Inlets, the shifting sands of time on our barrier islands. Fascinating, and a reminder of the power of Nature and the limited control of human endeavors….
Recently I looked closely at my mother’s business card and asked “Why is the St Lucie Inlet so far north?” Looking closely one can see it once was located midway across from South Sewall’s Point. “It looks like it was there, because at that time, it was,” she replied.
Such is the matter-a-factness of coastal change…
Today, I am going to feature one of my brother Todd’s amazing flight videos incorporating historic maps and today’s Google images to show the changing sands of time, our barrier islands, in a way you may never have seen before. Todd has a talent for this rare communication format and he will be teaching us more before the end of the year!
This is his write up”
This video is a time capsule review of the inlet of Hutchinson island that appeared on maps between 1515 and 1900. It is a rough draft of a larger project that I wasn’t going to post yet. I planned to drop the music and break it down into 5 shorter videos which were kind of the chapters of the long one: 1. 1515 to 1871 Freducci, Jeffreys and Romans 2. St. Lucie Sound 1763 to 1834 – 5 maps 3. Gilbert’s Bar 1850 to 1861 – 4 survey maps 4. Hurricanes and The Gap 1871 to 1882 – hurricane tracks and 2 maps 5. Digging the St. Lucie Inlet 1887 to 1900 – 2 maps I believe there was an inlet, referred to on the old maps as “The Gap”, that reappeared in the mid 1800s. It was in the general area of today’s Florida Oceanographic Society and probably opened and closed many times like the other inlets. Coincidentally the area was struck by back-to-back Cat 2 and Cat 3 hurricanes around that time (sound familiar?). “The Gap” will be the topic of another project the I would like to post some day on Jonathan Dickinson because I believe that it could be described in his journal. I will update this summary later… Todd Thurlow
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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.
For today’s post, I am partnering up with my younger brother, attorney, Todd Thurlow. Todd, as all members of my family, is intrigued by history and maps. As he is a technology buff as well, he has learned to use Google Earth Pro (in this case a trial version) to superimpose old maps over today’s Google Earth aerials. The effect is amazing in that one can literally “see” the changes over time in land, shoreline, and in today’s case, IRL spoil islands. The islands that one sees in the IRL are not natural, they are dredge fill from the creation of a channel with its government beginnings in 1881. This includes some islands that are now exclusive neighborhoods, such as Island Edition and Archipelago, in Sewall’s Point. Fortunately, the birds got one too–“Bird Island” now a Critical Wildlife Area, (CWA) or MC2. MC2 is located just north, off the Archipelago.
Today our channels are managed by FIND, the Florida Inland Navigation District.
I will provide a summary TIME LINE of Todd’s notes below; nonetheless, be sure to watch the video in the link below, so you can “see!” It is amazing: you will feel like you are taking a time-capsule flight right over our beautiful and ever-changing Indian River Lagoon:
Todd Thurlow has given presentations at Stuart Heritage and Florida Oceanographic (http://thurlowpa.com) Call him if your club would like a presentation. Todd and I will be doing more work together in the future!
*I must also credit my dear river activist friend, Ezra Appel, who recently got me interested in spoil islands all over again. Ezra got involved two years ago with the Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves (IRLAP), when his company adopted a spoil island in Vero Beach. Now he is involved with a newly formed group “Friends of the Spoil Islands, Inc, ” a 501 (c) non-profit, Community Service Organization working in partnership with the DEP and IRLAP. Ezra sits on the board as the Treasurer. They have a Facebook page: (https://www.facebook.com/spoilislands) Check it out! Ezra also shares with me aerial photos from INDIAN RIVER BY AIR; they have some great shots of the spoil islands in their neck of the woods: (http://www.indianriverbyair.com/tagged/spoil%20island)