Tag Archives: Martin County High School

Physiographic Regions of Lake Okeechobee, What’s That? SLR/IRL

Water skiing in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon at Michele White’s house with great friend Kevin Wilkinson, 1980.
The Boyer Survey: An Archaeological Investigation of Lake Okeechobee, 2011
SFWMD before and after satellite image effect

As I got to “Physiographic Regions,” when reading the Boyer Archaeological Survey, I had to look up the definition of physiographic. My mind kept wandering to Physical Graffiti, the title of an album by Led Zeppelin, and the fun days of Martin County High School skiing the in St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon with my best friends.

In retrospect, Lake Okeechobee and the St Lucie River were already dying by the time I was in high school. Today, I wish I had learned more about our ailing ecosystem when I was younger, and not finally caught on when I was 40 over ten years ago. “Catching-on,” this is my hope for the next generation as there are serious impacts we won’t be able to ignore, happening, and on the way. Knowing what “physiographic regions” means will help us understand what we can do.

Physiographic is defined simply as “the branch of geography dealing with natural features and processes.” So the Figure 5. map above shows what the surrounding ecological communities were before they became developed as today’s counties. These areas are labeled as the Eastern Flatlands; the Everglades; the Western Flatlands; Big Cypress Swamp; and the Mangrove and Coastal Marsh.

As we know the Everglades is one of the largest freshwater marshes in the North America and the world. It starts trickling up in the Kissimmee River Basin above Lake Okeechobee. Unfortunately, this area of the map is always cut off so we think in terms of south.

Basin Management Action Plans,. The Kissimmee River is north of Lake O. Florida. TCRPC doc. 2015.

The open marshes of Lake Okeechobee extended from the southern rim of Lake O and the Loxahatchee Slough south to the mouth of the Shark River Slough at Florida Bay and the former Miami River. Florida Bay is presently, and has been, experiencing extensive algae blooms due to lack of fresh water and the once beautiful Miami River, attached by canal (since 1911) to Lake O? “Dead.”

The Boyer Survey image once again for comparison.
Map of Canals 1924 Florida Archives.

The eastern and western flatlands to the east and west of Lake Okeechobee (Stuart/Ft Meyers ) were similar in vegetation types and animals. The Boyer Survey notes “both can be described as mosaic landscapes consisting of wet prairie, palmetto and dry prairies, pine forest or flatwoods, cypress forests, mixed swamp forests as well as ponds and sloughs; these areas were low, sandy, and poorly drained.” The Loxahatchee River drained the eastern flatlands into the Atlantic, and the Caloosahatchee River drained the western flatlands into the Gulf of Mexico. Today these waters flow by way of the ACOE/SFWMD Central & Southern Florida  project’s water control structures slowly making everything as “dead” as the Miami River.

Until we treat waterway funding like roads, (FDOT:http://www.fdot.gov/transit/functionsgrantsadministration.shtm) Mother Nature’s water highways will become even more of a backed-up, misdirected, putrid mess. We must stop trying to direct her like a God, and let more of her natural features return. After all, Nature is a House of the Holy and we never know when the Rain Song will begin…

The Rain Song, Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy, Album Physical Graffiti link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRt4hQs3nH0

1986 NYT article on first signs of algae in Lake Okeechobee: https://www.nytimes.com/1986/08/23/us/florida-fears-that-lake-okeechobee-is-dying.html

A School by the River…SLR/IRL

Martin County High School under construction. The school replaced Stuart High School and opened MCHS doors in 1964. (Ruhnke, Thurlow Collection)

Recently, I attended the ribbon-cutting for Martin County High School’s Administration and Classroom Building. They even opened a time capsule from the school’s origins in 1964.  I hardly recognized the place…having graduated in 1982. It was so much bigger and better than when I attended. The place has come a long way from being what was literally once the county dump.

When I got home my mother had sent me a historic photograph via email (above.) I looked at it wondering what it was. I wrote back: “Where is that? Somewhere near Frances Langfords? IRL?”

I couldn’t believe it when she replied that it was an aerial of Martin County High School in 1964. I didn’t even recognize it! All these years, and I have never really realized the school lies so close to the St Lucie River. In fact, it lies not too far from where the South Fork of the St Lucie River was connected to the St Lucie Canal, today known as C-44. The link that allows polluted water in from Lake Okeechobee. A link that should be closed…

This Google map shows location with the purple pin.
Another map from Mr Young identifying location.

In her Vignettes, local historian Alice Luckhardt writes about the first school in Stuart. ~Stuart became the county seat of Martin County in 1914:

“Stuart’s first school was a one room building, about 12 x 16 feet, built in 1891 on the banks of the St. Lucie River, to accommodate the community’s children; the first teacher was Kate Hamilton whose salary was about $30 a month, but at that time there were not 12 grade levels and very few students.”

Imagine being taught, along the shores of a clean, beautiful, fish filled, St Lucie River….what a day, what an education, that must have been….

Aerial of Martin County High School, Kanner Highway Stuart, on line -MCHS E. Hassert, TCPalm 2015
Martin County, Fl
SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.

MCHS web site:
http://mchs.martinschools.org/pages/Martin_County_High_School

JTL 10-27-17