Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Florida History: Lake Worth Lagoon, water highway then - and now

Looking east on Lake Worth
Lake Worth Lagoon (Lake Worth)
Palm Beach County
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Once a 22-mile-long fresh body of water, Lake Worth was named for General William Jenkins Worth. He served as the last U.S.  general sent to Florida during the Second Seminole War (1835 -1842).  Fort Worth, Texas and prestigious Worth Avenue of Palm Beach also bear his name. A monument in his honor stands at Broadway and Fifth Avenue in New York.

The lake, at some places a mile wide, runs parallel to the Atlantic Ocean and was formed by seepage from the Everglades.  Early travelers to South Florida would take a steamboat to Jupiter, then ride the seven-mile Celestial Railway to Juno at the north end of the lake. From there they would board another boat to continue south through the primitive area. For many years, Lake Worth was the best way to get to and from Juno and Boynton Beach and points between.

In 1913, five cents would buy a round trip ferry ride across the width of the lake. The City of Lake Worth built the first bridge to the beach side in 1919, nearly 25 years after Henry M. Flagler extended his railway to and built his hotel in Palm Beach

View of West Palm Beach from Lake Worth Lagoon
At one time, Lake Worth was landlocked but two ocean inlets were constructed in the early 1900s. Now it's known as Lake Worth Lagoon because the ocean water coming through those inlets transformed it into a saltwater lagoon. The lagoon still receives intermittent freshwater discharges from canals coming from the Everglades.  Environmentalists are studying ways to restore water quality and natural habitats.

Today part of the Intracoastal Waterway, the Lake Worth Lagoon provides a picturesque nautical highway that flows by downtown West Palm Beach and Lake Worth.

For early travel by boat from Fort Lauderdale to Lake Okeechobee, see: http://janesbits.blogspot.com/2011/05/florida-history-1900s-travel-by-stern.html
Mustaine, Beverly. On Lake Worth. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 1999.
Snyder, James D. A Light in the Wilderness. Jupiter: Pharos Books, 2006.

Tags: Florida history, Palm Beach County history, Lake Worth Lagoon, boating in West Palm, early Florida travel

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