Posted by: myriverlandings | March 10, 2010

Become a part of the history that is living along the Caloosahatchee River

I wanted to share some recent River photos our photographer, Waddy Thompson took of the Caloosahatchee River.  It’s such a peaceful, beautiful river that seems to offer a different spectacular view every day.  To accompany the photo’s, we found an article called the “Legacy of the Caloosahatchee”, written by: Charles Edgar Foster & Rae Ann Wessel.  It’s a fascinating account of the Caloosahatchee River’s origins. We have taken some excerpts from the article and included them here because we thought that in order to appreciate the future, we have to know and respect the past. We hope you agree.  

The features of the Caloosahatchee basin we know today were formed by Pliocene and Pleistocene sediments deposited by fluctuating sea levels over one million years ago. As sea levels receded, a mainland emerged with a series of lakes connected by wet prairies in a shallow valley which stretched between an inland sea and a gulf. From a tiny lake in the center of the valley a waterfall fed a tortuously crooked river which flowed to the gulf. Archaeological records indicate that first humans inhabited this region over ten thousand years ago. The lush flora and fauna of the valley provided an ample supply of food, clothing and shelter for the original inhabitants. The earliest written accounts of this region were supplied by the Spanish explorers who arrived in the early 1500’s. They named the inhabitants the Calusa and the Mayaimi; the waterway, River of the Calusa; the inland sea the Mayaimi Lagoon -Big Water; and the peninsula, Florida for the variety of flora found here. Many of their names remain in use today. The Seminole, who were southeastern Creek Indians, fled to this area from Alabama and Georgia in the mid-1700’s. Like the Spanish, the Seminole left a legacy of many place names. The Mayaimi Lagoon became Lake Okeechobee, and the river became the Caloosahatchee. The name Florida survived. After the Civil War in the 1860’s, homestead opportunities attracted many southerners and squatters to Florida. Settlements were built as far south as the Caloosahatchee. Twenty years later in 1881, Florida Governor William Bloxham persuaded Philadelphia toolmaker and developer, Hamilton Disston, to purchase four million acres of South Florida at twenty five cents per acre for development. The one million dollars the state received from the purchase was used to clear title for the sale of state land. Hamilton Disston’s first project in southwest Florida was to drain the land around Lake Okeechobee. The first step in the dredging was to dynamite a natural waterfall between Lake Flirt and the Caloosahatchee. Despite these drainage efforts the powerful hurricanes of 1926 and 1928 caused significant flooding and loss of life at Moore Haven and Clewiston. Demand for relief from the repeated flooding reached Washington in the midst of an economic depression. After the 1928 hurricane President Hoover, an engineer by training, visited the area to view the devastation and recommended assistance to prevent future flooding. In 1930, Congress appropriated money to construct the Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee.
As part of the 1930 flood control project, the St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee were dredged and channelized creating the Cross-State Ship Channel. This channel, now known as the Okeechobee Waterway or C-43 Canal, links the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. Construction of the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam, originally known as the Olga Lock, began in 1962, approximately twenty five miles upstream from the Gulf near Olga. The main purpose of the dam was to assure a fresh water supply for much of Lee County and to prevent salt water intrusion into upstream aquifers.

 Today’s channelized Caloosahatchee combines the past and its un-touched natural oxbows, with the future lock and dam structures to provide safety for all residents that reside along the River. 









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