Tag Archives: Savannas

A Different View, St Lucie River~Indian River Lagoon

-Indian River Lagoon & St Luice River meet to flow into the Atlantic Ocean as seen over the savannas. Nettles Island , a landmark, juts into the IRL (upper left.) Note peninsula of Sewall’s Point and St Lucie Inlet. Aerial photograph by Ed Lippisch, 9/11/22, 6:15pm.Recently, I have been asking Ed to get a “different view” while flying-something other than the location between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island near the St Lucie Inlet. That area is the heart of the matter when documenting seagrass recovery or destructive discharges from Lake Okeechobee. However, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon includes much more than that. The undeveloped savannas region seen above is quite striking.

Here Ed looks south over the savannas, now Savannas Preserve State Park, an area west of the railroad tracks stretching ten miles between Jensen Beach and Fort Pierce.

As my mother, author Sandra Thurlow writes  in her book, Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River, …”ours is not a savanna at all. A true savanna is grassland with scattered, small drought resistant trees. Many eons ago the Jensen Savannas was a lagoon like the Indian River. Now the ancient lagoon is a region of lakes, marsh and pine flatwoods. When polar icecaps formed, bringing Florida out of the sea, tides and winds shaped a primary dune along the east coast of the peninsula. The shallow waters in the wetlands behind the dune were brackish. The ocean levels continued to drop and sand bars just off the coast were exposed, forming Hutchinson Island. What had been the primary dune became the Atlantic Coastal Ridge.” 

She goes on to explain that prior to modern times the savannas’ ecosystem was almost 200 miles long, but due to development along the Indian River Lagoon the region has been reduced to just ten ecologically intact miles.

Areas such as these “savannas” are critical to the health of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and an inspiration for more comprehensive protection in the future.

Hope you enjoyed today’s different view.



West of Eden, SLR/IRL

“Eden,” the name says it all. Wouldn’t it be cool to say you lived in Eden?

Today there is a historic sign, but there is no longer a town. In 1879 “Eden” was named by Captain Thomas E. Richards who decided this spot along the high ridge of the Indian River would be a good place to grow pineapples.  According to historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow,  “Richards felt he had arrived in a tropical paradise, and named his new home Eden.”

In Sandra’s book, “Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River,” she talks about how today’s Jensen Beach evolved from both the historic communities of Eden and Jensen, but over time, while Jensen had room to grow, Eden faded, as it was hemmed in by the wet, fragile ecosystem of the savannas. This marshy savannas system once stretched along the lagoon for over a hundred miles, but today, the only remnant lies right behind the lost town of Eden, and to the north and south of close-by extending lands.

This very special photo was given to my mother, historical Sandra Henderson Thurlow, by Capt. Thomas Richards’s great-granddaughter, Mary Simon.
The town of Eden was located between the IRL and the wet savannas, Ruhnke/Thurlow Collection. “Historic Eden and Jensen on Florida’s Indian River,” by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

These rare lands known today as Savannas Preserve State Park, “encompass more than 5,400 acres and stretch more the ten miles from Jensen Beach to Ft Pierce containing  the largest, most ecologically intact stretch of freshwater marsh in southeast Florida.” Remarkable!

If you haven’t ever seen it, I can promise, “Eden awaits you…”

This past weekend, my husband Ed and I put on our wet weather gear, and walked from Jensen Beach Blvd to “west of Eden. ” It is amazing to have this treasure right in our own backyards, a study in plant and animal life that “used to be.” ~A study in what we can bring back, if we want to…

Website, Savannas Preserve State Park: https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Savannas

Where Jacqui and Ed walked, “west of Eden,” Google maps
Savannas Preserve State Park, photos 6-10-17, JTL.

Savannas from the air in 2013, JTL 

Eden, St Lucie Co.: https://sites.google.com/a/flgenweb.net/stlucie/history/old-communities/e

Eden Ghost Town: http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/fl/eden.html

Jensen WIKI: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jensen_Beach,_Florida
Jensen Chamber of Commerce: http://www.jensenbeachflorida.info

Blog-Break, Fire SLR/IRL

Photos of controlled burns or "wildlife interfaces," in Duval County. Photo courtesy of NRLI 2015.
Photos of controlled burns at “wildland urban interfaces,” Duval County. Photo courtesy of NRLI 2015.

It is hard to believe that I am already half way through my University of Florida, Natural Resources Leadership Institute (NRLI) fellowship for 2015/2016.

This week I will be taking a blog-break to prepare for this week’s NRLI course in Jacksonville, “Wildland Urban Interface.” This subject deals with the challenges, dangers, and importance of prescribed burns and how they become more complicated as Florida’s growing population is allowed to develop further into once undeveloped/natural areas of our state.

Fire, of course, is a huge issue here in Martin County in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon Region as well. Fire is a natural part of the Florida ecosystem and necessary for the health of the lands, its wildlife, and the protection of people. “Not burning,” is not an option, as excess fuel– due to vegetation build up, causes fires to burn even hotter and is extremely dangerous!

As many may remember, in June of 2014, a controlled burn in Savannas State Park, in Jensen, quickly got out of control during high winds. This was a scary and nerve-wracking situation for the fire fighters and for the public, especially those who live across the street on Jensen Beach Boulevard in Pine Crest Lakes subdivision.

Fire, like water, is a part of the greater whole of our ecosystem…something we must understand.

I will return to blogging later next week. Thank you for reading my blog; see you soon.



Fire June 2014 Savannas State Park, Jensen Beach Boulvard. Martin County Scheriff Twitter shared photos.
Fire June 2014 Savannas State Park, Jensen Beach Boulvard. Martin County Scheriff Twitter shared photos.

WPBF report/video 2014 “Burn Now Raging Out of Control,” Jensen Beach, Savanna State Park:  (http://www.wpbf.com/news/prescribed-burn-now-raging-out-of-control-on-treasure-coast/26441382)


NRLI calendar 2015/2016
NRLI calendar 2015/2016. #4


UF article Perscribed Burns: (http://news.ufl.edu/archive/2015/03/ufifas-study-forest-managers-hindered-in-efforts-to-use-prescribed-burns-to-control-costly-wildfires.html)

Former blog post on fire: (http://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/06/12/the-1908-great-jensen-fire-and-the-benefits-of-fire-along-the-indian-river-lagoon/)

UF NRLI : (http://nrli.ifas.ufl.edu)

Giant Eden, Savannas, Rattlesnake along the Indian River Lagoon

Giant Eden Rattlesnake 11' 4" long and 112 pounds.
Man holding giant Eden rattlesnake documented as 11′ 4″ long and 112 pounds, caught west of Indian River Drive in the savannas,  just west of the Indian River Lagoon. Southern St Lucie County, year unknown. (Photo historical  archives of Sandra Thurlow.)

Growing up in Stuart, my parents taught me to respect nature and not to fear it; this included snakes. I remember coming home from school and my mother having a captured or rescued non venomous snakes, opossums, raccoons, birds, turtles, squirrels, and other wildlife  for my brother, sister and I to look at,  learn about, and sometimes nurse, before releasing the animal. We got out our pocket sized,  $1.00,  Golden Nature Guides and pretend we were Jr. Scientist.  It was fun and in fact these experiences remain some of my favorite memories of growing up along  the Treasure Coast. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Guide)

My brother, sister and I were taught that snakes were God’s creatures, as all animals were, however frightening, dangerous or strange; that all animals held a miraculous and important place in the web of life and food chain that made the world work. 

Truly,  I don’t remember seeing many venomous snakes  growing up in the 60s, 70s and 80s, just indigo, black racers, and orange and black rat snakes. Although there was one incident on Arbor Day in fifth grade at Jensen Beach Elementary School, when we were planting a class tree and a diamond back rattlesnake was warning us of its presence in nearby palmettos. The teacher fearfully huddled all the kids, and a maintenance man was called to behead the reptile. No explanation. No thought. Typical.

Now for the picture…

The above  photo is one that my parents acquired in the early 2000s when looking at a piece of property on Indian River Drive in the 12,000 section. Properties in this area were once known as the  historic Indian River Lagoon town of “Eden.”

My mother, a historian, often talks about how Eden could never fully develop, as Jensen did, as Eden backed up to the easterly savannas which are underwater a good portion of the year.

The gentleman who gave my parents the above photo,  saw them walking around in the savannas behind the house, shared the photo, and warned them “to be careful.”


When I recently asked my mother to share this photo, she said “although she usually I likes to have more than one person’s story in regard to such matters, she did not  think the photo was a hoax.” She also mentioned, she believes there is a photograph of a large rattlesnake killed by John Miller, who owned the property where the photo came from, at the St. Lucie County Historical Museum.

True or untrue, with all the development, and mankind’s propensity to kill snakes, there are probably very few of these giant rattlesnakes remaining anywhere in Florida. So  a photo like this one is worth “remembering.”

One thing no one would question is that both the savannas and the Indian River Lagoon, are just shadows of what they used to be!

Venomous snakes of  Florida: (http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herpetology/fl-guide/venomsnk.htm)

Savannas State Park: (http://www.floridastateparks.org/resources/doc/individualparks/brochures/sav-brochure.pdf)