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Adrift’s Indian River Lagoon Water Report, June-July 2019

July 5, 2019

Hi. I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July! Wasn’t it exceptional? Exceptional because the St Lucie/IRL’s water wasn’t toxic like so many times in recent years. So nice to be able to enjoy our waterways. No dumping of Lake O. I am grateful!

Today I am a back with an Indian River Lagoon Report for the entire Indian River Lagoon.

During my husband, Ed, and my recent 156 miles trip up the IRL, aboard ADRIFT, I contacted Duane DeFreese Ph.D., Executive Director for the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program. I called Duane because I knew why the southern lagoon looked better but was impressed by how good the water in the central and northern lagoon looked as well. No brown tide. No superbloom.

Since am unfamiliar with the waters north of the Treasure Coast, except by books, I wanted a scientific update. Well, boy, did I get it! See Dr. Duane’s comments below. Also included is the invaluable, recent St John’s Water Management District’s “June 20th Indian River Lagoon Conditions Update.”

For visual input as well, I am inserting some of Ed and my photos, with comments, of our incredible journey along what is still considered to be one of the world’s most biodiverse estuaries. What a treasure! From north to south, we must do all we can to ensure a toxic-free future.

Keep up the fight!

Jacqui

IRL map: Researchgate
Ed and JTL start of the trip on “Adrift.”
Location: Jupiter Island near the Jupiter Inlet, as almost always the water here is like the Bahamas, looking great! Near the border of Martin and Palm Beach Counties.
Near Jupiter Inlet, border of Martin and Palm Beach Counties. Wow!

JTL:

Duane, hi. Hope you are having a great summer. At this time, are there algae blooms reported in the IRL near Melbourne, the N. IRL north of Titusville, or anywhere in the Mosquito Lagoon? Thank you for letting me know. Jacqui TL

Duane DeFreese, Ph.D. Exec. Dir National IRL Estuary Program, http://www.irlcouncil.com

Conditions being reported to me by the local guides are consistent with the report and my own observations. Overall water quality looks pretty good, but small, patchy areas of poor water quality continue. The fishing guides tell me one day it looks great and a day later the same area will have color and turbidity (probably patchy bloom conditions). My personal observation is that we have been lucky so far and the system is vulnerable. I would not be surprised to see blooms intensify as we move deeper into summer and the rainy season. Lagoon water temperatures are also really warm. the SJRWMD Report documents that we have had patchy blooms occurring of multiple species. Two confirmed species of concern are Pseudo-nitzschia, a marine diatom and Pyrodinium bahamensis, a dinoflagellate. The worst water conditions continue to be in Banana River and in Sykes Creek. There are boater reports of patchy poor water quality in some areas of the northern IRL. The third species of significant recent concern has been Brown tide (Aureoumbra lagunendis). It was in almost in continuous bloom for most of last year in the Banana River. Bloom conditions have subsided. Aureoumbra thrives in warm, high salinity environments. It is not known to be toxic. Blooms of pseudo nitzschia, a marine diatom, can produce a neurotoxin called domoic acid. Blooms of Pyrodinium can produce saxitoxin. I expect that we will see patchy and flashy bloom conditions of multiple species throughout the summer. If we get lucky, I hope none of these blooms get intense enough to elevate toxin levels, low DO levels and fish kills. I’m very concerned about the slow recovery of seagrasses, even in areas of good water quality. Feel free to call me anytime.  Have a great 4th July!

Indian River Lagoon Conditions Update June 20

JTL:

Dear Duane, thank you so very much for the super informative reply! I wrote because my husband and I are taking our maiden voyage in a trawler. We have gone from Stuart to Jupiter to Vero to Cocoa, north as far as possible in IRL, past Titusville, and today-through the Haul-over Canal into the Mosquito Lagoon. Not being familiar with these waters, all I have seen visually appears quite good compared to the St Lucie and even parts of the S. IRL. Some varying coloration is apparent, but overall seems good and in the north, many baitfish balls are shimmering under the surface and dolphin families are gorging themselves and teaching their young! We have seen many dolphins everywhere. Throughout Indin River County, Ospreys nesting in channel markers. One after the other!  In the Mosquito Lagoon there were many more wading birds than S IRL. Even saw a few roseate spoonbills. I was not expecting it to be so full of life up here… a nice surprise. Not off the chart healthy, but marine and bird life very visible! I really appreciate the info you sent. I plan to blog on trip once home, so I can quote your knowledge. Happy 4th of July to you as well and I hope to see you soon.

 

The confluence of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon off S. Sewall’s Point, Bird Island. Near Stuart, Martin County.
Sewall’s Point and Stuart, Martin County.
Beautiful blue water near the Ft Pierce Inlet, St Lucie County. Ft Pierce rocks!
Waters of Vero Beach, Indian River County.
Old map showing the designated area of famous INDIAN RIVER LAGOON CITRUS. Citrus Museum, Vero Beach, FL
1920 Blue Heron Map shows clearly the area of the Everglades, Heritage Center and Citrus Museum, Vero.
Street sign in Vero Beach, as everywhere ALL canals lead to Lagoon! No trash, fertilizer, pesticides, etc!
Sebastian Inlet, Indian River County, brings blue waters to the area. So pretty!
Approaching Cocoa Village, north of Melbourne in Brevard County.
Waters nearing Cocoa Village in Brevard County
Ed and I visited the Kennedy Space Center along the Indian River Lagoon and Banana River. Surrounded by the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Space & Nature. https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Merritt_Island/visit/plan_your_visit.html Such an inspiration!
3-D movie at Kennedy Space Center really took us to the moon, Mars, and beyond!
The ominous Vehicle Assemble Building, NASA, so large it is visible no matter where one is are along the central and northern IRL. It’s like it is following you!
Eau Gallie, Melbourne. The Eau Gallie River, or Turkey Creek,  is a small version of the St Lucie and also impaired due to runoff from agriculture and development.
Like a sentinel, the Vehicle Assembly Building as seen over the Indian River Lagoon north of Titusville.

Baitfish!

Waters approaching Titusville, Brevard County.
Train track bridge north of Titusville, Brevard County.
Train track bridge north of Titusville, Brevard County. Shortly beyond channel turns right through the Haulover Canal and into the Mosquito Lagoon.

Ed navigates through the Haulover Canal, connecting the northern IRL with the Mosquito Lagoon.
Water in the Haulover Canal was greenish.
Entering the stunningly beautiful, peaceful, undeveloped Mosquito Lagoon. This area is flanked by the Scottsmoor Flatwoods Sanctuary and Canaveral National Seashore. Wildlife abounds.

360 of the unforgettable Mosquito Lagoon:

Flora and fauna along shoreline, Mosquito Lagoon
Anhinga twins, Mosquito Lagoon

Incredible footage of 4 dolphins in our wake near Ft Pierce welcoming us home!

ADRIFT is a 2007 Mainship 400 trawler, top speed about 8 knots 🙂

McKee Jungle Gardens, “The One Thing In Florida You Must Not Miss!” 1937 Stuart Daily News

Photo of McKee Jungle Garden ad, The Stuart Daily News, 1937, courtesy Knight A. Kiplinger.

Video link “Going Places with Graham McNamee – McKee Jungle Garden” vintage original:  (https://youtu.be/3zY7SZT1B-c?list=PLWV6Eymwwv0PWs7iU-3oFyLXk5rNKJ3Lv)

As a young child, I remember my parents taking me to visit McKee Jungle Gardens near Vero. What a  magical place! That visit certainly planted seeds in my head, and a love for all things “Florida.”

I remember towering magnificent palms; a mammoth-sized cypress tree trunk that looked like it came from the age of the dinosaurs; interesting rustic structures that matched the mood of the tropical paradise; beautiful giant lilies floating in shallow ponds reflecting purple and greens like a Monet painting; a gigantic, long, mahogany table; as well as my favorite thing to see at the time, monkeys, parrots, and other animals!

The McKee Jungle Gardens was founded in 1929, when engineer and land developer, Arthur G. McKee teamed up with famed Vero legend and entrepreneur, Waldo Sexton, in the creation of an 80-acre tropical hammock just west of the Indian River Lagoon. Tropical landscape architect William Lyman Phillips was hired to design its beautiful and acclaimed streams, ponds, and trails. The indigenous vegetation was augmented with ornamental plants and seeds from around the world. In 1932, the garden was opened as a tourist attraction. Although very successful for several decades, it shut down in 1976, post Disney and I-95, and most of its land was sold for development. The site remained vacant for twenty years until the Indian River Land Trust rescued the area legacy, purchasing it in 1995. The current Garden, McKee Botanical Gardens, was formally dedicated in 2001 and is now a Florida landmark. On January 7, 1998, the property was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places under its original name, “McKee Jungle Gardens.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McKee_Botanical_Garden)

Perusing page 4 of the 1937 Stuart Daily News, celebrating the opening of the Cross State Canal from Stuart to Ft Meyers, featuring McKee brings back happy memories for me. About three years ago, I visited the new McKee Botanical Gardens and the magic is still there! I find Florida’s old-time famed gardens so much more appealing than today’s focus on boring “floratam lawns and perfectly manicured hedges.” Today or yesterday, showcasing Florida’s tropical beauty is Florida at its best!

VISIT McKEE BOTANICAL GARDENS TODAY:

Today’s 18 acres:  McKee Botanical Gardens Web-Site: https://mckeegarden.org

History, McKee Botanical Garden, formally McKee Jungle Garden: https://mckeegarden.org/about-us/

“Old highway Notes,” McKee Jungle Gardens, great info: http://oldhighwaynotes.blogspot.com/2015/04/mckee-jungle-gardens.html

Florida Memory: https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/165302
Location south of Vero Beach, west of IRL

Bios:

Aurthur G. McKee: http://case.edu/ech/articles/m/mckee-arthur-glenn/

Waldo Sexton: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldo_E._Sexton

Waldo Sexton’s Vero Mountain/Harry Lyons’ Stuart Mound and the Spirits of the Indian River Lagoon

An artist's drawing of Harry's Lyon's Mound to be located on Bessey Edition, Stuart, Florida, 1941. (Drawing Courtesy of Rick Crary)
An artist’s drawing of Harry Lyon’s mound, overlooking the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, near today’s St Lucie Crescent at  Bessey Point, Stuart, Florida, 1941. Artist, Charles Morgan, father of Mrs Arthur Dehon. (Drawing Courtesy of Rick Crary.)

Personalities taller than mountains are part of the history of our Indian River Lagoon Region and their spirits are still with us today.  Let me explain…

In the early 1920s Harry Lyons, ( Ernie Lyons’ father) was a dreamer and promoter of Stuart. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may recall his promotional song for the Great Port of Stuart. Harry had many ideas to promote Stuart and another occurred around 1941 when the drawing of the Stuart Mound above was composed.

My mother, historian, Sandra Thurlow, transcribed the following from Mr Harry Lyon’s memoirs regarding the building of his gigantic mound at Bessey Point  near today’s road, St Lucie Crescent,  that was to overlook the St Lucie River:

“The proper material is at hand in abundance, and the bulk of it could be delivered by barge (dredged from the river). Most states, including Florida, have numerous ancient earth mounds, some very large indeed, so nothing could be more ‘American.’ The mound would be a must for tourist and home-folk alike who would ascend and spend hours at the summit, paying .50 cents or $1.00  charge….” to the City of Stuart no less…

Well fortunately, or unfortunately, Mr Lyon’s name is still around but his mound “never got off the ground,” although in 1960 his northern neighbor,  Waldo Sexton’s did.

Sexton, the legendary eccentric salvager/builder of Vero Beach, is well known for his creations and influences including the Driftwood Inn, McKee Jungle Garden, the Patio Restaurant, and many other creations which have shaped the ambiance of Vero Beach.

His finale was “Waldo Sexton’s Mountain,” that he created from dredge fill at Bethel Creek, adjacent to  the Indian River Lagoon. It was touted as a tourist attraction but for Sexton, the impressive mound  was to also be his burial ground.  This drawing by Mittnach displays what it looked like.

photo

In time, the mountain thrived but eventually fell into disrepair and was pillaged for its beautiful tiles. As mentioned, Patriarch Sexton, used to getting what he wanted,  had the dream of being buried under the mound, but this dream did not come true.

Sr. Sexton passed in a nursing home and later, Ralph, his son, during a severe northeastern storm in 1972, in distress, decided to use the mound’s fill to reinforce the foundation of his father’s beloved Driftwood Inn, located across the street.

According to an article written by Denis McCarthy years ago, after destroying the mountain, “terrible things ensued.”  Eventually Ralph along with The Driftwood Inn, so beautifully located between the Indian River Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean, became a “distressed” property.

Then a series of odd tragedies occurred leading people to believe that Waldo’s ghost had truly cursed the great mound for those who were going to misuse it.

First, a  developer trying to purchase the “denuded” mountain property had a heart attack; the next wealthy  businessman “buyer” was killed in a plane crash on his way home after visiting and deciding to buy the property; later, one who did buy, fell ill, got divorced  and went broke. Eventually a Mrs Heusen purchased The Driftwood Inn as the mound property sat empty and weedy. But Heusen took a different approach and decided to work “with” the ghost of Waldo Sexton keeping his signature style for all to see.

Waldo seemed pleased. Mrs Heusen publicly claimed she saw his ghost and that he often opened the door for her in the restored restaurant….

“I know this sounds weird, she said in McCarthy’s interview, but these things are real…”

Another thing to note is that according to McCarty’s article, Sexton was a “guru of environmentalism” in that he, like Frank Lloyd Wright, built with nature instead of against it. McCarty thought that perhaps Sexton’s ghost  was telling us “enough is enough.” –No shopping centers on my mound. “Stop, before it’s too late!”

In conclusion, McCarthy says Sexton’s message most simply stated was: “Follow my example, and build in harmony with nature, not opposed to it…”

So if you believe in ghosts or spirits, you may want to take heed. 🙂