IMPORTANT NAVIGATION NOTICES
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Lake Okeechobee and The Okeechobee
Welcome to Lake Okeechobee and the
Okeechobee Waterway! Located
in central and southern Florida, the 451,000 acre lake and 154 mile long
waterway extend from the Atlantic Ocean at Stuart, to the Gulf of Mexico
at Ft. Meyers. The waterway runs through Lake Okeechobee and consists of
the Caloosahatchee River to the west of the lake and the St. Lucie Canal
east of the
Lake Okeechobee and the Okeechobee Waterway
Project is part of the complex water management system known as the Central
and Southern Florida Flood Control Project. The projects cover 16,000 square
miles starting just south of Orlando and extending southward through the
Kissimmee River Basin to the Everglades National Park to Florida
The US Army Corps of Engineers South Florida Operations Office
(SFOO) manages and operates 5 navigation locks and dams along the Okeechobee Waterway.
St. Lucie Lock & Dam at Stuart, Port Mayaca Lock & Dam near Canal
Point, Moore Haven Lock & Dam at Moore Haven, Ortona Lock & Dam near
LaBelle and W. P. Franklin Lock & Dam near Ft. Myers. The SFOO also manages
Canaveral Lock at Canaveral Harbor, Florida.
The lock recreation areas provide recreational facilities
for public use year-round. The waterway serves navigation, flood control,
recreation, drinking water, and agricultural irrigation purposes. The waterway
has a major impact on the local economy, as users include both recreational
and commercial marine traffic.
In the 1700's, various bands of Creek Indians from
Georgia and Alabama migrated into Florida in search of new fields to plant
corn, beans, and other important crops. Once in Florida, the various bands
of Indians became known collectively as Seminoles, meaning "wild people"
or "runaways." In the early 1800's, five thousand Seminoles lived in relative
peace among the fertile fields and abundant woods of Florida. In 1840's,
the Federal Armed Occupation Act brought new settlers into
In 1847, two years after Florida was granted statehood,
a plan was proposed to reclaim the Everglades and attract thousands of settlers.
Initially the promoters of South Florida felt it was just a matter of dredging
a few canals to drain off the excessive waters.
It would be 30 years before that plan would be
put into effect. Hamilton Disston, known as the Drainage King, proved to
be the most successful at the time. Through his endeavors, the Kissimmee
River was connected to the Gulf of Mexico using Lake Okeechobee and the
In the early 1900's, the State Legislature responded
to public outcry by creating the Everglades Drainage District. The State's
drainage commission coordinated the most active reclamation effort, completing
more than half the excavation of the region. The system provided the groundwork
for draining the northern and eastern parts of the Everglades. The newly
drained area quickly became popular farm land. It was a time of great prosperity
for the entire region. It would not last long.
The first of two devastating hurricanes hit in
1926. It claimed over 800 lives. Then in 1928, a second hurricane swept through
the area. Wind driven water off Lake Okeechobee and torrential rains overflowed
the lakeshore and claimed over 2,400 lives.
To prevent a reoccurrence of these disasters, the
Florida State Legislature created the Okeechobee Flood Control District,
which was authorized to cooperate with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in
flood control undertakings.
After a personal inspection of the area by President
Herbert Hoover, the Corps drafted a new plan which provided for the construction
of floodway channels, control gates, and major levees along Lake Okeechobee's
shores. A long term system was designed for the purpose of flood control,
water conservation, prevention of saltwater intrusion, and preservation of
fish and wildlife populations. A new era had arrived for Lake Okeechobee
and this time, it seemed as though technology would control its
The Okeechobee Waterway was
officially opened on 23 March, 1937 by a boat-a-cade that left Ft. Myers
on 22 March 1937 and arrived (via the Okeechobee Waterway of course) at Stuart
the next day.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers works in cooperation
with the South Florida Water Management District and several Federal, State,
and local agencies to manage the water resources of this very fragile ecosystem.
Some of those agencies include the following:
Florida Department of Environmental
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
National Park Service - Everglades
South Florida Water Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Last Page Update: 04/16/2007