A 1925 View of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, SLR/IRL

May 1925 aerial for the Sailfish Club by bob Higgins shared by historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
May 1925 aerial for the Sailfish Club by Bob Higgins shared by historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

This amazing 1925 aerial photograph of the confluence of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon tells a story….I found this photo looking back through some old emails between me, my mother, and my brother dated  2010. At the time, I did not catch all of the nuances in the photograph….

For instance, look at the beautiful, healthy seagrasses hugging the elbow of the shoreline  of Hutchinson Island; what about the dock in the midst of the seagrasses that is no longer there; the gentle, crashing waves over a thriving reef at “Bathtub Beach;” the entire area so pristine with extensive natural vegetation. Look at the wispy sandbars forming in the river… Nearby the St Lucie Inlet had been permanently opened, (1892),  but also much “improved,” as 1925 was just before the real estate crash, great depression, and two hurricanes that altered Florida’s history forever.

In 1925, community leaders were actually planning a port, Port Sewall, one to complete with Miami and Jacksonville right in this area! In fact they dug a turning basin for ships just off the southern tip of  Sewall’s Point and created Sandsprit Park with the fill. Can you imagine?

Back to the photo…

Notice there were no spoil islands off of Sewall’s Point–no Archipelago or Island Addition…Notice the sparse development of Stuart and the lack of an airport. Notice the basically undeveloped peninsula of Sewall’s Point, Rocky Point, and the even less developed— later named— “Sailfish Point.”….The Manatee Pocket just east of and beyond Sewall’s Point shows some signs of the coming future but not many….Do you see anything else?

For me the most interesting thing of all was caught by my brother Todd’s keen eye.

“What is that huge white stripe on the horizon??” He said. “It’s looks like a giant 20-mile-long spaceship runway. Well, it’s the spoil from the freshly-dug Okeechobee waterway. See it in the attached comparison from Google Earth.”

Looking upward and beyond in the 1925 photograph to the right of the clouds,  Todd noticed the piled up sands of the C-44 canal—a long curving snake connecting Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the St Lucie River. Can you see them?

Of course we all know that this canal along with others and extensive development, over time, destroyed the healthy seagrasses, great fishing, negatively altering the beautiful paradise of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon..

It’s fun to look back, but its even more fun to think about how we have the ability to improve things in the future.

Google image 2010 showing C-44 canal to compare to 1925 aerial. (Todd Thurlow)
Google image 2010 showing C-44 canal to compare to 1925 aerial. (Todd Thurlow)
Jacqui Thurlow Lippisch

Jacqui Thurlow Lippisch

About Jacqui:

Although born at Travis Air Base, California, Jacqui considers herself a native of Stuart, Florida, having moved there at eight months old. Her father’s family, originally from Syracuse, New York, has lived in Stuart since 1952. Her mother is a 5th generation Floridian from Gainesville.

Jacqui is journalism and German graduate of the University of Florida, and an education master’s graduate of the University of West Florida. She went on to teach both English and German and after a serious accident of breaking her neck, started selling real estate. In 2008 she ran for the Town of Sewall’s Point Commission and has served since 2008; She is former mayor. During this time she saw the opportunity to help showcase the work of a locally formed river group, the River Kidz, and this has been her passion ever. She incorporates youth/river education into her political work for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Jacqui is the treasurer/secretary of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council; has chaired the Florida League of Cities Environmental and Energy Committee; was chair, and long time member of the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments; is an alternate for the Water Resources Advisory Commission for the South Florida Water Management District; and a board member for Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation. She also serves as an (ex-officio) board member for the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund, and is head administrator for the River Kidz.Jacqui is a Daughter of the American Revolution.

Jacqui’s reach involves not only local, but state and federal government. In 2013,  she served on Senator Joe Negron’s panel for the Select Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee. In 2014, she actively supported the elections of both Senator Joe Negron and Congressman Patrick Murphy who have both been strong supporters of Indian River Lagoon issues. In 2015, she is part of the Florida League Cities Treasure Coast Advocacy team. Jacqui received the Everglades Coalition’s prestigious 2015 “John V. Kabler Award” for “Grassroots Activism.” Most recently she has been recruited as a fellow by the University of Florida/IFAS’s Natural Resources Leadership Institute Class XV.Jacqui is running for Martin County Commissioner District 1, 2016.




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