TCPalm’s Elliott Jones reported this morning that Stuart has received a whopping 11.30 inches of rain just so far this month! (The average being 7.14.)
Although due to the recent drought, the ACOE/SFWMD are not dumping Lake Okeechobee through Canal C-44, canals C-23, C-24, C-25, and areas along C-44, as well as our own basin, are draining right into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Very little of this water is cleansed before it enters and thus is damaging to the eco system. Next time you see water draining through a grate in a parking lot, think about this. Remember too that before the major canals were constructed the 1900s, the river received less than half the water it gets every time it rains today.
The aerials below were taken 6-13-17 by my husband Ed Lippisch and pilot Dave Stone. It is important to monitor the river all of the time so we can view changes.
“Rain stained” we are; please remember not to fertilize during the rainy season. The birds on Bird Island will appreciate it! (http://befloridian.org)
Canals draining water into SLR/IRL after rain events:
If we look into the mirror of history, we begin to see…
We begin to see how we destroyed one of the most famous and beloved inland fishing waters in North America and how we learned to do better. And if we are able, in time, not only to do better, but to return “health and glory” to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, it should be the tarpon, not the sailfish, that becomes our symbol, our king.
The first formal fishing club documented in Stuart was the 1916 St Lucie River Tarpon Club. The late 1800s and early 1900s were an era of great fame for the St Lucie River, build upon President Grover Cleveland and other presidents fishing trips to the area. Yes, the St Lucie was known as the “Fishing Grounds of Presidents.”
Ironically, at this same time, the Commercial Club, that evolved into today’s Chamber of Commerce, was promoting not just Stuart’s remarkable fishing, but also enthusiastically encouraging and awaiting the completion of the St Lucie Canal.
“Once the muddy water flowed into the St Lucie River, they began to realize that the canal was not the blessing they envisioned,” writes Sandra Henderson Thurlow. Historian Alice Luckhardt more directly notes, “at one time tarpon were often caught in the St. Lucie River, but “disappeared” from those waters soon after the opening of the canal system to Lake Okeechobee in 1923.”
Ingeniously, and with more insight, in the years following the loss of tarpon and other river fish as seen in the McCoy map above, the ocean-going sailfish was marketed to replace the tarpon and become “the most prized fish of all…” as well as in time the symbol for both the city and county governments.
The magnificent Silver King? Just a dying memory, or no memory at all…
By the mid 1930s the Chamber of Commerce began publishing the “Stuart Fishing Guide.” In 1941 the largest sailfish run in Florida’s history occurred off the St Lucie Inlet. Remarkable! More than 5000 sailfish were caught in a 90 day period. “Thousands were slaughtered only to be dumped in the river, carted off by garbage collectors, and used for shark bait.” Stuart as the Sailfish Capital of the world was affirmed, but as my mother states, if “Stuart’s fame was to endure, so was the need for conservation of the species.”
The idea for conservation/protecting the industry had been in the works, the Sailfish Club had been talking about it and a few sailfish were returned to the ocean…. But after the sailfish run of “41, the idea of an organized conservation effort was solidified, and Sailfish Club of ’31 updated their charter in “41 “to further and promote sports fishing and conservation in the waters of the City of Stuart and Martin County.” Visiting sportsmen were awarded and inspired to work for the most coveted bronze, silver, and gold lapel pins based on the size of the sail they caught and released, not killed.
This is a great story, but what of the tarpon?
I can see his giant, ancient, dorsal fin rising from the waters of a healthier St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. For me, no fish will ever compare. As we restore our rivers, it is he who shall be KING! 🙂
Martin County’s theme is “Our Good Nature.” We have kept some of it, unlike so many other counties in the state of Florida. I grew up appreciating this. My mother and father used to bring home injured animal for my sister, Jenny, my brother, Todd, and me to care for when we were growing up in Stuart in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. I was taught never to be afraid of wild animals, but to respect them.
One of my favorite fascinations with local wildlife is the black, or “melanistic,” bobcats of western Martin County. I have written before about this local genetic phenomenon. In fact, it is one of my all time most popular posts. Indeed, there are more reports of black bobcats or “black panthers” occur right here, especially around Lake Okeechobee and the St Lucie Canal, than anywhere else in the state!
Yesterday, my friend and UF NRLI classmate, FWC biologist Angeline Scotten– who was in town to give a coyote presentation for Sewall’s Point and Martin County, took me to visit Busch Wildlife Sanctuary and to meet her mentor– of animal-fame– David Hitzig, Busch Wildlife’s long time executive director. I was totally impressed. What an amazing place. You must visit! http://www.buschwildlife.org
Early on in the conversation I told Mr Hitzig that for whatever reason, although an animal fan, I had never visited Busch Wildlife Sanctuary—but that I had written about a black bobcat that was documented to be at the sanctuary after being trapped near the St Lucie Canal in Western Martin County. This bobcat had been eating somebody’s chickens.
Excitedly, Mr Hitzig noted that yes, the melanistic bobcat had been at the center a few years ago, and was released. He also shared that just this month, April 2016, there had been reports of not one, but two, black bobcat cubs walking behind their mother; he later shared this rare and awesome photo.
What a sight! Two black bobcat cubs strolling happily along behind their mother in western Martin County. I love this place. Don’t you?
Correction to blog 🙂 Just after completing this post, I just received an email from David Hitzig of Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, and this black bobcat cub photo was taken in Okeechobee, a western neighbor to Martin County not Martin County itself as I thought when I wrote this! Certainly there are no boarders for the cats and Okeechobee and Martin are side by side “out west.” See map below. Wanted to note for the record. jacqui
Thank you Mr David Hitzig for sharing this marvelous photo.
Thank you to FWC Angeline Scotten from UF NRLI Class XV for taking me to the Busch Wildllife Sanctuary and for her excellent coyote presentation for the Town of Sewall’s Point: http://nrli.ifas.ufl.edu
In the days before air travel, the term “air line” was a common for denoting the “shortest distance between two points”–a straight line drawn through the air, or on a map–unaccounting for obstacles. Therefore, a number of 19th century railroads used “air line” in their titles to suggest that their routes were shorter than those of competing roads…in the 1920s, there was a famous rail company named “Sea Board Airlines” and Indiantown, was to be its South Florida headquarters…
Lately, rail travel has been on everyone’s mind here along the Treasure Coast, as the controversy and indignities of “All Aboard Florida” play out. The power and transformation rail brought to the state of Florida is legendary, especially in the history of Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railroad. A lesser known entity that was perhaps equally competitive in its day, is Sea Board Airlines, a rail company whose history had a collision with Indiantown, Florida, in western Martin County, right in the area of Lake Okeechobee. If fate had just tracked a bit in the rail line’s favor, things could be very different today….
In 1924, Mr. Solomon Davies Warfield, amazingly related to the soon to be and iconoclastic Duchess of Windsor, became CEO of the Seaboard Air Line. He began building a 204-mile track extension, called the “Florida Western & Northern Railroad,” from the Seaboard mainline in Coleman, Florida, ( just northwest of Orlando in Sumter County) to West Palm Beach. Previously these locations had been the exclusive domain of the Florida East Coast Railway. The Seaboard extension ran through Indiantown, which Warfield planned to make the new southern headquarters of the Seaboard.
Many life changing things were happening in our region in the 1920s. The Florida land boom was in full swing, swamps were becoming real estate, and the connection of the St Lucie Canal from Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the St Lucie River officially occurred forever changing the health of the area rivers. (1923) The canal, although primarily an outlet to control for the “southerly overflow” waters of Lake Okeechobee for farmers, was also “flood control,” and on a business level, the canal was meant and “sold” to be a trade route for shipping the riches of the interior of the state. The goal of backers of the canal was to compete with the railroads.
Well the frenzy of dollar signs came to a head and in 1926. The stock market crashed, and the horrors of the Great Depression for Florida and the nation ensued. A stressed Warfield died in 1927, and Indiantown just kind “faded into history.” Dreams became memories. Life changed. Florida morphed….Nevertheless, Indiantown still sits positioned for a prosperous future. In fact, it’s waiting and ready to relive history. What do they say? “Location, location, location! ” What do you think?
Me? I have a funny feeling history will repeat itself for Indiantown; in fact, I see a train comin’ ’round the track! 🙂
(Warfield’s name still remains on “everything” in Indiantown today! (road, school. etc.)
There are over 2000 miles of canals draining precious fresh water off South Florida; it’s a good idea to know the main ones. I started thinking about this after going through some old files and finding this awesome 1909 Map Dr Gary Goforth shared with me showing a plan in 1909 to drain the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee WITHOUT killing the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Well as they say: “The rest is history….” As we know, the C-44, or St Lucie Canal, was later built.
So when I was looking on-line for a good map to show the canals of South Florida today to compare to Gary’s canal map of 1909, believe it or not, I could not find one! One that was well labeled anyway. So I made my own.
It’s pretty “home-school” but its readable. From left to right, below, you will see canals Caloosahatchee, (C-43); Miami, (L-23); New River, (L-18); Hillsboro, (L-15); West Palm Beach, (L-12); L-8 that never got a name as far as I am aware; and St Lucie, (C-44.) I do not know why some are labeled “C” and others are “L,” but you can follow them to see where they dump.
I believe the first two built were the Miami and the New River— by 1911, as I often see those two on historic maps prior to 1920. Today our state canal plumbing system is outdated and wasteful sending on average over 1.7 billion gallons of fresh water to tide (to the ocean) every day. (Mark Perry, Florida Oceanographic.)
Even though I grew up in Stuart, I was never really taught about the canals. As a young adult and even older, I drove around for years not knowing about these canals and others like C-23, C-24, and C-25. If I “saw” them, I did not “recognize” them. I knew the land had been “drained” but really had no conception of what that meant or the extent thereof…
I remember my mom used to say if we were driving around in Ft Pierce in the 80s, “And to think there used to be inches of water covering all this land at certain times of the year….” I just stared at her but didn’t really “get it.” The pine trees flashed by and it seemed “impossible” what she was saying…
In any case, the young people today should be learning in detail about these canals so they can be “updated,” “refreshed,” “reworked,” and “replugged.” Say “no” to old-fashioned canals, and “hello” to a new and better South Florida!
Below is a history of the South Florida canals as written in an email to me by Dr Gary Goforth. It is very enlightening. Thanks Gary!
As you know, plans to manage the level of Lake Okeechobee (by discharging to tide) in order to develop and protect the agricultural lands south of the lake were developed before 1850 and evolved through the mid-1950s.
1. Buckingham Smith, Esq. in 1848 proposed connecting the Lake with the Loxahatchee River and/or the San Lucia (report to the Sec. of the US Treasury; copy available).
2. In 1905, Gov. Broward rejected a proposal to lower the Lake with a new canal connecting to the St. Lucie River.
3. Attached is a 1909 map of South Florida from the 1909 State of Florida report “Report on the Drainage of the Everglades of Florida, By J. O. Wright, Supervising Drainage Engineer”. The importance of this map and report is the recommendation to manage the water level in Lake Okeechobee via drainage into multiple canals from the Lake to the Atlantic Ocean – but NOT the St. Lucie Canal. The primary canal for moving Lake water to the Atlantic was to be the Hillsboro Canal which would connect the Lake to the Hillsboro River in present day Deerfield Beach / Boca Raton. Note the recommendation is to construct what is now called the “West Palm Beach Canal” and route Lake water into the Loxahatchee River and then out to the ocean via the Jupiter Inlet – this is actually being accomplished as part of CERP and the Loxahatchee River restoration program.
4. In 1913, the State accepted the recommendation of an NY engineer (Isham Randolph) to construct a canal connecting the Lake to the St. Lucie River (report available). The Everglades Drainage District was formed the same year, and was responsible for the construction of the canal and associated locks/water control gates. (historical construction photos available). Construction lasted from May 1915 through 1924, and the first Lake discharges to the St. Lucie occurred June 15, 1923 (ref: Nat Osborn Master’s thesis 2012, copy available)
5. After the 1928 hurricane, the State asked for and received federal assistance. The canal was enlarged by 1938; new St. Lucie Locks was rebuilt in 1941; the new spillway was constructed in 1944. —Dr Gary Goforth (http://garygoforth.net)
In yesterday’s blog, I quoted a Department of Environmental Protection document stating that the St Lucie Canal, now known as “C-44,” was originally proposed in the early 1900s to connect Lake Okeechobee to the Manatee Pocket in Port Salerno, rather than the South Fork of the St Lucie River…
So after reading my blog, my mother sends me this awesome historic real estate ad above. Can you believe it? I had heard the tales of “urban legend” for years, but now there is a visual of this historical record!
She wrote: “This was the centerfold for a booklet “Little Journeys to Salerno and the Famous St. Lucie Inlet Farms, 1914.”
I just blows my mind that those old timers were trying to turn Stuart into Miami. If the 1926 depression had not hit, they just may have been successful…
In any case there was a fight for the now dreaded C-44 canal between Stuart and Port Salerno. Stuart “won” to lose…
The historic ad above reads:
“The bird’s-eye view printed here shows the position of the tract as to transportation–the magnificent and picturesque water of the St Lucie River—the Indian River—the St Lucie Inlet where the United States Government has appropriated one-hundred thousand dollars toward the construction of a deep water harbor–the Atlantic Ocean–the automobile thoroughfare, which connects Jacksonville to Miami–and the location of the town of Port Salerno which is clearly destined to become the commercial city and the great shipping point for the products of the winter gardens of the Everglades—the most logical route for the proposed state ship and drainage canal, which is to empty into the St Lucie Inlet and will deliver most of the products from the vast Everglades, for distribution and shipment, at tis point the proposed shore road and bridge connecting the mainland with Sewall’s Point and many other features which go to prove the enviable location of Port Salerno and the St Lucie lnlet Farms.”
Thanks mom, for another amazing piece of history!
Video showing where the C-44 did connect to the South Fork of the St Lucie River: video Todd Thurlow:
I share a video today that I believe to be my most “insightful” blog post since I began writing in 2013. The video above by my brother, Todd, who is an expert in historic map overlays merged with images from today’s Google Earth, communicates and educates in a manner no one map or document could do independently.
The video’s journey shows exactly where the C-44 canal was connected to the South Fork of the St Lucie River. An historic Hanson Grant map reveals the “Halpatiokee River, meaning “alligator river;” with a basis in multiple Indian languages. Because the St Lucie Inlet was not opened, the forks and river were “fresh,” thus alligators lived there. Then flying over a 1910 plat map of St Lucie Inlet Farms, you will see the South Fork of the St Lucie River mapped out. As the image changes over “time” you will see the construction of the C-44 canal, and how it was built right through the middle of South Fork’s north-western prong. In fact, those prongs today on the northerly side, are “gone” as sections 32 and 33 show. Those lands today are agriculture fields. As the journey continues, in the developed areas of St Lucie Farms you will see a very large lake “disappear” near section 25. I find all of this fascinating and kind of depressing… My brother said it best: “Wealth created at the expense of the environment…” Maybe we could create more wealth today going in the opposite direction?
The canal was built by the Everglades Flood Control District and later the Army Corp of Engineers, at the request of the state of Florida and Stuart Chamber of Commerce head Capt. Stanley Kitching and other “leaders.” (From conversation with historian Sandra Thurlow).
According to the Department of Environmental Protection’s Eco-Summary from 2000, the C-44 canal was begun in 1916 and completed in 1924. The document states:
“Next to the permanent opening of the St Lucie Inlet which changed the St Lucie River from a freshwater river to a brackish estuary, the construction of the C-44 has had the greatest impact on the St Lucie Estuary….Records show people have been complaining since the 1950s and there are numerous problem associated with the C-44 Canal…
UThe article discusses the prevalence of fish lesions due to too much fresh water, sediment smothering benthic communities, seagrass destruction, and the continued heavy nutrient and pesticide loading from agriculture and development in light of a tremendously enlarged basin coupled with massive periodic releases from Lake Okeechobee. (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/C-44%20Canal%20.pdf)
The DEP Eco Summary also states: The canal..“was originally designed to enter Manatee Pocket instead of the South Fork of the St Lucie River. ”
IInteresting isn’t it… to ponder what would have been different if the canal had gone through the Manatee Pocket instead? Certainly the St Lucie River would have been spared but the Pocket, near shore reefs, and inlet surrounding perhaps full of even more contaminated silt and high impact nutrients. Best of all the canal would have never been built but that reality we cannot change…or can we?
Most important today is to know where we have come from so we can redirect where we are. Please take a look at the very short video, put your thinking cap on, and let’s get the state, federal and local governments delivering on what they have documented as problematic for Florida’s waters since the 1970s. Only the people will change this problem, not the government.