Tag Archives: Canal Point

The Swing-Bridge Between Us,#GladesCoastMatters, SLR/IRL

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Original locks at Canal Point WPB Canal, JTL
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WPB Canal built in 1917 at Canal Point, JTL

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Survey marker on original lock at Canal Point, WPB Canal. JTL
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The beautiful iron and wood work on the original lock at Canal Point’s WPB Canal.
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Pictured here: The original lock at Canal Point. I think this should be restored as a historic landmark as it was built in 1917 as part of the WBP canal and basically set us on the path we are today and is also a symbol of where we can go. The man on this lock reminded me of the story of the shared swing-bridge at Torry Island that once was part of the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart. This will be the subject of today’s post.

2016 has been an incredible year, and 2017 will be as well. In 2016, both Lake Okeechobee and the St Lucie River blew up with toxic algae, and #GladesLivesMatter was established as a voice for a way of life that could be lost…

As far as 2017, as I write this post, deals are being cut, and advocates on both sides are working to get legislative support for their positions. But during this season of light, may we also remember our interests, as they hold things we share in common rather than apart: a Healthy Lake Okeechobee and St Lucie River, as well as Local Economic Prosperity for All  are certainly goals both the Glades and the Coast desires…right now, in most areas of our combined worlds, this does not exist…

Yesterday, I toured the Glades once again with former Pahokee mayor, J.P. Sasser, someone I don’t always agree with, but definitely get along with. Someone who is teaching me a ton about the Glades, a history linked to my history, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon….

Along the journey, a noteworthy thing happened right of the bat at Canal Point, our first stop. Here, I met an older gentleman fishing along the original locks of the historic West Palm Beach Canal. As I was taking photos, I thought I should introduce myself.

“Hello,” I said, extending my hand.

“Hello.”

“Catching much?” I asked.

“Not today, but usually, yes.”

“Do you live around here?” I inquired.

“No, Tequesta.”

“Wow Tequesta? That’s pretty far away…”

“Not really,” he said. “Maybe thirty minutes. I used to come here with my father in the 1950s.”

“That’s cool.”

“And where are You from?” He inquired.

“Stuart.”

The fishing line bobbed in the water. I saw noticed a dead gar fish float by. The water doesn’t look so good, I thought.

“Have things changed a lot?” I asked.

“Yes they have,” he said, “but not a lot out here at Canal Point. That’s why I come.”

An alligator silently swam the shoreline…

“You know  your bridge is here.” the fisherman softly said,” pulling on the line.

“Wow, funny you should know that…my mom…she’s a historian. Torry Island right? They used part of the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart to build out in here in Belle Glade in 1938. It’s still here today…a swing-bridge….right?”

He looked at me holding his gaze. “Right young lady, the bridge is here….”

J.P. called from the car. The fisherman and I locked eyes.

“The bridge is here.” I repeated.”The bridge is here.”

As we drove away, I wrote something on my notepad: “2017 #GladesCoastMatters … ”

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Torry Island Bridge is located in Belle Glade about a 15 minute drive around Lake O from Canal Point.

“The story of the bridge’s origins flow smoothly from Corbin… The 1928 hurricane that ravaged the Glades set in motion the chain of events that would bring the bridge to Belle Glade. The storm destroyed the original dike that surrounded the lake. To build the replacement dike, the federal government spooned out a canal, separating Torry Island from Belle Glade, and used the dirt for the dike. The new canal, called the Okeechobee Waterway, needed a bridge. In 1938, state contractors built the Point Chosen Bridge, replacing a pontoon bridge with a swing bridge that was built in 1916 and relocated from the St. Lucie River near Stuart. The bridge consisted of the movable portion and wooden trestles on each end.” Associated Press article, 2009.

Link to story: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/torry-island/

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my readers! See you in 2017!

Jacqui

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This is the swing bridge that used to be in Stuart on the Roosevelt Bridge but is now part of the Torry Island Bridge in the city limits of Belle Glade.
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Torry Island, Belle Glade.
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The swing-bridge looking across the rim canal around Torry Island.
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The Bridge Between Us…
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JP and JTL.
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J.P.’s bumper sticker

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My bumper sticker/s
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Historic map of the Glades showing cities. Canal Point upper left and Belle Glade further west and south. WPB canal is in Canal Point and the Torry Island Bridge is in Belle Glade.

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Knowing the Hurricane Disaster Map of Lake Okeechobee, Road Trip, SLR/IRL

As you know, we are on a Road Trip. We are driving through not only to learn about the Glades, but also to learn about ourselves. Whether we realize it or not, we are all connected. We are related by history, by the drainage of the Everglades, and by a “better water future” we have no choice but to build together.

This map  of the Glades is from the Florida Memory Project. It maps flood damage from two great hurricanes. Notice that the 1926 Hurricane damaged mostly the western part of the lake near Moore Haven, where as the 1928 Hurricane most intensely hit the eastern communities around Belle Glade. The towns/areas of Canal Point, Pahokee, Bacom Point, Belle Glade, South Bay, Lake Harbor, Bare Beach, Clewiston, Moore Haven and Newell all had to rebuild. “Chosen” near Belle Glade was chosen to be lost…

 

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These past hurricanes define the history and the nature of some of the people of the Glades. The ones who “made-it” are survivors beyond anything we can possibly envision.

As Mr Lawrence E. Will an old family, a  politician,  and a prolific writer from the area wrote in HURRICANE:

“One word describes it. It was Hell. A raging inferno of rolling, swirling waters, of shrieking, demoniac winds, of lashing rain and of darkness, black and absolute. There were no atheists that night on the shores of Okeechobee! Then for the those still living came the second phase of hell; the phase of desolation and despair; of searching in the flooded woods and marshes, in elder clumps and sawgrass for the horrible remains of family and friends and neighbors; of loading them into trucks by unending scores; and finally of burning them in help of dozens when they could no longer be transported. It is hard to know which hell was worse…”

As we know in the 1930s the Herbert Hoover Dike was built to avoid such a disaster from happening again…but there is always the question of whether it will or not. It is dangerous to live on the low side of a dike.

As advocates of the St Luice River/Indian River Lagoon, we must be sensitive when discussing Senate President Joe Negron’s proposal for 60,000 acres to be purchased south of the lake to store, convey and move water south to the Everlgades. One can see how shouts of “Send the Water South” may send some people living south of the lake “over the edge…”

We must always make clear that when discussing Everglades resoration and improved health of the St Lucie River/Indin River Lagoon, safety, and economic prosperty for the Glades communties comes first. We know and respect their past…

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Chosen: http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/chosen

Hurricanes: http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/-hurricane

Our Honest Law-Breaker Common Ancestor, The Real McCoy. SLR/IRL& Glades

1921

 

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Bill McCoy

Glades Road Trip Series: 

Remember phone books?

When looking through old ones you can find clues to Martin County’s historical ties with The Glades. Finding things in common is important as we work to improve relations, communications, and our waters.

My mother, historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow, came across this ad, when looking in a 1921 Stuart City Directory. She writes: “The McCoy Brothers became rum-runners and owned what is now Sailfish Point. What is interesting to me is that in the 1920s, they were taking passengers and freight across the state through Lake Okeechobee via the West Palm Beach Canal.”

As we are learning from our Road Trip series, the West Palm Beach Canal was built in 1917 and intersects with Lake Okeechobee at Canal Point. What we might not know is that the McCoy’s Hutchinson Island land then known as “Coral Strand” became today’s Sailfish Point.

The brothers knew and loved the St Lucie Inlet area well enough to buy this land and establish their business there. The “Everglades Line” was probably one of many. Perhaps the brothers drank ice tea on their way from Sailfish Point down the Indian River Lagoon to Lake Worth’s entrance to the West Palm Beach Canal and through Lake Okeechobee? Although they were famous rum-runners, the most well-known brother, Bill, did not drink!

His obituary notes:

William Frederick McCoy (1877 – December 30, 1948): Bill McCoy was an American sea-captain and rum runner smuggler during the Prohibition in the United States. In running alcohol from the Bahamas to the Eastern Seaboard, he became world-famous as his merchandise was uncut and clean. Thus the saying the “Real McCoy.” McCoy himself never touched liquor and was considered an “honest law-breaker.” He also took pride in the fact that he never paid organized crime, politicians, or law enforcement for protection.

I think we can consider Bill McCoy a Glades/Martin County honest law-breaker common ancestor. “The Real McCoy” a symbol and foundation for building better relations from the Coast to the Glades?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t  think of a better place to start. 🙂

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Map of Canals 1924 Florida Archives.
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1950 map by Ben McCoy of the “Coral Strand” and its riches, today known as Sailfish Point.
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South Hutchinson Island aerial showing mosquito ditches through mangroves and other vegetation. 1952 courtesy of Thurlow Archives.
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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.
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Lake Okeechobee.

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The Seeds of U.S. Sugar’s Success, Canal Point, SLR/IRL

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Sugar ration ad WW1

Before we begin today’s lesson, two major changes must be recognized. First after almost a year, the ACOE halted the destructive Lake Okeechobee discharges to the St Lucie River. These releases began January 29th, and lasted through November 4th, 2016.

And on Tuesday, November 8th, Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election over Hillary Clinton, an election considered the most remarkable and unpredictable in over 100 years…

Now back to our Road Trip series:

Most recently we have traveled to Canal Point, the first town south of the Martin County line on the east side of Lake Okeechobee. This almost forgotten little town has an amazing history, and holds the seeds of today’s expansive Everglades Agriculture Area and of  United States Sugar Corporation itself.

The easiest way to take this drive through history is a timeline. So let’s crank up the car and begin!

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Connors’ Hwy 1920s Florida Memory

1914-1918 – World War 1. Sugar rationing across the nation.

1917- The West Palm Beach Canal is constructed, intersecting at Canal Point, allowing transportation of goods and internal land development around Lake Okeechobee

1918-After the war, Congress holds hearings about concerns that the county should “never again” get into a position where domestic sugar production is just 1.7 billion. The United States Department of Agriculture opens a sugarcane research central at Canal Point that still operates today-a hundred years later.

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Original USDA lab/office, Canal Point (Wiki)
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2016

1920- The American Legion and Federation of Women’s Clubs mount a national lobbying campaign against the high price of sugar. West Palm Beach chapters lead in support of the effort.

1920- Englishman, F.E. Bryant, already a successful farming business man in Lake Worth, forms the Florida Sugar and Food Products Company working with G.T. Anderson at Canal Point. They buy land and build the first sugar mill by 1921 and encourage expanded sugar farming.

1922-Flooding of some cane fields…they plod on…

1923- 900 acres of sugarcane in Palm Beach County, 800 of it in Canal Point. This is a real success.

1924- Connors’ Highway constructed allowing access in and south of  Lake Okeechobee for more sugar farming and development

1924- More flooding of cane fields– a major set back so Bryant merges his faltering company into a “better capitalized” company in Clewiston. The name of this company is Southern Sugar Company.

1926- Hurricane

1926 Florida land booms slows, beginnings of the Great Depression for Florida

1928 Hurricane- an historic Category 4/5 hits Lake O area coming through West Plam Beach. Up to 3000 people die. Many are never found.

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Coffins at Canal Point, Florida Memory

1931 Businessman and General Motors executive, Charles Stewart Mott purchases Bryant’s failing Southern Sugar Company renaming it United States Sugar Corporation. This is the hugley successful and profitiable Clewiston “US Sugar Corporation” that we know today. http://www.ussugar.com

When I drove through Canal Point a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea that this little town held so much history. A history that eventually and unintentionally led to the diking of Lake Okeechobee and the destruction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

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S-352 at Canal Point/WPB Canal

*Thank you to the book Black Gold and Silver Sands, by James D Synder, and the Palm Beach Historical Society as sources.

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The Road of No Return, Connors’ Highway, Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

Fingy Conners, History’s Forgotten Villain

Video about Fingy Connors:https://www.buffalorising.com/2013/09/fingy-conners-historys-forgotten-villain/

Canal Point, the lake town just south of today’s Martin County line, was once an epicenter of life changing activity, a road trip there is no turning back from…

As we learned previously, in 1917, the construction of the West Palm Beach Canal created Canal Point, the town of lumber-man and developer, Mr. Gilbert A Watkins. During this era, planting sugarcane in the rich muck soils surrounding Lake Okeechobee was becoming even more of a rage and the federal and state government helped it take shape.

In 1913, Florida’s Internal Improvement Fund appointed an engineering commission to study the feasibility of draining the Everglades. At this same time, roads were assessed. In 1919 those belonging to Southern Land and Timber Company, Hamilton Disston’s heirs’ lands around Lake Okeechobee–some that became Watkins’—were determined to be “inadequate.” The only east/west road was Jupiter -Indiantown, and that was not enough.

Nationally, it was all the rage to be part of South Florida’s new-found” investment. “Buffalo’s New Yorker, Fingy Connors, was perfect for the job. He’d lost his thumb when he was young, but this didn’t keep him from grasping or getting what he wanted. After a visit to the area celebrating the building of the West Palm Beach Canal, he bought lands in the area of Canal Point and built his road.

Connors’ Highway Toll-Road became an “engineering and development marvel” and all knew it was Fingy’s skill as a big time political boss that got it done. Like the video and biography in this post implies, some saw him as a villain, and others as a hero…

What is for sure, is that although a large section of the road was built from Canal Point north to Okeechobee, it later was extended under the lake and across the state becoming Highway-80, paving the way for the future of the sugar industry  and what would  evolve into the riches of the Everglades Agricultural Area.

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William Fingy Conners

Tycoon, Saloon Boss, Businessman, Politician, Philanthropist:

William J. Conners, aka Fingy (1857-1929) was born in the slums of the Old First Ward. Fingy obtained his nick-name because he lost his thumb when he was young. When he was 19, his parents passed and he acquired a small saloon/rooming house on Louisiana St. He then bought a 2nd saloon on Ohio St. With Conners’s flashy, tough personality, he managed to form contracts to supply labor all across the Great Lakes utilizing 1,000s. His men would eat, sleep, drink, and spend their earnings at his saloons. He had sovereignty over the work force for over a decade. Next in life, he became a leading real-estate developer, operated his own paving company and brewing company, poultry farm, and started the early stages of the Courier Express. Conners definitely tested the waters by reducing wages of grain scoopers which caused a strike. This strike caught nation-wide attention, as 8,000,000 bushels of wheat were backed up. After dipping into politics, he came to control 85% of the packaged freight business on the Great Lakes (Great Lakes Transit Corporation). Conners donated a small fortune to Buffalo’s poor. Later in life, Fingy resided in Florida for half of the year. Floridians considered Fingy to be of hero stature.

HISTORIC PHOTOS CIA FLORIDA MEMORY, CONNORS’ HIGHWAY 1920s.

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Connors’ Hwy. toll area with non-diked Lake Okeechobee in background ca. 1925. (Florida Memory Project)
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A car drives along Connors’ Hwy. with Everglades fauna to right. (FMP) 
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Connors’ Hwy and Everglades fauna. 

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Cistern with Lake O in background.
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Connors’ Hwy along area of canal or rim canal-here I am uncertain but this photo too is included in the Florida Memory Projects documentation of the Connors’ Hwy. 

HISTOROR MARKER TEXT AND PHOTO

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*Thank you to my mother for the photos retrieved from Florida Memory and the write up of the historical marker and the video history.

Palm Beach Historical Society:http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/land-boom-and-bust-conners-highway

https://dedicatedtobuffalo.wordpress.com/history/defining-men/fingy-conners/

Historical Road Trip, Canal Point’s Cut at Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

Lake Okeechobee Road Trip Series, Canal Point.

Today’s Canal Point is easy to drive right through on one’s way to Pahokee, but the little town has an important past and seeded a great future. As we learn about it, we learn about ourselves, all part of South Florida’s giant drainage and development scheme that continues today. In the future, together, we must work to improve water quality that has been destroyed by development of the Everglades. In studying this area, one thing is clear, almost all has fallen away except the USDA Department of Agriculture Sugarcane Station still standing today, almost 100 years later: https://www.ars.usda.gov/southeast-area/canal-point-fl/sugarcane-field-station/

So how did Canal Point get on the map?

According to the book, Black Gold and Silver Sands, by James D. Snyder, Gilbert A Watkins, an expanding lumber dealer from “nearby” West Palm Beach, acquired lands in the area after 1896 when Hamilton Disston, (the man who first drained Florida’s swamp) died. The lands purchased by Watkins included 4,337 acres near the eastern lakeshore of Lake Okeechobee. Disston’s Southern States Land and Timber owned all the even-numbered, square mile sections east of Lake Okeechobee to the then Broward County line.

In 1917 when the West Palm Beach Canal was dug at the determination of the state’s Internal Improvement Fund, the board developing the state, it was decided to go through Mr Watkin’s property.  He became more than a timber owner but a developer as the little town grew. Sugarcane sprouted up as well, and laid the foundation for the success of today’s largest EAA sugarcane cooperations.

The little town that came to be known as Canal Point eventually outpaced  Pahokee, Okeechobee and Moore Haven. Tomorrow we will learn more about the United States Department of Agriculture’s Sugarcane Reasearch Center, and the road that got it there….Connors’ Highway. “Fingy” Conners– as his finger had been cut off.

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The canal to Lake O became (Structure) S-352 to the WPB Canal as seen on maps below
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Canal Point at Lake O. 1920s PBC Historical Society

Palm Beach County Historical Society: http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/canal-point

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Map of Canals 1924 Florida Archives.
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Today SFWMD canal map

Road Trip to the Glades, Canal Point, SLR/IRL

My “Road Trip to the Glades” series is meant to be an experience of exploration. Exploration into a world many of us from the Coast have not seen. It is my hope that through learning about the Glades communities we can forge insights and hopefully friendships that assist us in our journey for a solution to Lake O’s discharges, Senate President Elect Joe Negron’s land purchase proposal for 2017, and a restored Everglades including a healthy St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

At this point, as river advocates, we must make clear that we wish to attain these things, not at the expense of the communities of Lake Okeechobee. The best way to begin this conversation is to educate and visit there ourselves, because yes, #GladesLivesMatter.

We begin first our journey driving west from Stuart on Kanner Highway, named for Judge A.O. Kanner. “A.O.” had an accomplished legal and legislative career, and in 1925 was chosen to move to Martin County by longtime friend and colleague, Governor Martin, to get newly founded Martin County “off to a good start.” A note of interest is that “Abram” and his wife Mary were one of Martin County’s few Jewish families.  At the time,  Jews were not allowed to buy in certain subdivisions. But thankfully Kanner was embraced by the Martin County community, and became one of its most respected citizens. He lived in Stuart until his death in 1967. As a legislator, Kanner fought for roads. State Road 76, was the result of his effort to get good roads to the Glades. It is on his legacy that we will drive forward.

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FullSizeRender 2.jpgDriving west about twenty miles outside of Stuart, we pass Indiantown. We see train tracks, agricultural fields, and wonderful open natural lands such as DuPuis Wildlife Area. All the while the C-44 canal is to our right. An eagle flies overhead. The blue and white clouded sky seems bigger here.

Just a few miles before reaching the Lake we see the looming Port Mayaca Cemetery. In this cemetery are buried in a mass grave 1600 of the 3000 dead from the horrific 1928 Hurricane. A stark reminder of the past, the power of Mother Nature, and how we live dangerously so in a drained swamp. There are graves of others not associated with the hurricane too. Old families. People whose blood and sweat laid the ground for South Florida’s development.  Many of the family plots go back to the 1800s. IMG_6492.JPGIMG_6496.JPG

Getting back into the car and back on Kanner Highway, we drive past sod farms and sugarcane fields. King Ranch has a sign with their brand atop. After about 10 minutes, slowly and with caution we approach Port Mayaca. It is impossible to see Lake Okeechobee herself as a gigantic berm and structure surround her. We do see the ACOE’s S-308, the structure that allows water to enter the C-44 from Lake Okeechobee that eventually flows and destroys the St Lucie River. Strangely, we notice an “advisory” blue-green algae sign prominently displayed while at least four people are fishing in the canal. IMG_6432.JPGIMG_6437.JPGPulling onto the once famous toll road of Connors Highway and going south, we see the berm of Lake Okeechobee. We leave Martin and enter Palm Beach County. Large trucks fill the road. It is nerve-wracking but exciting. Some beautiful old homes stand amoungst thickets of royal palms and tropical vegetation. Roses and honey are for sale if one has the nerve to pull over. IMG_6440.JPG

After about twelve miles we reach Canal Point. Canal Point is not incorporated, but part of Palm Beach County. At this location is S-352 built in 1917, today’s SFWMD’s structure allowing water into the West Palm Beach Canal, Water Conservation Area 1, as well as being used for irrigation.

We take a sharp turn into the Canal Point Recreation Area praying not to get rear ended. Here we can drive on top of the dike and take a look at Lake Okeechobee and across the street. Fishermen fish near the structure. An alligator waits nearby. It’s nice to see some wildlife.

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A beautiful Baptist church stands among tidy homes. A U.S.Department of Agriculture Research Service Sugarcane Station also sits along the Connor Highway that hugs the lake not too far from S-352.

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Sugarcane fields
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Connors Hwy. allowed the Glades to develp
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Homes with dike in background

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Canal Point has about 525 people and the town is very small located between Lake Okeechobee and sugarcane fields.  From what we can see there is also a post office, one elementary school, and a store. Larger, Pahokee is just a few miles away.

This little town has a rich and important history. In the coming days we will learn about Canal Point’s mark on the Northern Everglades of which we are part.

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Judge A.O. Kanner: http://historicpalmbeach.blog.palmbeachpost.com/1999/12/19/most-respected-judge-of-the-treasure-coast-ao-kanner-nov-2-1893-april-13-1967/

Dupuis Wildlife and Management Area: http://myfwc.com/viewing/recreation/wmas/cooperative/dupuis

Canal Point: http://canalpointfl.com

USDA Sugarcane Field Station Canal Point: https://www.ars.usda.gov/southeast-area/canal-point-fl/sugarcane-field-station/