Today we study page five of the historic 1937 Stuart Daily News. A message at the top of the page “invites participation” in a celebration, both in Stuart and Ft Meyers, for the completion of the cross-state canal. This was a celebration of navigation and the commerce and growth it would bring to these areas. As we know today, this cross-state canal is not just used for navigation, but also to drain Lake Okeechobee.
It is interesting to note that the “Stuart to Ft Meyers Cross-State Canal” must later have become known as the “Okeechobee Waterway:”
Although this celebration was about the benefits of navigation, Edwin Menninger on the front of the 1937 historic edition wrote:
“Construction of the St Lucie Canal began in 1921 when the fact dawned on the Everglades pioneers that canals through muck lands were useless – they refused to carry water out of the lake. Four of them had been dug, and were utterly worthless. The St Lucie was completed in 1924 and for 13 years has been the only functioning outlet from Lake Okeechobee to the sea.”
So perhaps the opening of the cross-state canal in 1937 was the beginning of “shared adversity” or shared destruction of the two coasts as it was not until 1937, after great investment by the Federal Government, that the Caloosahatchee River finally had a “navigable channel 7 feet deep and 80 feet wide,” before that it was very limited.
Considering that today the poor Caloosahatchee takes about two-thirds of the water drained from Lake O, we here on the east coast have to consider the possibility that if the “improvements” of the 1937 cross state canal were not done, the St Lucie might still be taking 100% of Lake O’s drainage water!
(Caloosahatchee And Its Watershed, FAU 1998, outstanding time-line, see pages 5-11 or vi-xii http://www.ces.fau.edu/publications/pdfs/the-caloosahatchee-river-and-itswatershed.pdf)
In 2009 my husband Ed and I took the our dogs Bo and Baron along the cross-state canal trip from Stuart to Ft Meyers, but stopped in Lake Okeechobee. Lots of storms! It was insightful and fun. One day I do hope to go all the way to Ft Meyers. This is definitely a “Florida bucket-list to do!”
Video of Ed my 2009 trip cross state canal to Lake O: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8fyYCw6aW4&feature=em-share_video_user)