Tag Archives: time capsule flight

The Old Drained Ponds of Downtown Stuart, Now Poison the St Lucie River, ~Time Capsule Flight, Todd Thurlow, SLR/IRL

Today’s blog post, created by my brother, Todd Thurlow, just totally blows my mind. His time-capsule flight through images of Google Earth, historic maps from 1850 and 1940, and an aerial from 1958, takes us on a journey through the extensive pond-land/wetland that used to be the area of Downtown Stuart and beyond. Today we all live here, most of us not even realizing what the land once was…this wetland now “magically” drains into the St Lucie River.

In Todd’s video you can see that Stuart Middle School actually is now sitting where an old pond used to be; there were ponds expanding and contracting with the rains in today’s Memorial Park; there were ponds in the areas of today’s County Courthouse; there were ponds scattered over today’s airport, Witham Field; there were extensive ponds along East Ocean Boulevard and  Dolphin as featured in last Friday’s popular blog post. Yes, there little ponds just about everywhere!

Sometimes we think the wetlands are “out west” and they are, but years ago they were also here. I have to say am guilty of this too. When I came home after university in 1986 and just about everything was developed, once again, amnesia! Look, after you watch Todd’s video, and notice the drainage canals around Monterey Blvd., St Lucie Blvd, back by Kingswoods Condo, and on the edges of Witham Field and there are many more. Of course like the grates and drains in every parking lot, these canals drain into our ailing St Lucie River. Lake Okeechobee is the big toxic hammer but there is local destruction too…

Thank you Todd and please watch the video!

Jacqui

Link to East Ocean Blvd and Dolphin Drive 1885, 1949 and 1958 video: (https://youtu.be/RCA47UsrmAc)

BY TODD THURLOW

The video is a follow-up to my sister’s 5/19/2017 blog post “The Long Forgotten Wetlands of East Ocean Boulevard, SLR/IRL” (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/201…)

She describes a 1958 aerial photograph that hangs in my law office. The photo is from my parent’s “Thurlow/Ruhnke” collection. I had used the photo for a Google Earth presentation for Stuart Heritage on May 8, 2012. http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com/

This is a recording of maps and photographs used for part of that presentation: 1850s Government Land Office Plats, 1940 USDA aerials and the 1958 Thurlow/Ruhnke photo.

There is no sound or text overlays but here are a few features to note:

0:50 –What was called the “Stuart Middle School Pond”. We jumped in that pond on the last day of school to celebrate graduating from 8th grade. A few years ago the pond was filled in to make room for a new building.

1:00 – The end of Fourth Street (what is now called East Ocean Blvd). East Ocean Blvd. ended at the intersection of St. Lucie Blvd/ Oriole Ave. on the left (north) side and Dolphin Drive on the right (south) before it was extended to the “Bridges to the Sea”.

1:14 – The oblique aerial described in Jacqui’s blog. Note the building in the bottom right corner. That is the Broadway Service Center which still stands today. See https://goo.gl/iODQwU

1:47 –The Evan’s Crary Bridge (aka the Ten Cent Bridge) under construction in the background

2:24 – 1940 flyover of Dolphin Drive. Note the single building in the middle of nowhere. That residence is still standing on the corner of SE 6th Street and Flamingo Ave. According to the Martin County Property Appraiser, it was built in 1925, years before the photo was taken.

2:30 –The 1940 view before our current airport. The previous Krueger Airport was off of East Ocean Blvd. Dolphin Drive continued all the way from East Ocean Blvd. to St. Lucie Blvd. by the river. If you have ever taken the “back exit” from the Stuart Air Show onto St. Lucie Blvd, that still existing right-of-way is what used to be the other end of Dolphin Drive.

~Todd Thurlow

Thomas H. Thurlow III

“Time Capsule Flights,” created by my brother, Todd Thurlow, has been a shared favorite on my blog since 2014. In these remarkable videos, Todd uses his legal and historical knowledge to create a living collage juxtaposing historic and modern-day images to achieve dramatic insights into watershed and land use changes in Florida over the past hundred years. These videos are a must for anyone wishing to understand our state’s history or working to restore its waters and lands in the future. You can access all of Todd’s videos here: http://maps.thethurlows.com.

1940s Dept. of Ag. aerials Martin Co. Dark areas are ponds/wetlands.

Thurlow and Thurlow PA: http://www.thurlowpa.com​

 

The Dramatic Shifting Sands of Ft Lauderdale, SLR/IRL

FullSizeRender 4
Comparison of 1883 historic map and Google Earth image 2017, Ft Lauderdale’s New River Inlet

Today I am sharing two creations of my brother, Todd Thurlow. Entitled “Ft Lauderdale House of Refuge/Life Saving Station,” and “Short Version,”they were originally for my mother, Sandra Henderson Thurlow and Timothy Dring’s “Image of America, U.S. Life Savings Service” book presentation at the Elliott Museum.

For me, Todd’s videos are mind-boggling as they bear witness to how much and how fast we humans can change the  environment. Like an army of ants, we organize; we build; we destroy; we create…

By comparing and contrasting Google Earth maps of today with historic maps from 1883, 1887, and 1935, Todd’s “time capsule flight,” takes us through time and space to see the shifting sands of the multiple New River Inlets; Lake Mabel that morphed into Port Everglades; remnants of the forgotten Middle River that spread and contracted into new canals and developments; and of course, for mom, House of Refuge #4, that once rested north of a New River Inlet that today we can see is completely filled in, while beach-goers relax in reclining chairs like nothing ever happened!

Maybe one day we humans can use all this energy and ability to really fix our waters that have been destroyed during all this construction? Wouldn’t that be a dramatic video?

In closing, in the early 1900s, the New River… that was believed by the Seminoles to once be an underground river that collapsed and the Great Spirit revealed during an earthquake… was selected by modern-day humans as the “natural channel” to connect two of the largest drainage canals from Lake Okeechobee to the Atlantic Coast, the North New River/South New River, and the Miami.

Please watch and enjoy Todd’s videos below!

Long Version with old New River Inlet:

(Link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ge1bCV5Tz5Q)

Short Version:

(Link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYWga93XL3w)

f10595-gif

1936 historic write-up, Francis H. Miner,  Federal Writer’s Project Ft Lauderdale, https://www.broward.org/library/bienes/lii10210.htm

Click for enlarged images:

To contact Todd: http://www.thurlowpa.com and you can access all of Todd’s videos here: http://maps.thethurlows.com.

A Look Back in Time at the Altering Landscape of Dredge and Fill, SLR/IRL

Dredge and fill, public photo, 2015.
Dredge and fill, public photo, 2015.
Attached is a multi-image of the area in the 1887 NOAA map, the 1925 shot (partially), 1940, a 1958 NOAA map, 1970 and today.
A multi-image of the area in the 1887 NOAA map, the 1925 shot (partially), 1940, a 1958 NOAA map, 1970 and today by Todd Thurlow.

Link to video:(https://youtu.be/hsDmPmRWLRE?list=PLDaNwdmfhj15bmGNQaGhog9QpkQPAXl06)

Today’s blog is a full expansion of the 1925 aerial photo I wrote about last Friday.

My brother Todd took this photo creating a time line flight of 1925 and 1940 views of the Sailfish Flats, the Indian and St. Lucie Rivers, and the St. Lucie Canal (C-44).

Todd’s video is a history lesson in “dredge and fill” which was very common throughout all south Florida and the United States until national laws in the 1970s required more scrutiny and often no longer allow such due to heavy impacts and damages on waterways and the natural environment.

Our Martin and St Lucie County canals dug by the ACOE and water management entities C-44, C-23, C-24, C-25 are dredge and fill. Sailfish Point, Sewall’s Point, and Indian River Plantation, just to name a few, have large portions that are dredge and fill. The dike around Lake Okeechobee and the work abound the FPL plant in Indiantown by Barley Barber Swamp are dredge and fill. At the time, it was “how it was done.” People did not foresee the ramifications to the environment or to people living in these areas in the future.

The land was our Play Doh…

....
1925 aerial by Bob Higgins shared by Sandra H. Thurlow. SLR/IRL

I know you will learn a lot and enjoy watching Todd’s video. The link is above.

—My questions to Todd after I saw the video included:

Jacqui: “So Todd, what are the white lines on the edge of Stuart, Rocky Point etc…more piled white sand? Looks like Jupiter Island was smaller at one point…across from Sailfish…

So how in the world did they dig out the Sailfish Point Marina and what about the straight marina of Sailfish Point that was already there from the days of Mr Rand? Also what about the FPL Pond in Indiantown? Where do you think they put that fill? Holy cow! That’s a lot of fill!

(I have adapted Todd’s words after checking concepts with him so I could present info in a simple manner.)

Todd:  “The lines on the edge of Rocky Point were probably a beachy shoreline. With it being more open water at the time and more exposed to the inlet; I’m sure there was more of a beach there. That shoreline matches perfectly the shoreline shown on the early NOAA maps – even before the inlet was there.

With respect to Jupiter Island, you are probably referring to all the spoil that was piled up at the entrance to the Great Pocket – some of that was put there when I was in middle school. The main part of Jupiter Island is more to the east and is now gone – and earlier connected to Hutchinson Island. The old Gilbert’s Bar Inlet was south of that point.

The marina on Sailfish Point was dredge fill. We have some aerials of it in the making. As was the case in areas of Sewall’s Point, the sand dug to build  small marinas or  subdivisions was piled on the land (Archipelago, Isle Addition) to make the land higher or to create completely new lands.

As far as the giant FPL pond, they probably just dug with a dragline and used the fill to make the dike around the outside of the pond and also to build up the land around FPL.”

Hmmm?

So we live in an environment altered by our forefathers, and now we are experiencing unintended consequences to the health of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. We must assist the next generation in understanding the past so that we and they can create a better water future. And that we can!

Link to Friday’s blog that inspired Todd’s video: (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/12/18/a-1925-view-of-the-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon-slrirl/)

Time Capsule Flight, USCG Stations at Ft Pierce and Lake Worth, “Then and Now,” SLR/IRL

Google Earth image with historic photo overlay, USCG Ft Pierce, Fl. Taken from Todd Thurlow's Time Capsule Flight THEN AND NOW.
Google Earth image with historic photo overlay, USCG Ft Pierce, Fl. Taken from Todd Thurlow’s Time Capsule Flight.

UNITED STATES COAST GUARD STATIONS FT PIERCE AND LAKE WORTH, THEN AND NOW…

It’s fun when a blog blossoms into more!

My recent post of the historic US Coast Guard station in Ft Piece was one such post…Thank you for the many wonderful comments and insights.  Also, Dr Edie Widder is going to have the historic photos printed and hung at ORCA, located in the building itself. Talk about full circle!

As a follow-up, my brother Todd created a “time capsule flight” of the Ft Pierce USCG Station and the Lake Worth station using the historic photos shared by Tim Dring, President of the U. S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association. Mr Dring had recently shared the photos (discovered in the National Archives) with my mother as she is writing a book on the subject.

My brother’s time capsule flight will take you from the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon  proper to the  Ft Pierce Coast Guard Station, and then jet-off to Peanut Island’s Lake Worth USCG Station. It is wild to see the what our area looked like undeveloped. I have to say although they are invasive, I miss the tall Australian Pine Trees. I can still hear them blowing in the Trade Winds. Such a romantic time it was….Have fun. Wear your seatbelt and don’t lean too far out of the Cub!

My mother, Sandy Thurlow, flying in the cub with Ed. 2014. Go Pro photo.
My mother, Sandy Thurlow, taking photos and flying in the cub with my husband Ed, 2014. (Go-Pro photo.)

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CLICK LINK FOR SHORT VIDEO FLIGHT

CLICK LINK BELOW!
………..

(https://youtu.be/ctEzliyeT8w)

Link to THEN AND NOW, US COAST GUARD STATION FT PIERCE AND LAKE WORTH, Todd Thurlow.

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Also I am going to include a “funny story” about the “boys of the USCG” in Ft Pierce during WWII sent to me by family friend Stan Field, whose pen name is Anthony Stevens.

Hi there, Jacqui [cheery wave]

I just read your post about ORCA and the old CG station and thought I would share this tale with you. My mother, Emmy, shared this family legend many times. She was a teenager during WWII.

A true story about telephone Operations during WWII.

My mother and her friends, worked as telephone operators during most of the war. In those days, that involved a headphone and a bank of ¼” phone jacks with cables and plugs. There were no automatic dialing systems. Every call was placed manually via party lines with anywhere from four to a dozen phones on each line. Now Emmy and her fellow operators were usually pretty bored and would stay ‘on the line’ when there were military conversations.
One night, a very young and very ‘cool’ fellow that everyone loved for his sense of humor, was stationed at the Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge. A call came into Emmy’s switchboard and she was asked to patch in to the House lookout station. Now all of the watchtowers along Hutchinson Island were on the same party line. When it rang, everybody picked up. The person on the other end asked for the station they wanted and that station would respond. Normally, as soon as you realized it wasn’t for you, you would hang up.
This night, the caller asked for the watch on duty at the House of Refuge. The young man’s reply was loud and clear… “Gilbert’s Bar! Wine, women and song, all night long!”
There was a dead silence on the line for several seconds and the caller asked in a cold voice… “Do you know who this is, son?”
“No sir.”
“This is the Captain of the Coast Guard Base in Fort Piece.”
Without missing a beat… “Do you know who THIS is, Sir?”
“No.”
“THANK GOD!” And he hung up.
The sound of loud laughter flowed from a dozen headsets that were listening and the Captain hung up in fury.
The next day, the Captain passed the word that the person who answered had better confess or the entire post would lose liberty the following weekend. Even though everybody on watch that night knew who it was, NOBODY stepped forward and they all were restricted to barracks that weekend. Needless to say, the young man was a model sailor for the rest of the war… and he owed each of his buddies a great deal.

Stan Field, aka Anthony Stevens

Anthony Stevens
Tales for the 21st Century!
(http://postorbitallibrary.com/)

Ft Pierce USCG station. National Archives.
Ft Pierce USCG station ca. 1930/40s. National Archives. Tim Dring via Sandra Thurlow.
Lake Worth USCG Station 1951. National Archives.
Lake Worth USCG Station 1951, Peanut Island, National Archives. Tim Dring via Sandra Thurlow.

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HISTORY:  US Coast Guard Stations across the nation, organization and location: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organization_of_the_United_States_Coast_Guard#Regional_responsibilities)

My blog post from 8-26-15 “Ready, Responsive and Resolute for the IRL:”(https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/08/26/ready-responsive-and-resolute-for-our-indian-river-lagoon-uscg-and-orca/)

Video creator: Todd Thurlow (http://www.thurlowpa.com)

Time Capsule Flight to the Headwaters of the South Fork, 1940s to Today, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

 

Prong area of South Fork, St Lucie River also showing C-44 canal's connection. (1940 US Government aerials shared by Todd Thurlow.)
Historic map with beginnings of Google overlay showing pronged area of South Fork, St Lucie River, C-44 canal’s connection, and the many ponds that once spotted the landscape that are now filled with agriculture and development. (1940 US Government aerials shared by Todd Thurlow.)
C-44 canal 1940 map with beginnings of Google overlay. (Todd Thurlow)
C-44 canal 1940 map with beginnings of Google overlay emerging. (Todd Thurlow)

Link to video: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuYkQ26OZvg&feature=youtu.be)

0:34 – Roosevelt Bridge
0:39 – Note the Old 1934 two-lane drawbridge in use. The current drawbridge was built in 1964
1:05 – Palm City Bridge
1:22 – Indian Street Bridge
1:27 – Note the increase in width of the river — in some places from approx 225 feet to 460+ feet.
3:24 – Halpatiokee Park
3:24 – Note the old Gaines Highway “Humpback” Bridge (SR-76) in use in 1940.
3:42 – Okeechobee Waterway (C-44)
4:00 – St. Lucie Lock and Dam (—timetable from Todd Thurlow)


I continue to take great pleasure in featuring the “time-capsule flight” historic map and Google Earth work of my brother, Todd Thurlow.(http://thurlowpa.com)

Today’s short video focuses on our beloved South Fork area of the St Lucie River. This video visually juxtaposes 1940s U.S. Government maps to Google Earth images of today. The video begins over an undeveloped Horseshoe Point, Sewall’s Point, and St Lucie River proper and then travels in a southern direction to the wide fork of the St Lucie River and deep along its wild, winding, and African-looking curves. One sees the old Palm City and new Veteran’s Memorial bridges come and go, and notices the  build up over time of sand in the fork (maybe some from dredging and some from sediment build-up from Lake Okeechobee releases.) This serpentine and beautiful section of the South Fork is southerly of Highway 76 that runs out to Lake Okeechobee alone the C-44 canal.  Today’s I-95 exchange is also visible.

Broad overlay of maps South Fork. (Todd Thurlow)
Broad overlay of maps South Fork. (Todd Thurlow)

And the little ponds! My favorite! Just everywhere!This is most incredible to me as today they are “gone.” These hundreds, if not thousands of little ponds, once slowly increased and decreased in depth and size based on rainfall, overflowing at times, into the winding South Fork. One can still see the lush vegetation surrounding some of these areas.  Can you imaging the wildlife that used to be in our area? I so would have loved to have seen it but this trip is better than nothing! 

As the flight continues, “today’s”  development is neatly  stacked right up to the winding edge of the fork on the south side in particular…makes me think of septic tanks???

I have to say it nice that there is some land around the areas of the fork and I am sure local environmentalist have fought to keep this over the years. Nonetheless, if we had it to do over again, I think we would decide to leave a much wider birth around these important watersheds.

In the final minutes of the video we travel over the dreaded C-44 canal built in the 1920s, known in  its early years as  the “St Lucie Canal.”  This canal of course, connects Lake Okeechobee to a section of a second prong (fork) in the winding South Fork. The canal itself is wider and apparently the “connection is just “above” today’s Four Rivers which lies beyond the I-95 bridge and exchange and All American Marina.

Zooming in and out in time and place,  one can see the cleared lands around St Lucie Locks and Dam and white sand piled high from dredging on the north side of the canal….The picture fades in and out as we view the old locks structure compared to its “new and improved” version today….

I just love this stuff. It makes it all so easy to “see.”

The environmental destruction that is…I guess for others it is the sight of money and making a swamp “useful.” How ever you view it, the journey is an education.

Thank you to Todd for opening my eyes and for allowing me to travel in time and “place.”

C-44 canal Google Earth with St Lucie Locks and Dam. (Todd Thurlow Google Earth)
C-44 canal Google Earth with St Lucie Locks and Dam. (Todd Thurlow Google Earth)
1940 US Gov't map showing C-44 canal cut form Todd Thurlow's video.)
1940 US Gov’t map showing C-44 canal cut from Todd Thurlow’s video. Notice agriculture fields on top of what was a stream.

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To see more of Todd’s work on my blog, search his name on my blog’s front page, go to my blog’s “About Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch” page or just google Todd Thurlow bluewatertt3 on You Tube.

Port St Lucie was a Swamp? Really? St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Topographical map, courtesy of Todd Thurlow.
Topographical 1823 U.S. Army map, courtesy of Todd Thurlow.
Map overlay with I-95 and Turnpike. (Todd Thurlow)
Map in transition/overlay showing today’s  I-95 and Turnpike in yellow. (Todd Thurlow)

Link to short video journey showing the former swamp “Alpatiokee” juxtaposed to today’s agriculture and development– Post St Lucie and western Martin County,

The first map in the video is a 1823 U.S. Army Map showing “Al-pa-ti-o-kee Swamp,” as it was known. The second is a 1846 map by Bruff. We then fly in to view Green Ridge, and the ridge just east of Indiantown. Next, we then overlay the 1983 Topo maps to view Green Ridge again, fly up, and around, Ten-mile Creek, and then back down the North Fork of the St. Lucie River. —-Todd Thurlow

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2f-e0ul1mY&feature=youtu.be)

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Not only was the city of Port St Lucie a swamp, but western Martin County was too. Please view the above video and “see” for yourself! It must have been a fabulous place, now long gone, know as “Alpatiokee,” or “Halpatiokee Swamp.”

Meaning “alligator waters” by the Seminoles, these lands/waterways were traversed for centuries in hand-made canoes. The native people and the Seminoles traveled many miles through the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and during rainy season they could travel all the way up into the St Johns River. How? Because these lands, when flooded, were “connected.” Now they are not only no longer connected but water that flowed north into the St John’s flows south into the St Lucie River….

Back to Port St Lucie…..

Recently, I kept noticing that the 1856 “Everglades” Military Map I like so much showed an expansive swamp close to where Port St Lucie and western Martin County are located today.

“This is weird,” I thought.  “What happened to the old swamp?”

So, I contacted my brother, Todd, who loves maps and can combine them together with technology. (See link/video above.)

Below you’ll find an edited version of Todd’s notes to me.

I find all of this absolutely fascinating, and sometimes a bit unsettling….The natural ridges in the land we seem to ignore; how we blew canals through them; how the water USED to flow; how humans have developed and built agricultural empires, and changed everything….Maybe one day with visual tools like these, future land planners, and water district employees can change back some of our landscape to it’s former glory, and maybe even return a few gators to the landscape, since it’s named after them.

That would be nice, something more to look at while driving the Turnpike than “concrete.” 🙂

Alligator resting but always alert....(Public photo.)
Halpatiokee or Alpatiokee translates as  “alligator water” in the Seminole language. (Public photo.)

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TODD’S NOTES REGARDING VIDEO:

THE OLD MAPS: The old maps are not necessarily accurate, but they give an idea… They show basically what was known as the “Hal-pa-ti-o-kee Swamp.”  On some other maps it is labeled the “Al-pa-ti-o-kee Swamp.” On almost all old maps, it would cover the area that is labeled Allapattah Flats on the modern topographical maps — but Hal-pa-ti-o-kee was probably more to the east.

———————-

Google Earth image 2015, Todd Thurlow.
Google Earth image 2015, Todd Thurlow.

TOPOGRAPHY AND RIDGES: There are two distinct ridges in western Martin County. Green Ridge is about 4.6 miles west of the turnpike, (12.5 miles west of the ocean), and can be seen on aerials. The western edge of Allapattah flats is a ridge where the elevation goes quickly from about 30 fee to 40 feet. This ridge (an obvious ancient ocean shoreline) can be seen running all the way to Cape Canaveral parallel to the coast. This ridge is about 12.5 miles west of the turnpike (20 miles from the ocean). Indiantown sits on the high side of the ridge. This Hal-pa-ti-o-kee Swamp on those old maps would be the we area east of the Indiantown ridge – so it is basically all of western Martin and St. Lucie County.

FORMER WATER FLOW: Probably everything east of the Green Ridge flowed east into the St. Lucie. Everything between the two ridges flowed north to the St. Johns watershed and everything West of the Indiantown ridge (not much) flowed west into Lake Okeechobee via the little creeks on the east bank of the

….Somewhere between the St. Johns and the St. Lucie so everything between the two ridges, but north of that point, went north to the St. Johns River. Everything south would have gotten picked up by Ten-mile creek in the extreme North Fork of the St. Lucie River, which actually flowed north-east before turning back south to the St. Lucie.

CONCLUSION: There are academics that would know this stuff for sure and all the proper names. These ridges are like little continental divides, separating water flows into separate directions like the Rocky Mountains. When they busted all these canals through the ridges they changed the direction of all the water flows from mostly north/south to east/west. But that was the goal — get it to sea level as quickly as possible and drain the swamps…

—Todd Thurlow, Thurlow and Thurlow, PA (http://thurlowpa.com)

Martin County’s Hundreds of Ponds, “Down the Drain,” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

1940 aerial photo from the US Dept of Agriculture Flight over Martin County, Fl 1940. Here Stuart, Sewall's Point, Hutchinson Island and Jensen are easily recognized by air. (Photo courtesy of UF Smathers' Library collation.)
1940 aerial photo from a US Dept of Agriculture flight over Martin County, Fl. 1940. Stuart, Sewall’s Point, Hutchinson Island and Jensen are easily recognized by air along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Many small ponds can be seen darkly colored. (Photo courtesy of UF Smather’s Library collation.)

 

1964 photo, left to right, uncle and aunt Dale and Mary Hudson, and my parents Sandy and Tom Thurlow. Me in lap. (Self portrait)
1964 photo, (left to right) uncle and aunt, Dale and Mary Hudson, and my parents Sandy and Tom Thurlow. Me in lap. (Family album.)

From the time I was a baby until growing up, I remember lots of ponds here in the region of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Hundreds of ponds intertwined with scrub lands…

Some of these boggy ponds were right outside my neighborhood in St Lucie Estates, just off of East Ocean Boulevard. It was the 1960s and 70s. Over time, especially in the 80s and 90s, when I had grown up and was off to University of Florida and beyond, these ponds simply dried up and “disappeared.” These lands became shopping centers, an expanded Witham Field, gas stations, schools, golf courses, and more neighborhoods. The same thing happened to the lands out west of town, but they became expanded agricultural lands. At a kid, I didn’t think too much about it. Today it blows my mind.

The aerial at the top of this blog post is from 1940. I was born in 1964. The small dark areas are ponds. When I asked my brother Todd, who is very knowledgeable on these old photos and land use, where all the ponds went, he noted  that when our area canals were constructed by the water districts and Army Corp of Engineers, from about 1920 to the 1960s, the canals not only drained the lands, but over time, the water table dropped, (the water below the surface of the soil that you don’t see)  drying out the many of little ponds, so that these lands could be developed.

Canals in Stuart, C-23, C-24, C-25 built in the 50s and 60s. C-44 connected to Lake Okeechobee constructed in the 1920s.
Canals in Martin and St Lucie counties, C-23, C-24, C-25 were  constructed in the 50s and 60s. C-44 is connected to Lake Okeechobee but also drains the agricultural lands around it. It was constructed in the 1920s.

So most of the 1940 wetlands you see in the aerials throughout this blog are now gone, and “we are here.” This happened all over Martin, St Lucie and almost all counties of south Florida. This on top of the shrinkage and drainage of giant Lake Okeechobee!

Yikes!

There is something is really odd about this. Millions of people living in former wetlands. Like sitting atop a dry sponge. No wonder all the wildlife is gone and the rivers are polluted. I’ve heard people talk about this change forever, and I have lived it myself, but seeing my brother’s video below, really bring the whole thing “home.” Watch and wonder where we should go from here…

Click here to see Martin County’s land use change over time, and watch the little ponds/wetlands “disappear. ” Time flight video by Todd Thurlow: 

 

Link to video: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvH5H0TiG5c)

The flight starts in the area around Pratt & Whitney in northern Palm Beach County / southern Martin County where the land still looks like much of Martin County used to look. We then fly to the area around Bridge Road where the headwaters of the South Fork used to be nice and wet in the 1940s. Hundreds of interconnected ponds and bogs eventually coalesced into the tributaries of the South Fork. Today the ponds have been drained for farming and a few neighborhoods. The smallest tributaries are now drainage ditches. Next we fly over the area around the City of Stuart and Witham Field. You can see how the old ponds and bogs lined up between low ridges that run parallel to the ocean. Many of the bogs are now low-lying dry nature preserves in the neighborhoods and golf courses. –Todd Thurlow

 

1940 DOA image of boarder between Martin and St Lucie Counties, where Port St Lucie sits  today.
1940 DOA image of border between Martin and St Lucie Counties, where Port St Lucie sits today.
1940 aerial of  east side of east side of Lake  Okeechobee and lands of western Martin and St Lucie counties.
1940 aerial of east side of east side of Lake Okeechobee and lands of western Martin and St Lucie counties.
Ponds and bogs that are still left in undeveloped areas of Matin County. (Photo JTL 2015)
Ponds and bogs that are still left in undeveloped areas of Martin County. (Photo JTL 2015.)

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Todd Thurlow: (http://thurlowpa.com) 

(Link to University of Florida’s Smather’s Library aerials: (http://ufdc.ufl.edu/iufmap/all/brief)