Tag Archives: Barrier Islands

Hutchinson Island’s Indian River Plantation, the Shifting Sands of Time, SLR/IRL

Hutchinson Island 1957
The barrier island of Hutchinson Island, 1957. Atlantic Ocean on left. Indian River Lagoon on right. Photo courtesy of Thurlow Archives.

The sands of time….shifting, reforming,  just like my childhood memories. 1977–Seventh grade—I remember riding my bike with my best friend, Vicki, out to Hutchinson Island. No  traffic. Along the way we would take our hands off the handle bars holding them over our heads, laughing and shouting “look mom!”

A veritable paradise and giant playground we left our bikes at Stuart Beach not locking them and jumped into the ocean.

This photo was taken in 1957, twenty years before Vicki and my bike ride, but it was still relatively undeveloped at that time. If my memory serves me correctly Indian River Plantation’s first condo, The Pelican, went up in 1976 and later in the 1980s the establishment filled out to its final glory. Later sold to the Marriott these lands, though altered, remain a beautiful part of Martin County with public beaches for all to enjoy.

I got ahold of this photo from my mother asking her what kind of vegetation pre-development was on the island. This was her reply:

“This aerial was taken on October 16, 1957. The causeway was under construction as were improvements to Stuart Beach. It is hard to tell what kind of trees are there. They were probably a variety of things, oak, salt bush, cabbage palms, palmetto and Australian pine. The later were growing at the House of Refuge at this time so they were no doubt popping up everywhere. It was “disturbed land” since patches of it had been cleared for farming. Mangrove would be growing along the water but I doubt they had reached inland yet. You can see the new piles of sand indicating mosquito ditches had recently been dug. Notice the little Beach Road.” Historian,  Sandra Henderson Thurlow

Thinking a bit more about this area I asked my brother, Todd Thurlow, if this area formed “the fan” because it was once an inlet, such as the Gap, he talks about so much. He sent me this:

“The steady forces of long shore drift have operated over the eons to produce not just the current BI and previous BIs such as the ACR on the mainland, but even the peninsula of Florida itself (Schmidt 1997). The strong linearity of the east central and southeast Florida coastline, its low fractal dimensionality (Rial n.d.), indicates the steadiness and consistent directionality of these forces. Chaotic events like storms, on the other hand, produce drastic BI and lagoonal modifications via overwash and tidal inlet cuts, and leave chaotic, or irregular (“squiggly”) backbarrier shorelines, the former producing overwash fans, and the latter producing flood tidal deltas (Figure 3-6).

Figure 4-19. Cartographic signatures of geomorphic stability and instability. Map to left is most north, right map is most south”

Alan Brech, NEITHER OCEAN NOR CONTINENT: CORRELATING THE ARCHAEOLOGY AND GEOMORPHOLOGY OF THE BARRIER ISLANDS OF EAST CENTRAL FLORIDA, 2004.
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Translation: Breaks occurring during storms create overwash fans. (e.g. IRP and Sailfish Point). Tidal inlets produce flood tidal deltas, somewhat like the old Gilberts Bar. BI = Barrier Island; ACR = Atlantic Coastal Ridge. —-Todd Thurlow, “Time Capsule Flights:”(https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDaNwdmfhj15bmGNQaGhog9QpkQPAXl06)
The shifting sands of time… So many wonderful memories, and so many more to make as times and sands continue to change.

IRP Marriott today, Google Maps.
IRP Marriott today, Google Maps 2015.
Wide view, red dot is IRP Marriott.
Wide view, red dot is IRP Marriott 2015. Sewall’s Point east.

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The IRP Marriott today/photos:(http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/pbiir-hutchinson-island-marriott-beach-resort-and-marina/)

Sailfish Point’s Seawall “in the Sea”… St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

The seawall at Sailfish Point  right next to the ocean. 7-26-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
The seawall at Sailfish Point’s Dunes Condominium is right next to the ocean. St Lucie Inlet lies beyond this point by about a quarter-mile. 7-26-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)

Yesterday afternoon, Ed and I had hoped to walk our dogs, Bo and Baron, to the St Lucie Inlet, but were cut off by an incoming tide and a Sailfish Point’s seawall. Having grown up  in Martin County, it is amazing to see such changes “right before my 50-year-old eyes…”

Of course when I was a kid there was no Sailfish Point development, no seawall, no apparent sea level rise, just the beach sun-flowered sand dunes and Bathtub Beach changing daily to the winds of time with the remnants of James Rand’s “Seminole Shores” development crumbling…

Today Sailfish Point is here. Its 625 homes are some of the most exclusive in the county. Built in the 1980’s it was developed by Mobile Oil Corporation. The area brings tremendous tax revenue to everyone and to every school in Martin County…if it washed into the sea there would be issues for all.
Sailfish Point: (http://www.sailfishpoint.com/martin-county/)

It must be noted that the St Lucie Inlet itself is responsible for some of this erosion…the inlet was opened permanently in 1892 by pioneers led by Captain Henry Sewall of Sewall’s Point. Naturally the inlet would open and close with tides and time. Opening the inlet permanently now defines our county, and we would not give it up;  but as all things in life: there are both positives and negatives to every action.

Today the waters of the ocean are encroaching….and time seems to be speeding up.

Building on barrier islands is not particularly long-term in that barrier islands are meant by nature to turn over on themselves like a conveyor belt. On the other hand, I have been to the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach and their seawall is right up to the historic hotel and has been for years….We stave off the ocean as long as we can. Much of Florida east coast is built on barrier islands…

What does the Bible say? “The wise man built his house upon a rock…”

Anyway….today I wanted to share Ed and my walk as it is symbolic of our times.

Google map showing Hutchinson Island with Sailfish Point south next to St Lucie Inlet. East is Atlantic Ocean and west is the Indian River Lagoon and Sewall's Point.
Google map showing Hutchinson Island showing St Lucie Inlet. Sailfish Point immediately north of inlet. East is Atlantic Ocean and west is the Indian River Lagoon and Sewall’s Point and St Lucie River.

Other than the surreal seawall and encroaching sea….there were many sea turtle nests, marked by the Fish and Wildlife Commission. Many turtles had laid their eggs right up against the seawall! Many of them! I counted at least 50 just in our short walk. Good for the turtles but it seems many nest are doomed to wash away… For thousands of years these turtles have returned to the beaches of their birth to lay eggs. Now many of them literally come up “against a wall.”

Turtle nest right up the seawall at Sailfish Point. 7-26-15.(Photo JTL)
Turtle nest right up the seawall at Sailfish Point. 7-26-15.(Photo JTL)
Turtle nest close to SP's seawall. (JTL)
Turtle nest close to SP’s seawall. (JTL)
Sea turtle nest. (JTL)
Sea turtle nest. (JTL)

I must mention that the people of Sailfish Point are also “up against a wall,” as they have to worry about their homes falling into the sea….Here one sees a sea wall repair taking place. I don’t think the sea wall is that old in the first place.

Home at Sailfish Point undergoing seawall repair. 7-16-15. (Photo JTL)
Home at Sailfish Point undergoing seawall repair. 7-26-15. (Photo JTL)
Ed looks inside sea wall being repaired. (Photo JTL)
Ed looks inside sea wall being repaired. (Photo JTL)

The most intense erosion seems to be the north area of Sailfish Point, closest to Bathtub Beach….and it is summer. This should be the time the ocean, sands and tides are most forgiving. Winter waves are much more brutal, unless there is a hurricane of course….

The other interesting anomaly Ed, Bo, and Baron and I experienced was the hundreds of sea hare mollusks that had washed up on shore. Ed Killer of TC Palm just wrote a great piece on these interesting, harmless creatures that scientists believe are washing ashore due to cold water upswells and algae shifts in the ocean–their swimming affected, they slow down and are carried to shore by the waves fated to dry out in the sun.

As Ed and I walked back I picked up as many as I could and threw them back into the ocean knowing that really I was only “buying them some time.” Chances are they will wash right back up on the shore. In the end, nature always wins. In time, we like the sea hares, will find this out , but until then it’s a great walk on the beach, isn’t it?

A sea rabbit that had washed ashore near Sailfish Point 7-26-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
One of hundreds of sea hare mollusks  that had washed ashore near Sailfish Point 7-26-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)

Video of sea hare: (https://youtu.be/_Oa_xeM67p0)

Ed stands with Bo and Baron in front of the seawall at Sailfish Point looking towards the sea....(Photo JTL)
Ed stands with Bo and Baron in front of the seawall at Sailfish Point looking towards the sea….(Photo JTL)

 

Playing  fetch with Bo and Baron, (Photo JTL)
Playing fetch with Bo and Baron, (Photo JTL)
Jacqui and Ed, Bathtub Beach, Stuart, Florida. 2015.
Jacqui and Ed, near Bathtub Beach, Stuart, Florida. 2015. We had fun even though the beach is not what it used to be….

THIS ADDITION CAME IN FROM MY BROTHER TODD: AMAZING!

Jacqui–

Interesting blog post!

In the meantime I thought I would respond to your post with a rough video of Sailfish Point while eating my lunch…..

 

Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TW8URTQG2o0&feature=youtu.be

(https://youtu.be/TW8URTQG2o0)
It is a movie of the following:
1. 1935 NOAA Chart – note the jetty already in place
2. 1940 Aerial
3. 1952 Aerial
4. 1968 Aerial – quick. I should have skipped it.
5. 1970 Aerial – note the old “Empire of the Ants” pier and the strange water slick to the south.
6. 1981 Aerial – showing the construction of Sailfish Point.

Look at these two screenshots of the beach just a few months apart late last year—-Todd Thurlow

Google image seawall is covered 8-12-14.
Google image seawall is covered 8-12-14.
Google image seawall is uncovered
Google image seawall is uncovered 12-2-14.

Sea Hares:(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aplysiomorpha)

Barrier Islands:(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barrier_island)

Human Causes of Coastal Erosion:(http://www.coastalwiki.org/wiki/Human_causes_of_coastal_erosion)

History of St Lucie Inlet jetty:(http://www.oceanscience.net/inletsonline/usa/doc/St._Lucie.htm)

Beach Re-nourishment vs. Mother Nature

Homes and Condos at Sailfish Point compromised by beach erosion-with newly constructed seawall, 2-12-14
Homes and Condos at Sailfish Point compromised by beach erosion-with newly constructed seawall and birm, 2-22-14.   (Photo JTL)

The trucks come in about once a year and dump millions of dollars worth of tax payer sand on Martin County beaches and other’s throughout our state. Then winter’s storms arrive and wash it back into the ocean, covering and damaging our nearshore reefs. But at least the turtles have a place to lay their eggs…?

Erosion is a natural part of all coastal barrier islands, in fact, time lapse photography would show these islands moving, like giant sea slugs, changing shape, due to  erosion and accretion, over time.

However, it is mostly the man made inlets that change the erosion pattern along our beaches and cause the issues we have today. http://martincountycoastal.org/program_projects.html 

Before modern man settled this area, inlets along the Indian River Lagoon came and went with the whims of Mother Nature. Looking at old maps, one sees documentation of changing  natural inlets over time. Jupiter and Indian River Inlet north of  Ft Pierce were the only long standing opening to the sea in our area most recently. Over thousands of years, others came and went, all along the lagoon. Peck’s Lake in Martin County broke through as recently as 1960 and was quickly “closed…” 

In 1892 in today’s Martin County, then Dade, Captain Henry Sewall’s inspired local men to dig a permanent inlet, by hand. My historian mother has  told me stories of other inlet attempts as well. According to her, one time, the men fell asleep after the exhausting dig, only to awake and find the tide coming in, filling in their work! One local’s pet raccoon was tied to a tree and taken away by the strong waters. Even today, Mother Nature want’s to fill back in the St Lucie Inlet, but we continue to resist her.

Very interesting is that “old maps” also show Jupiter Island on equal “terms” with Sailfish Point. But today Jupiter Island is much “further back” as she has eroded over time and been slowly swept into the sea. This remains an problem of enormous proportions today that is on the verge of law suit. Last year, the Army Corp of Engineers informed Martin County they wish to take the lovely textured, offshore sands of Stuart, to re-nourish,  Dade and Broward Counties beaches. Unbelievable…

The inlets give us access to the ocean, they raise the value of our property, they were and could be again national defense.  Most timely for today, in the case of the St Lucie Inlet,  it allows the putrid waters slugging forth during rainy season from C-23; C-24 ; C-44; and worst of all from Lake Okeechobee, to go to sea.

There are those who believe we should let the inlet close up;  and there are many who believe we should fill in the canals; there are those who believe the inlet is what defines Martin County and we should do everything to keep her open. Hmm…

One thing for sure, fighting Mother Nature is a full time job.