Tag Archives: Drought Lake Okeechobee

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

SHELLS COLLECTED FROM THE SHORELINE OF LAKE OKEECHOBEE 4-5-20

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! 

 

New Mexico’s Native People, What About the People of Lake O, SLR/IRL

I recently took trip with my husband;  I accompanied him on business to Santa Fe, New Mexico. While I was there, I visited the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. The museum focused on the remarkable Pueblo people that had originally settled along the Santa Fe River because of its water and transportation. The museum was gifted telling stories, and it got me thinking about the native people who lived around Lake Okeechobee, and how their story is not so well told.

Belle Glade Culture, People of the Water,
possibly (450BC-1600AD) Courtesy Florida Museum of Natural History.

Belle Glades Culture area around Lake O and Kissimmee, source: The Boyer Survey.

(Adapted from, The Boyer Survey: An Archaeological Investigation of Lake Okeechobee, 2011)

In the fall of 2006, the South Florida Water Management District lowered Lake Okeechobee as a hurricane was expected, but it not come. Much to the District’s dismay, severe drought came instead. As the water in Lake Okeechobee evaporated, its depth went from a normal (at the time) of 18-20 feet to a recorded low of 8.8 feet. Although this was a negative for the ecosystem, it allowed human remains and artifacts of what is referred to as the “Belle Glade Culture” to be exposed. Artifacts and bones began to comprehensively reveal their stories of *pre-Columbian (*before the arrival of Columbus to the New World) times. These native americans over a period of 2,700 years built extensive earthworks and canals, adapting the surrounding wetlands to be suitable for their people to live. The Lake, of course at that time, more than supported their hunter-gatherer-fisher lifestyle and  complex culture. The Belle Glade Culture was part of a greater exchange network and traded with other groups from distant locations.

These Native Americans living around Lake Okeechobee were the descendants of people who migrated to the peninsula approximately 12,000 years before. Out of that small group of prehistoric nomads developed an array of cultures that spread across Florida that eventually contained hundreds of thousands of inhabitants. Like Santa Fe’s Pueblo, they were a remarkable culture. However, unlike the Indian cultures of the west, many of the Florida native people, and especially the Belle Glade people, are not well-known.

These ancient people of the water are the muffled voice of Lake Okeechobee  ~just as the voice of the lake itself that is now dammed, diked and controlled. May the Belle Glade people,  and the heart spirit of Lake O be revealed…

Belle Glade Culture artifact: http://news.palmbeachstate.edu/2017/03/30/students-help-unearth-prehistoric-artifacts-in-the-glades/

Although we do not know what these people looked like a visit to the Lawrence E. Will Museum of Glades (https://www.museumoftheglades.org) by appointment is a great place to start.  Also artist Theodore Morris, has spent his life trying to recreate these related people:

Florida’s Lost Tribes,Theodore Morris: https://www.losttribesflorida.com

Video Florida Anthropological Society: http://www.archaeologychannel.org/video-guide/video-guide-menu/video-guide-summary/168-shadows-and-reflections-floridas-lost-people

Palm Beach County Historic Society, Belle Glade Culture:

http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/the-people-of-the-water

http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/people-of-the-water

Kissimmee Valley Archaeological and Historic Conservancy: http://kvarchaeology.com/blueberry_archaeological_site/