Monday, May 2, 2011

Florida History: 1900s travel by stern wheel from Fort Lauderdale to the lake

Lake Worth Lagoon/Intracoastal 

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By Jane Feehan

Canals, lakes, and rivers comprised key transportation networks throughout South Florida in the early 1900s. The North New River Canal facilitated commerce and leisure travel from Fort Lauderdale to Lake Okeechobee and on to Fort Myers.

Several stern-wheel boats, including the LilyNapoleon Broward, and Suwanee, operated from Fort Lauderdale carrying winter vegetables, supplies and passengers to the lake.  Leaving Fort Lauderdale late in the afternoon, excursion passengers could look forward to reaching Lake Okeechobee by the next morning. A trip to Fort Myers was  more complicated. A traveler would start in Fort Lauderdale on the North New River Canal, cross Lake Okeechobee, take the Three Mile Canal to Lake Hicpochee, then the Caloosahatchee River to Fort Myers – a trip of several days. Today, car travel from Fort Lauderdale to Lake Okeechobee would take about two hours; from Fort Lauderdale to Fort Myers, about two and a half.

Elements of the great plan to drain the Everglades, canals could get very low in dry winter seasons. Cargo boats would sit in mud for a week at times. When they finally made their destinations, shippers would sell vegetable cargoes for whatever they could get - or sell their boats. Everglades travel made shipping an unpredictable business but leisure travelers took in a world of wildlife we’ll never see.
Weidling, Philip J., Burghard, August. Checkered Sunshine. Gainesville: University of Florida Press (1966)
Weekly Miami Metropolis, Sept. 8, 1916
Miami News, Jan. 11, 1922

Tags: Fort Lauderdale history, early Florida transportation, Florida tourism history, boats in Florida history

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