-Ed in his favorite Bullsugar shirt and FOS Chair, Mr Bob Mathias smile for a selfie pre-flightWell the weather has been fabulous! Ed and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
To document the end of the 2021, Ed and the Chair of Florida Oceanographic Society’s Board of Directors, Mr Bob Mathias, flew over the region on December 23 at 2:00 pm with Ed giving his best history lesson of the Central and South Florida Project that so negatively affects the health of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Most recently, since 2019, there have been some, but no major discharges from Lake Okeechobee as in 2013, 2016 and 2018. However, intermitent heavy rains have overwhelmed the estuary through C-23, C-24, C-44 and area stormwater runoff. We must remember that originally, prior to drainage the St Lucie received filtered water and less than half the amount being dumped into it today.
As you know, because of recent record state and federal funding and Governor DeSantis, massive efforts are finally underway by the ACOE and SFMWD to improve the situation for the entire Everglades region, and the C-44 Reservoir came on-line in Martin County as the first major completed CERP Project this year. More good news is that the C-23, C-24 Reservoirs are in design by the ACOE, and the C-25 land purchase became complete by the South Florida Water Management District just two weeks ago!
With lots of work to do, we are heading in the right direction and must continue to do more, more, more to get water quality right and seagrass lushly growing again for Florida’s iconic manatees that are not having a happy holiday season.
Good new year’s resolutions we can achieve right in our own backyards to help are to give up fertilizer and plant native and Florida Friendly, and to keep pushing politicians on all levels to “work for water.”
The recent “Riverlution,” 2013, due to the LOST SUMMER, started right here in Matin County and it has spread to the entire state! WE MUST KEEP THE WAVE GOING!
~Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays as we all continue to work for clean waters!
~Jacqui & Ed
St Lucie Inlet: St Lucie Inlet State Park, Sailfish Point, Hutchinson Island, Sewall’s Point, Stuart, Rio, Jensen and Port St Lucie in the distance. This area is the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon confluence. The inlet was dug by pioneers in 1892.
-Various views-Stuart and Rocky Point looking towards St Lucie Inlet and Atlantic Ocean -Looking up the Indian River Lagoon that is 156 miles long -the St Lucie is east of the peninsula of Sewall’s Point.
-Lake Okeechobee’s Port Mayaca S-308 and C-44 Canal
Photo of eagle pair at 16th hole at Sailfish Point’s golf course, photo by Susan Kane taken the evening of 3-17-18
Some things are so beyond words, so wonderful, so “perfect,” that you just have to wonder….
Yesterday morning, on Sunday, March 18th, the day after I had written a blog post about meeting Mrs Susan Kane, and her sharing her eagle photo the night before, –and my noting that I had never seen a eagle along the Indian River Lagoon, or the pair that is rumored to hunt there– she sends me this photo above along with a short message: “Look who showed up last night.”
Call it coincidence, call it a God-wink, or maybe the eagles read my blog!
In any case, such experiences make life absolutely the best! 😁
Thanks Susan! Thank you eagles❤️🇺🇸 Fly high and may the SLR/IRL waters be clear and clean so you can catch the fish!🐟
Last evening, at a gathering of friends of my mothers, I met Mrs Susan Kane. The conversation started as usual with someone I do not know, but quickly, somehow, the our words turned to eagles living along the St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon.
I told Susan, I had never seen one here flying, ever, but I knew they were here as Greg Braun, formerly of Audubon, took photos of one sitting on a rock at Bird Island…. I had also heard that there was a pair that hunted from a tall, dead, Australian Pine tree by the Marriott’s Indian River Plantation Marina. But again, although I walk the bridge between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island quite often, I had never seen them…Once, while driving on Highway 76 in Indiantown, I did see an eagle, and was so excited that I parked my car on the side of the road and with trucks zooming by I watched it soar. I was smiling from ear to ear.
Susan listened politely, and then replied, “Well recently, Jacqui, I took a photograph of an eagle on the 16th hole of the Sailfish Point golf course.”
“You’re kidding?” I inquired.
“Yes, the eagle captured a fish right there in the pond at the 16th hole of the golf course.”
“That’s incredible.” I replied, taking a large sip of my cocktail, to hide my bird envy.
Over the course of dinner, Susan pulled out her photos and shared. They are wonderful! And today I am sharing her photos with you.
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. 🙂
I think it is typical to think the time one grew up in was the “best of times,” but I feel mine really was…
One of my fondest memories of growing up in Stuart is visiting Rand’s Pier at Seminole Shores on Hutchinson Island. This area became today’s Sailfish Point. Tromping through the hot sands, my mother would lead my brother, sister, and I down a long, winding, sand-spur/beach-sunflower covered path. Finally, we would arrive at our destination, a pier that would provide shade and shelter for the outing.
From here my brother, sister, and I would take our buckets and nets and catch baby fish, collect shells and sea glass, or dig holes and bury each other up to our necks.
The pier was a reference point for a time past, and man gone, who my mother said was famous. The man was James Rand Jr. of Rand Ledger Corporation decent who went on to build his own fortune. An impressive eccentric, a Harvard graduate, with his share of troubles—but always a gifted business man— he did many wonderful things for Martin County including becoming a benefactor to the hospital and helping found and fund the Florida Oceanographic Society. Although it was not to be his fate, he had dreams of fully developing what was then known as Seminole Shores—-today’s Sailfish Point.
According to the History of Martin County: “In the early fifties James Rand acquired part of what was known as Seminole Shores on Sailfish Point three miles south of the House of Refuge. It was his intension to develop the area with exclusive residences, a marina, a clubhouse, cabanas, and a restaurant. He built the marina, the clubhouse and yacht basin, laid out and paved a number of streets, and built some thirty cabanas in a semicircle around a swimming pool, facing the ocean that one might take advantage of either fresh or salt water bathing. He also put in the telephone lines for the south end of the island at a cost of approximately $15,000…”
When my siblings and I were running around we did not think much about the man who built the pier, or put in the telephone lines, or helped make the island accessible for us to play. But his name always stuck in my head as someone who had made a difference to Martin County. The years have passed and Martin County has changed.
Today, Sailfish Point is beautifully developed– certainly beyond what Mr Rand would have ever imagined. The pier? Time tide and time have taken it: it has washed away– But when I walk the beach I still look for it and remember the “best of times”…
The “Coral Strand” was a rose; “Seminole Shores” was a rose; “Sailfish Point is a rose…” and whatever Native American name the Indian’s had for this sacred area was also a rose….
In her poem’s famous first line: “a rose is a rose is a rose,” poet Gertrude Stein’s words are often interpreted as meaning “things are what they are”…”using a name of a thing already invokes the imagery and emotions associated with it..”
For me all these names are “a rose” evoking different images and times of Indian River Region history. The Coral Strand being the name given to the land by the McCoy brothers–famous rum runners and wheeler-dealer business men. Seminole Shores the name given by James Rand a wealthy eccentric of our area whose riches founded the Florida Oceanographic Society; and Sailfish Point the name given to the area after its development by Mobil Oil Corporation in the 1980s.
Will there be another name in the future? And if so what will it be? Well–a rose is a rose is a rose, always and forever…..no matter the name.
Yesterday afternoon, Ed and I had hoped to walk our dogs, Bo and Baron, to the St Lucie Inlet, but were cut off by an incoming tide and a Sailfish Point’s seawall. Having grown up in Martin County, it is amazing to see such changes “right before my 50-year-old eyes…”
Of course when I was a kid there was no Sailfish Point development, no seawall, no apparent sea level rise, just the beach sun-flowered sand dunes and Bathtub Beach changing daily to the winds of time with the remnants of James Rand’s “Seminole Shores” development crumbling…
Today Sailfish Point is here. Its 625 homes are some of the most exclusive in the county. Built in the 1980’s it was developed by Mobile Oil Corporation. The area brings tremendous tax revenue to everyone and to every school in Martin County…if it washed into the sea there would be issues for all.
Sailfish Point: (http://www.sailfishpoint.com/martin-county/)
It must be noted that the St Lucie Inlet itself is responsible for some of this erosion…the inlet was opened permanently in 1892 by pioneers led by Captain Henry Sewall of Sewall’s Point. Naturally the inlet would open and close with tides and time. Opening the inlet permanently now defines our county, and we would not give it up; but as all things in life: there are both positives and negatives to every action.
Today the waters of the ocean are encroaching….and time seems to be speeding up.
Building on barrier islands is not particularly long-term in that barrier islands are meant by nature to turn over on themselves like a conveyor belt. On the other hand, I have been to the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach and their seawall is right up to the historic hotel and has been for years….We stave off the ocean as long as we can. Much of Florida east coast is built on barrier islands…
What does the Bible say? “The wise man built his house upon a rock…”
Anyway….today I wanted to share Ed and my walk as it is symbolic of our times.
Other than the surreal seawall and encroaching sea….there were many sea turtle nests, marked by the Fish and Wildlife Commission. Many turtles had laid their eggs right up against the seawall! Many of them! I counted at least 50 just in our short walk. Good for the turtles but it seems many nest are doomed to wash away… For thousands of years these turtles have returned to the beaches of their birth to lay eggs. Now many of them literally come up “against a wall.”
I must mention that the people of Sailfish Point are also “up against a wall,” as they have to worry about their homes falling into the sea….Here one sees a sea wall repair taking place. I don’t think the sea wall is that old in the first place.
The most intense erosion seems to be the north area of Sailfish Point, closest to Bathtub Beach….and it is summer. This should be the time the ocean, sands and tides are most forgiving. Winter waves are much more brutal, unless there is a hurricane of course….
The other interesting anomaly Ed, Bo, and Baron and I experienced was the hundreds of sea hare mollusks that had washed up on shore. Ed Killer of TC Palm just wrote a great piece on these interesting, harmless creatures that scientists believe are washing ashore due to cold water upswells and algae shifts in the ocean–their swimming affected, they slow down and are carried to shore by the waves fated to dry out in the sun.
As Ed and I walked back I picked up as many as I could and threw them back into the ocean knowing that really I was only “buying them some time.” Chances are they will wash right back up on the shore. In the end, nature always wins. In time, we like the sea hares, will find this out , but until then it’s a great walk on the beach, isn’t it?
It is a movie of the following:
1. 1935 NOAA Chart – note the jetty already in place
2. 1940 Aerial
3. 1952 Aerial
4. 1968 Aerial – quick. I should have skipped it.
5. 1970 Aerial – note the old “Empire of the Ants” pier and the strange water slick to the south.
6. 1981 Aerial – showing the construction of Sailfish Point.
Look at these two screenshots of the beach just a few months apart late last year—-Todd Thurlow
Imagine setting eyes on the surrounding lands of the beautiful St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, in virgin form, the year 1883. You are a surveyor, and your job is to create a map, a map showing the topography of the area. It’s a jungle, the insects are singing, animal life is everywhere, there are even remnants of the Seminole Indians that appear and disappear cutting back the palmettos so they can see you. There is venison, bear and many kinds of delicious fish. But there are also seven foot rattle snakes and mosquitoes in the saw grass ponds that will cover your face and make you jump in the river! Nonetheless, this Eden is a place of beauty.
How did I come upon this survey? Surveyor, Mr. Chappy Young, GCY Inc. of Palm City, has known my family for many years and recently sent me a copy of this original hand written part of the 1883 topographical survey completed by Chief B.H. Colonna and his men. What an incredible thing to read, a first hand account of this area from over 120 years ago! It is a treasure.
I will choose some highlights to quote and some I will summarize. My excerpts come off a bit choppy but the accounts are still incredible.
The twelve page report is hand written in cursive and documents the “East Coast of Florida from Eden Post Office, or Richards, southward, to Peck’s Lake, including the St Lucie River.”
“On the west shore of the Indian River the ground rises from five to eighty feet above the level of ordinary height of the water in Indian River, the higher ridges give quite a pretty landfall when seen from four or five miles off shore, quite outcropping the land, and found between Indian River and the ocean.”
Colonna talks of standing on the highest point of the west side of the Indian River, “Blue Hill,” and “looking westward to see a number of parallel ridges of sand, with intervening saw grass ponds;” he describes the yellowish-white Conchina sands and the roads as marine conglomerates.
“The vegetation is thick,” he writes, and “the many hammocks rise above the flatlands recognized by their palmettos (sable palms), mastics, rubber trees, live oaks, iron wood and crab-wood along with a great variety of other trees.”
The St Lucie and Indian River Lagoon are filled with life. He describes a great number of coots and ducks on the rivers; as well as quail, partridge, and wild turkeys in the surrounding woods, and many small birds, just about everywhere, daring about. The waters are filled with luxuriant eel grass the favorite food of the manatee which also is abundant.
He talks of giant sawgrass with blades in the ponds and fresh waters three to ten feet long and very sharp. And further west soft, sweet, moist grasses attracting deer.
You can image, Chief Colonna was camping for many months, maybe years with his team; so he was able to document watching river waters rise 2-3 feet during rainy season, and the lands being inches deep/sometimes feet deep, in water…
In 1883, the year this survey was taken, the inlet, Gilbert’s Bar, next to today’s Sailfish Point, was closed. He explains, mentioning fish on the reef that I have never heard of…
“The old Gilbert’s Bar entrance, now closed, is shown on the sheet. Whenever the salt and fresh waters meet, the mangrove flourishes and such has been the case at Gilbert’s Bar. Once fine oysters grew there and all kinds of fish belonging in these waters were abundant, but sine the inlet closed the oysters have died and the fish are gone except a few bass and catfish. Just outside and along the old Gilbert’s Bar, (Conchina Reef). There are lots of fish, Barracuda, Pompins, Blue fish, Cavallis, Green Turtles, Mullet, Sea Bass, and a beautiful fish, much resembling our spanish mackerel, but it has more beautiful colors and is very tame. Trolling there I have seen them take the hook and bound 5-10 feet clear of the water. I had thought the blue-fish game, and the taking of the fins for sport, but one of these beauties far exceeds anything I ever saw for pluck, rapidity of motion and beauty of form and color…”
According to Colonna, the “House of Refuge was the best dwelling on the sheet,” and “Dr Baker’s house (in today’s Indialucie) was the only place that looked like a home.” This is interesting to me because I grew up there. His account of my former playground:
“In this area the rattle snakes are the largest I have ever seen being from 6-7 feet” but there are not many; alligators are no longer numerous and have become shy; but raccoons and opossums are so thick it is impossible to raise fowl; “wild cats are 4′ 6″ from tip to tip,” and Black Bears come in June across the lands to comb the beaches for turtle eggs…”
I think I would have had fun living in the area in 1883, but I would have worn boots for sure!
And now the grand finale. On the final page of the handwritten piece, Chief Surveyor, Colonna proclaims:
“The prettiest land on the sheet is the peninsula laying between the St Lucie River and Indian River, from Mount Pleasant south, to the the point. It is high hammock land with Cochina foundation and covered by a heavy growth of Hard Wood and underbrush with now and then a pine. This country had quite a population in it once, just before the Seminole outbreak and for a times after it, the settles had oranges, lemons, and limes, some of the old trees are sill to be found in the vicinity of Eden P.O. and the limes are very fine but the oranges are bitter and the lemons not bearing..”
(Mount Pleasant is Francis Langford’s former high river property.)
So congratulations to Sewall’s Point, the “prettiest” piece of land surveyed in 1883 and still known for her beauty today. All of our area around the Indian River Lagoon and stretching westward is beautiful, a changed but modern Eden. Let’s protect it for the next 120 years.
The trucks come in about once a year and dump millions of dollars worth of tax payer sand on Martin County beaches and other’s throughout our state. Then winter’s storms arrive and wash it back into the ocean, covering and damaging our nearshore reefs. But at least the turtles have a place to lay their eggs…?
Erosion is a natural part of all coastal barrier islands, in fact, time lapse photography would show these islands moving, like giant sea slugs, changing shape, due to erosion and accretion, over time.
Before modern man settled this area, inlets along the Indian River Lagoon came and went with the whims of Mother Nature. Looking at old maps, one sees documentation of changing natural inlets over time. Jupiter and Indian River Inlet north of Ft Pierce were the only long standing opening to the sea in our area most recently. Over thousands of years, others came and went, all along the lagoon. Peck’s Lake in Martin County broke through as recently as 1960 and was quickly “closed…”
In 1892 in today’s Martin County, then Dade, Captain Henry Sewall’s inspired local men to dig a permanent inlet, by hand. My historian mother has told me stories of other inlet attempts as well. According to her, one time, the men fell asleep after the exhausting dig, only to awake and find the tide coming in, filling in their work! One local’s pet raccoon was tied to a tree and taken away by the strong waters. Even today, Mother Nature want’s to fill back in the St Lucie Inlet, but we continue to resist her.
Very interesting is that “old maps” also show Jupiter Island on equal “terms” with Sailfish Point. But today Jupiter Island is much “further back” as she has eroded over time and been slowly swept into the sea. This remains an problem of enormous proportions today that is on the verge of law suit. Last year, the Army Corp of Engineers informed Martin County they wish to take the lovely textured, offshore sands of Stuart, to re-nourish, Dade and Broward Counties beaches. Unbelievable…
The inlets give us access to the ocean, they raise the value of our property, they were and could be again national defense. Most timely for today, in the case of the St Lucie Inlet, it allows the putrid waters slugging forth during rainy season from C-23; C-24 ; C-44; and worst of all from Lake Okeechobee, to go to sea.
There are those who believe we should let the inlet close up; and there are many who believe we should fill in the canals; there are those who believe the inlet is what defines Martin County and we should do everything to keep her open. Hmm…
One thing for sure, fighting Mother Nature is a full time job.