It is an amazing thing to fly through time and space, and this is exactly what I did yesterday with my brother, Todd. He took me on a “flight” over a 1958/Today St Lucie River, North Fork, and Ten Mile Creek. All the while, the images flashing in and out of past and present….Please watch this short video yourself by clicking the link or image above.
At one point along our armchair journey, I said to myself, “Wow, I don’t feel so great,” –just like sometimes when I am with Ed, my husband, in the airplane. I actually got motion sickness having plastered my face right up to the screen to see every moving detail!
A few deep breathing exercises put the feeling off, but next time I’ll take my Dramamine!
This flight, as the others you may have experienced on my blog with Todd, is amazing. It allows one to really see what the lands were originally like and how they have been developed as residential homes and endless agriculture fields.
Towards the end of the video, you can even see algae growing in the agriculture canals, off of Ten Mile Creek, St Lucie County–“bright green,” for all to see on Google Earth. I have witnessed these green canals too from an airplane.
Due to drainage canals— leading to drainage canals—leading to drainage canals, this water from the ag fields, and from all of our yards, ends up in the now sickly St Lucie River. This problem is exacerbated by ACOE/SFWMD releases from Lake Okeechobee and the basin area of C-44 in Southern Martin County. These canals and the expanded engineered runoff from the lands is what is killing our river.
It is my hope that with visuals like the video above, future generations will find a way, and want to be a part of a new water and land management generation “seeing” how to improve St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Our generation seems stuck in a quagmire….
Like they say: “seeing is believing,” and seeing provides insight for change.
*Thank you to my brother Todd, for this incredible journey using overlays of aerial photographs taken in 1958 by the United States Government, and marrying these aerials over images from today’s Google Earth. (http://thurlowpa.com)
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
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.” 🙂
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.
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…
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.
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!
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:
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
“The only thing that is constant is change…” Heraclitus
In a world that is constantly in flux, it is natural to try to make things permanent. Nonetheless, this is to no avail. Nowhere is this as strikingly apparent as our barrier islands off the U.S. Atlantic coastline, right here at home, along our beautiful Indian River Lagoon.
As you know, over thousands of years, storms, winds and tides, along with other forces, have caused the openings of natural inlets along the Indian River Lagoon. Since the late 1800s, humankind, with the help of the Army Corp of Engineers, has “determined” where “permanent” inlets should be located, and filled in those otherwise forming…
My brother, Todd Thurlow, (http://thurlowpa.com) has finalized his Time Capsule Flight video of “The Inlets of Peck’s Lake and the Jupiter Narrows,” that I first shared with you in “trial version” last week. His result is even more remarkable.
Through the overlay of Google Earth, historic aerial photographs, NOAA, and USGS maps, his work provides a look back in history to see that our coastline south of today’s St Lucie Inlet has broken through at least four times to form four natural inlets since 1947.
They are: 1947 (1.1 mile south); 1952 (0.5 miles south); 1958 (1.1 south again or another in close proximity; and 1962 at Peck’s Lake during the famous Ash Wed storm.
At one point, I tried to pin Todd down about the number of barrier island breakthroughs. This was his reply:
“Jacqui – at least four breaks sounds right, but I am sure there have been an infinite number of breaks over the centuries – Joes point, Herman Bay, the Cove at IRP, Big and Little Mud creeks… “
I also tried to get an answer out of him that I have been wondering about for years: “How much shoreline along Jupiter Island near Peck’s Lake has “disappeared?” Todd was quick to say that it is “not that easy” and that this area has probably been coming and going for a long, long time…
Nonetheless, it is cool to think about. Here is his map. According to Todd, the red polygon in the attached image measures 445 Acres – approximately the amount of land that disappeared between Peck’s Lake and the Inlet since the 1887 NOAA chart. The yellow line measures 1770 feet – a third of a mile.
I am excited that Todd is sharing his “evolved” Thurlow map talents, and I am looking forward to a 2015 where he is a regular guest on my blog, taking us all to a high and fluid perspective where we can see change along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon in a way never before.