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If you look in the upper right corner of this 1884 map of Florida, you will see the Ten Mile Creek area near Ft Pierce, in today’s St Lucie County. This area was one of the most beloved places as written about by Stuart News editor (1945-1975) and St Lucie River advocate, Ernie Lyons.
Much to Lyons and others dismay, over time, this area became channelized by canals C-23, C-24 and C-25 as part of the Central and South Florida Project. Although these canals are not connected to Lake Okeechobee, they are very destructive to the health of the St Lucie River. These lands once marsh like and sacred to mound building Indians, were drained for citrus and development in the early 1950 and 60s. Pollution contamination became a serious issue in these “protected headwaters.” (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/ten-mile-creek/)
Today, a reservoir and storm water treatment area are functional, finally, to begin to mitigate the situation. St Lucie County itself is doing great things having to do with restoration. The area is so special and remains full of remnants of Old Florida, “a land to be remembered.”
I plan on doing a series of posts on this subject, and today I begin with presentations by Dr Gary Goforth. Who better to begin our journey of learning more about 10 Mile Creek!
Last month I was invited to give a presentation on the North Fork of the St. Lucie River by the Conservation Alliance of St. Lucie County and the Oxbow Eco-Center.
Link to YouTube video of the presentation – warning – it’s about an hour-long!
Gary Goforth, P.E. PhD (http://www.garygoforth.net/index.htm)
An excerpt by Ernie Lyons
THERE was never anything more beautiful than a natural South Florida River, like the North and South Fork of the St. Lucie and the winding cypress-bordered Loxahatchee.
THEIR banks of cabbage palms and live oaks draped with Spanish moss and studded with crimson-flowered air plants and delicate wild orchids were scenes of tropical wonder, reflected back from the mirror-like onyx surface of the water.
EVERY BEND of their serpentine lengths brought new delights. Here would be clumps of fragile white spider lilies in bloom, there an alligator easing down, an otter swimming or an anhinga, the snake bird or water turkey, drying its spread wings on a dead snag. If its wings weren’t dry enough to fly, the water turkey would plunge into the river and swim off under water.
THERE were pileated woodpeckers pounding away on dead pines, egrets and herons, occasionally flocks of wild turkeys thundering over. But the most wonderful thing was the water itself, pure, sweet, cool fresh water. For miles down from the headwaters you could lean over and drink your fill. Water the way God made it. No Chlorine. No chemical additives. No salt.
IN THIS marvelous fresh water there was an incredible population of black bass and blue gills and all other finny tribes of the freshwater. There were catfish, gars and mudfish, and that strange fish with green bones called the Chinese pike or “sleeper, ” also snook and tarpon which had come up from the brackish into the fresh water zone.
THERE had always been fresh water in the upper zones, furnishing some of the most marvelous sport fishing conceivable. The fresh water was constantly replenished by a steady flow from saw grass swamps and cypress lakes, as well as by thousands of little trickles in the banks from a high ground water level. True, the tides pushed the fresh water back and diluted it with a brackish mixture in the lower zones, but there was always enough more fresh water coming in so that the headwaters held their own.
DRAINAGE canals, mostly for agricultural purposes, cut the throats of the upper rivers. During the periods of heavy rainfall, muddy waters gushed down and turned the formerly clear streams into a turbid, silted mess. During dry spells, gated dams held back water for irrigation. The ground water table was lowered. Salt marched upstream, turning the formerly fresh waters brackish and eventually so salty fresh water fish could not procreate.
THE MARVELOUS fresh water fishing expired, majestic cypresses along the banks of the Loxahatchee began to die. The banks are still beautiful, but just a shadow of what they had been.
WHAT brings all of this to mind is that, at long last, South Florida Water Management District plans to begin an “experimental release” of around 1,000 cubic feet per second of fresh Lake Okeechobee water from St. Lucie Canal into the St. Lucie River. All South Florida rivers require a reasonable amount of fresh water. Too much is disastrous.
NOW, if they can devise ways to reintroduce steady flows into the North and South Forks and the Loxahatchee, some paradises might be restored.
St Lucie County, 10 Mile Creek: