Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

St Lucie Lock–A Good Thing, or Not?

Sunday November 1, 2015                                                           Most Recent Post:
St. Lucie South Recreation Area                                                 All Hallows Eve at St. Lucie
Stuart, Florida



It’s a beautiful morning before the sun has gotten into its full power and turned up the heat.  Boat traffic is light on the week-ends but we see a few coming and going from our front yard.







Today’s goal is to stock up on organic food prior to hitting the Keys.  Well stock up as much as Winnona’s pantry and her refrigerator will hold.  It’s a 24 mile drive south to Palm Gardens where the closest Whole Foods is but that’s no different than our trips into Charlottesville to Whole Foods from the farm.  Ruby takes it in stride.

I’m sure glad there are no southern Blue Laws anymore or the store would be closed today.  Instead I-95 and the main road in Palm Gardens are nice and empty.  Perfect driving.





When we get back our outdoor thermometer tells us it is 95 in the sun and 84 inside.  The AC is still cutting off but not as frequently.  With the help of our front widow reflecting shield  (many thanks again to Gin and Syl) the AC is able to drop the temperature inside a few degrees.  More importantly, it does take out the humidity so higher temperatures feel cooler.

Whose idea was it to come this far south this early?  Live and learn I guess.



The boats are still coming through one at a time and infrequently.  I zoom in to see if I can watch this one go through, but no luck. It’s time to go over and see the locks.  We leave tomorrow so it’s now or never.







Before I get to watching the “boats’ go through, I must say something about the ongoing controversy over this east west channel cut to Lake Okeechobee.

As you can see from the map, there are 5 locks.  St. Lucie, where we are is the first one from the east near Stuart Florida. Port Mayaca Lock is on the east side also but closer to Lake Okeechobee.  Coming out of the lake on the west side in order are Moore Haven Lock, Ortona Lock and finally WP Franklin Lock before the water passes Fort Myers and into the Gulf of Mexico.  Now back to the story.

Because of some serious flooding in 1926 and 1928, the Army Corps of Engineers got involved to control Lake Okeechobee.  They built floodway channels , control gates and major levees along the lake’s shores.  Turns out this is not a sustainable method of flood control as it has nearly decimated the Everglades and allowed farming to expand into areas that should have been kept natural.  Today the levees are old and weakened, the lake is flooding and more and more  water is being forced out the channels where it disturbs the estuaries in Indian River lagoon and the Caloosahatchee River.  The answer to this problem it has been decided is of course more engineering.   Currently there are huge federal dollar reengineering projects in the works to try and send the water south where it should be going but using containment ponds and more channels.  Many people, myself included, believe that the answer is to put the lake back to as close to its historic and natural situation as possible.  Buy up the sugar cane fields and other neighboring lands with the engineering monies and allow Lake Okeechobee's water once more to naturally flow south, overlapping its southern rim and sending shallow sheets of water rolling toward Florida Bay and replenishing the Everglades along the way.This would have a serious impact on these artificial canals and perhaps disrupt the 200 mile short cut from the Atlantic to the Gulf they provide for boats including amazingly enough jet skis.  But to me it seems a small price to pay to return our Everglades to their healthy and natural state prior to our interference.

Other opinions of course will differ.

Now, back to the story of this lock today.  You can walk right in and stand on one end of the lock if it is not in use.  The gates are right under you if you do.



This is actually one of the gates.  The whole thing swings to the left to open this gate.  Of course you have to get off that walkway when it does.



Looking down the lock.  Notice the height of the water.




While we are here we hear a loud buzzing and someone comes out from the building and walks down to the other end of the lock.  He comes right back and nothing seems to happen so since we’ve seen all we can see from the public access area, we head further on to the Visitor Center.

But when we get passed this lock, we see 4 jet skis idling just outside.  I guess they are actually going to expend our tax payers money to lower the water by 14 feet, open the gate, let the “boats” in, close the gate, raise the water, open the gate and let the boats out. 

You can see the gates starting to open here.  Notice how far down the water level  has dropped as the open gates let the water flow out.




The water levels have reached each other and here come the “boats”.



Once they are in, the lock master goes out and throws them each a rope.






The gates begin to close.






Once the gates are fully closed, the water pours in at our end.  It takes about a minute for the water to raise 1 foot.  This is one of the deepest locks on the waterway so it takes 14 minutes to raise the water level back up 14 feet to the level where the far gate can be opened.








Once the level is reached the gates at our end open again and the “boats” go on down to the next lock where it happens all over again.






I wonder what it costs to utilize all 5 locks so private and commercial boats as well as play toys and I suppose someone who wanted to swim the canals can avoid having to go around the tip of Florida.  The lockman was too far away to ask and the Volunteer in the Visitor Center where go next replied when asked “a lot”.




After this interesting display of engineering we go on to the Visitor Center.  We have about a half hour to look over the exhibits many of which are about the fish in the area, the locks and the controversy.  There is an excellent exhibit on invasive species and a quiz to see if you can tell friend from foe.

It’s a small center but well worth spending some time.  You’ll learn a lot.
Although the “controversy” display was not working properly.





Back home for another lovely sunset over the water and some packing to get ready for our move tomorrow.
Turns out there are more boats in the canal in one hour on a Monday morning than all day long on a Sunday.
More on that tomorrow as we head out for the last leg of our trip to the Keys.




  1. I don't think the area will ever be returned to its natural state. Wishful thinking on your part.

  2. Thanks for the lock pics, I always enjoy watching them. Yes I get a miffed feeling when a tiny 2 man sail boat or something like that uses a lock. I know it is just a silly emotion, as the water would have to be released anyway.

    I was skeptical about the quick rush to the Keys area. That is a hot humid tropical area until mid December.

  3. I am going to pass on the waterway management issues, as I spent a lot of energy on this in my professional life. I will only say that you can never make everyone happy and sometimes almost no one:( Personally, I love watching the marine traffic and enjoy the often funny antics in lock transits-sometimes in the past at my expense:)

  4. A shame we can't just leave Mother Nature alone to do what's best. Ridiculous waste of money for those locks.

  5. Looks lovely:) We were just talking today about returning to the Keys again next winter. Can't wait to hear what see:)

  6. Two years ago during Oct & Nov in The Keys, the temperatures were in the lower 80s. This year they are in the upper 80s. But both years the crowds have not been here:o)) We just do things (fishing) early in the day and siesta in the warmest part of the day:o)) Fishing is great anytime in The Keys!!!

  7. Sadly, what is good for the environment rarely will coincide with what is good for politicians, investors and developers. As long as we have people, I believe the environment will suffer in the name of "progress". Is it really progress though?

  8. I am often fascinated by feats of engineering that seemingly solve a major "problem". But all too often they just cause more and bigger problems. After seeing the dams removed in Washington this summer I know that these things can be undone when the damage to the environment is so obvious. Hopefully nature can be the winner there as well. Another beautiful sunset!!

  9. The locks are a bit different, and bigger, than the locks on our Rideau Canal system, but the principles are the same.

  10. I think you and I could have an entire discussion about all this. . .living in Houston and watching all the building, building, building. . .filling in the creek bottoms, and such. . .just asking for trouble, and now we get all the flooding and all the whining that goes with that. . .quite the quandry. . .

    Wetlands, and bottomlands were designed by mother nature to act as sponges. . .it all interests me very much. . .

  11. We've been in Indiantown for the past 11 months! I know exactly where the locks are and that campground is nice. Went to Whole Foods yesterday (Tuesday)...small world

  12. I, too, would have an annoyed feeling about small boats and skis going through those locks. I'm glad they have a visitor's center there to educate. Gorgeous site! And, good for you to plan ahead with a trip to Whole Foods prior to the Keys :)

  13. I agree exactly with what David said about "progress" and the environment. And I like your solution of returning the land and the waterways to their natural state. More and more intervention only makes things worse, to my way of thinking. Oh yay, you're almost in the Keys!!

  14. It's unfortunate that what was done in the name of progress was done with out real forethought. Enjoy your time in the Keys, we'll get there again someday.

    1. I'm with you, it would be nice to see the Everglades get their proper amounts of water, the "great" engineering projects, with all the studies and plans that go in to them before they are built never takes into account the unintended consequences. And as long as they are politically driven, nothing will ever turn out right. :c(

  15. I forgot about that windshield sun block. Glad that you had it when you needed it. Cedar Key has been rather warm too.
    Controversy or not, I'm sure it was interesting watching the lock in action.
    Enjoy Key West. The tropical breeze will make the heat more comfortable.

  16. Enjoy your temps, we are having frozen mixes here in Arizona. We did not sign up for this weather but will move down a few elevation down so we can enjoy warmer weather that we are looking for.
    I did not know that there are also locks in Florida. Silly me i thought those are created up north only.

  17. I'm slow to comment, but I'm determined to go through the posts chronologically and not skip ahead to see what you're up to now!...I looked on a map to see where Marathon is, and that coastal highway sure looks like you’re perched on a microscopic thread floating like flotsam on a vast ocean—because I guess you are! Those photos of the sunset with the three trees on the right-hand side--almost a spiritual experience, just looking at the tiny screen version; must have been awe-inspiring to actually be there! I also liked that quadruple-decker boat — looks like fun (until it capsized in the first stiff breeze). It all looks/sounds beautiful!


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