorial – by my parent’s dear friend, Chappy Young, GCY INC.

It really made the event come to life, reading “Beyond The Fourth Generation.” As I told my mother today, I worried about the incident within those times, as it was like the wild west. It remains a remarkable historical break-through that Deputy Douglas was researched and  honored along the banks of the old Miami Canal one-hundred years later. Thus, today, I share my photos from August 2021. You can learn more by watching the video at the end of this post.

-Group shot -SFWMD Board Members, Ben Butler, JTL,  and Exec. Dir. Drew Bartlett-Photos from the area, Lake Harbor, just east of Clewiston along Lake Okeechobee. -The old Miami Locks. Lake Okeechobee met the canal here in 1921. -Location of event as shown on Google Maps, easy to see how the lake once reached this area and beyond during wet season, then flowed south through the River of Grass.-This Google Map close up shows the Old Miami Locks from above at Azalea Court and Weaver Lane; note width of original canal compared to today. Thankfully this has been preserved as a state historic site. -Arriving with Regional Rep. Sherry McCorkle -The Riderless Horse awaits its que -Getting ready to start the ceremony  -Looking around-People begin to gather -Family of Deputy Douglas-JTL -Ben Butler, Chappy Young, and JTL -Chappy and members of Douglas Family -Libby Pigman, Regional Rep. SFWMD -The ceremony begins   -Dog belonging to a member of the crowd, left its owner during gunshots, hiding in next to Ben Butler. So cute!