Tag Archives: Frenchman’s Passage

Finding the Lost Rapids of Lake Worth Creek

Before Hurricane Dorian came this way, my brother, Todd, was helping me answer a question. ~One I think will be interesting to you as well…

“Where were the rapids of Lake Worth Creek?” Yes, rapids!

T41S R43E, Survey 1855 John Westcott, Surveyor General.

To answer the question, we must first recognize that Lake Worth Creek has been altered as we can see comparing the images above and below.

This change happened slowly over time, but most notably in 1894 with the completion of the Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville to Maimi. The Google Map below shows the Intracoastal today. The 1855 survey above shows Lake Worth Creek pre-development. In both images, it’s the area between Jupiter Inlet and Lake Worth- the historic area of Lake Worth Creek.

To learn where these rapids were located let’s read an excerpt from Palm Beach County’s MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR FRENCHMAN’S FOREST NATURAL AREA, FCT PROJECT # 96-011-P7A, June 1998.

The Frenchman’s Forest Natural Area (located right under Frechman’s Passage, JTL)  is part of a broad coastal swale that was separated from the Atlantic Ocean by coastal sand ridges and from the Loxahatchee Slough by a broad pine flatwood ridge. It was part of the headwaters of the former Lake Worth Creek, a meandering blackwater creek that flowed northward to join the Loxahatchee River near its mouth at the Jupiter Inlet. The earliest accounts of the site date from the 1840s, and were from U.S. Army Topological Engineer reports made during the Second Seminole Indian War (Corbett 1993). Eighty men from Fort Jupiter moved up Lake Worth Creek in seventeen canoes. Approximately two miles north of the natural area, they reached the “rapids”, a series of muck terraces that disappeared during periods of high water, but helped hold water at a higher level in the upstream sawgrass marshes. Another series of muck terraces may have been present 0.25 miles north of the natural area. After getting past these barriers, the troops entered a large sawgrass marsh, where they pulled the canoes for a mile to a haulover path over the sand ridge separating the marsh from Lake Worth. The southeastern portion of the natural area was part of the sawgrass marsh, and the soldiers may have crossed through the site. Once they reached Lake Worth, the soldiers raided Seminole Indian villages along its shores, capturing guns and canoes. The soldiers had followed an old Indian route for traveling between Jupiter Inlet and Lake Worth. When the last Seminole Indian war ended in 1859, pioneers began to use this route for coastal travel. Charles Pierce (1970) described his family’s travel to Lake Worth by small boat via this route in 1873. He noted his father’s difficulty in finding the right channel through the sawgrass to the haulover. Pierce and his family were among the earliest permanent settlers on the shores of Lake Worth. Pierce also provided the first direct reference to the natural area, noting that the bird rookery on Pelican Island (present-day Munyon)…

https://regionalconservation.org/ircs/pdf/publications/1998_01.pdf

Another source we can use comes from the Atlantic and Gulf Coast Canal and Okeechobee Land Company 1881 Prospectus where it documents the advantage of making the cut through Lake Worth Creek. Nine lines from the bottom it mentions the rapids: “There is a depth of five feet of water in the channel from its mouth to the rapids…”  

And the last shared source is from an 1884 USGS Survey Report noting the difficulty of working through the sawgrass route from Haulover Head on Lake Worth to the Rapids of Lake Worth Creek.

Fascinating and historic information, but what about X marks the spot? Where were those rapids?

Using the above information, below (look for yellow arrow) Todd shows more specifically on a topo map from his video “Lake Worth through the Haulover and Sawgrass Route to Jupiter Inlet – 1883” showing where Lake Worth Creek’s rapids may have been located. On today’s map that is very close to Frenchman’s Passage/Frenchman’s Creek.

Next time you’re in the area give a shout out to the once rapids of the former Lake Worth Creek,  a wonder of old Florida that we shouldn’t forget!

9:16am 9-16-19: I was close! My brother just texted me this: Hey Jacqui. Sorry Dorian interrupted our discussion of the Falls. It was actually near the creek called Frenchman’s Creek on the old topos not Frenchman’s Passage which is a neighborhood today about a mile and a half south and inland from the old creek/rapids. 😬

Frenchmans Creek still appears on Google maps. It is where Cypress Island Marina is today off of Palmwood Road.

https://goo.gl/maps/5Wqm4HA8DbL884eG9

Video Lake Worth Time Capsule Flight, Todd Thurlow: https://youtu.be/2pDsQl7rQmQ

Thank you to my brother Todd Thurlow for all of the historic images in this blog post and for his expertise with historic map and waterway information: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/todd-thurlows-time-capsule-flights/