Tag Archives: Boyer Survey

Lake Shells Tell, the Eastern Beach of Lake O was Miraculous Indeed!


With time on my hands, I have started rereading “The Boyer Survey: An Archaeological Investigation of Lake Okeechobee” by Christian Davenport, Gregory Mount and George Boyer, Jr., written in 2011 and begun in 2006. I have written extensively on this publication  before and find it one of the best historical accounts of our Great Lake Okeechobee.

What got me thinking about it again was a recent visit with my husband and our dog Luna. While we were there, I saw the wide exposed eastern shoreline of Lake Okeechobee for the very first time. Due to a lake level of about 11.70 feet on April 5th, part of the shoreline was beach like and exposed. I felt compelled to walk on it, and dreamt of what the surrounding may have looked like hundreds of years ago. Of course a true ancient shoreline would have been located further east. Drainage, the Herbert Hoover Dike, and Conners Highway give the illusion that things “always looked this way.” 

I was struck by the multitude of small clams shells and snail shells covering the entire shoreline. Some appeared ancient and others not. In any case, I had never seen them before either. They were beautiful even though some were draped in blue-green algae. It was a rare experience. I even found a green piece of “sea-glass along the beach!”

So back to the Boyer Survey. Today for some insight on Lake O’s ancient beach, we will review the  Chapter 1, Introduction, of the Boyer Survey. The first paragraph reads: 

“The circumstances that led to the Boyer Survey of Lake Okeechobee began in the fall of 2006. South Florida water managers lowered the level of Lake Okeechobee behind the Herbert Hoover Dike in anticipation of a predicted severe hurricane season accompanied by a potentially unprecedented amount of rainfall. Neither the hurricanes not the rainfall materialized. In fact, a severe drought set in. This lowered water levels throughout south Florida and combined with the already lowered water levels of Lake Okeechobee, reduced the lake’s depth from a normal  5.49 to 6.10 m (18-20 feet) to a record low of 2.69m (8.8 feet). (Obviously this the ACOE was not following LORS 2008 at this time.)

A concerned citizen called Palm Beach County in February 2007 to report that ancient human remains and artifacts were exposed on the lakebed…

The Boyer Survey project area is situated in the southeast section of Lake Okeechobee encompassing about 42,092 square miles.  

…The lake is a low lying basin with unique features near its south end that helped shape and contain it. These include the Okeechobee Ridge, the Southern Ridge the Spillover Lands, and the fossilized coral ridge. 

The Okeechobee Ridge is a sand ridge that extends from the Martin County /Palm Beach county line to just north of Pahokee. This ridge is thought to represent an old shoreline of the lake. The only place there is a gap in the ridge is around the modern hamlet of Sand Cut. Smith (1848) stated only the eastern shore of Lake  Okeechobee was well defined by a hard sand shore….

A lower lake has positive and negative effects. Let’s look at one that is positive. While it has been documented by the ACOE and SFWMD that record amounts of submerged aquatic vegetation are growing in the north western and western areas of Lake Okeechobee, the eastern shoreline is ailing as the photos below document.

 I do hope that one day there will be more of an effort to create a modern eastern shoreline, an Okeechobee Ridge, that mimics the ancient lake okeechobee shoreline as referred to in the historic Lake Okeechobee account of the Boyer Survey. As the lake shells tell, the Okeechobee Ridge is there, somewhere. The eastern beach of Lake Okeechobee must have been miraculous indeed! 


Rebuilding Lake Okeechobee, Leaving Some Clues For the Next Generation, SLR/IRL

With my niece Evie Flaugh at Women of Distinction 2018. Evie was recognized for co-founding River Kidz seven years ago.

I hope everyone had a happy Mother’s Day yesterday! One of our “around the table” family discussions went like this:

Jacqui:” I’m getting a new headshot this week because now my hair is gray.”

Sister Jenny: “Why? Are you running for office?”

Jacqui:” No, not now. But I want my blog photo to look like me.”

Sister Jenny: “Why!” 🙂

Whether it’s my hair, or our natural landscape, things are always changing! I think it’s important to let young people, like my niece Evie, Jenny’s daughter, almost 18 and entering the world,  know what our natural landscape looked like “before,” as they will be dealing with water issues we can’t even imagine.

One of the least documented changes of Florida is the demolition of the pond apple belt of Lake Okeechobee. I hope in time, the younger generation finds a way to recreate its original natural purpose that was to strain, slow down, and clean the lake water flowing south into the sawgrass plains of the Everglades. Another benefit was flood protection. Nature’s adapted protections out-do mankind’s every time…

Full image, Lake O pond apple belt. The Boyer Survey: An Archaeological Investigation of Lake Okeechobee, 2011.

The pond apple belt today is gone, replaced by the cities/areas of  Port Mayaca, South Bay, Belle Glade, Pahokee, and Clewiston. The pond apples were torn out to access the value muck soil beneath them. Google Earth image.

In pre-drainage times, the  original features of Lake Okeechobee helped contain it. There was the Okeechobee Sand Ridge; the Southern Ridge; the Spillover Lands;  and the fossilized coral ridge.

The Sand Ridge extended from Martin County to Palm Beach County ~just north of Pahokee. There was a cut in this ridge where water could more easily escape east at today’s historic village of Sand Cut along the eastern shoreline. Archaeologists believe this Sand Ridge running along the lake was an old shoreline. It is stated in the research of the Boyer Survey, An Archaeological Investigation of Lake Okeechobee, by Christian Davenport, Gregory Mount and George Boyer Jr., that only the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee was “defined by a sand shore.” Today the Army Corp has built a dike along and over this sand shore with the addition of extra boulders for protection. Very unattractive. The original pond apple forest would not just have been more lovely, but would have helped in times of storms ~ similar to how mangroves, even in front of a seawall, do today.

The Southern Ridge was a high muck ridge that had formed at the southern end of the lake and was located in a “massive belt of pond apple trees.” This forest was completely mowed-down to access the deep muck for agricultural purposes. It was 32,000 acres! (Lawrence E. Will) The towns of *Port Mayaca, Pahokee, Belle Glade, South Bay, and Clewiston south today’s Lake Okeechobee are located in what was once the pond apple forest. Surreal, isn’t it?

These trees grow closely together and can get very large. They have weird roots kind of like mangroves. My husband Ed and I bought a lot along Overlook Drive in Stuart and oddly or interestingly enough in this area there are pond apple trees. According to the study, the original lands of Lake Okeechobee sloped towards the lake, meaning the lake  would have been as much as two miles wider during periods of  high water. (The forest and the shape of the land held the water in the lake.) Along the southern edge “dead rivers” cut through this muck ridge and were the primary outlet during times of high waters. (Boyer Survey)

Pond apple

Giant pond apple trunk, near Overlook Drive in Stuart, FL.2017.JTL

Florida Memory photo, pond apples belt at rim of dead river/creek. John Kunzel Small 1869-1938.

Spillover Lands was the archeological term for the lower-sawgrass plains extending beyond the southern side of the pond apple forest. Here sheet flow was created that moved and melded into the Everglades, basically a littoral marsh.

By the way the “dead rivers” were anything but dead, some very deep and very long. The word “dead” was applied as some of the original explores could not find “the end,” and I believe this word suits today’s powers well as the word “dead” makes one think they had no life. The complete opposite is the truth. They were full of life! All the animals of the Everglades, including hundreds of birds colonies lived in these areas that were completely DESTROYED.

The final formation mentioned in the Boyer Survey is an ancient Fossilized Coral Ridge (Reef)  that runs from approximately Okeelanta to Immokalee. In pre-drainage times, this muck covered reef caused a higher elevation that is thought to have helped retain some of the water within the Spillover Lands during times of low water. Hmmm? Another Nature feature that works better than our manmade ideas for drought protection today – deep well injection, and other brilliant ideas….

Well, I hope you enjoyed today’s lesson! And I hope some young people like my niece Evie in the photo at the beginning of this blog read this post some day. Gray hair can be dyed or glorified, but the natural features of Lake Okeechobee in the heart of Florida, they must be rebuilt as part of today’s modern eco-system.

River Kidz workbook 2, “mythical pond apple forest,”
Julia Kelly, 2014.

Former posts on the Pond Apple Forest, JTL:

Agriculture’s Eradication of the Mythical Pond Apple Forest, Lake Okeechobee,SLR/IRL: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/pond-apple-tree/

What the Muck? SLR/IR: Lhttps://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/historic-pond-apple-forest/

Remembering Lake Okeechobee’s Moon Flower This Easter, SLR/IRL: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/moonvine/

1850s map of Florida