Title Page

Group Title: Supplementary bulletin (new series)
Title: The waterways of Florida
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00002946/00001
 Material Information
Title: The waterways of Florida
Series Title: Supplementary bulletin (new series)
Physical Description: 12 p. : ; 23 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Youngberg, Gilbert A
Mayo, Nathan, 1876-1960
Florida -- Dept. of Agriculture
Publisher: Dept. of Agriculture, State of Florida
Place of Publication: Tallahassee Fla
Publication Date: 1929
Subject: Waterways -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Inland navigation -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: by Gilbert A. Youngberg.
General Note: "Issued by Department of Agriculture, State of Florida, Nathan Mayo, Commissioner of Agriculture."
General Note: Cover title.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00002946
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: ltqf - AAA3334
ltuf - AKD9429
oclc - 21356256
alephbibnum - 001962752
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Other version: Alternate version (PALMM)
PALMM Version

Table of Contents
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Full Text

The Waterways

of Florida

Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army; United States
District Engineer for the Jacksonville
District, Peninsula of Florida

(New Series No. 15)


Artcraft Printer., Tallahnsaee, Flurida


Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army; United States District Engineer
for the Jacksonville District, Peninsula of Florida

"Little drops of water, little grains of sand-." For
many years this old nursery jingle, applied in the mass,
represented the popular concept of Florida, on which,
moreover, was superimposed the idea that the sand was
worthless and that the water was infested by reptiles and
productive of fevers and others ills. The world now
realizes that the sand is a veritable Eldorad6. Almost
everywhere above the level of high tide, it is capable of
producing wondrous crops. At certain points the ocean
beaches themselves contain minerals even more valuable
than gold, and at other points they serve as a playground
for the beauty and wealth of the nation.
Florida has an area of 59,268 square miles, of which
54,240 square miles (a little over 90 per cent) are land
and 5,028 square miles are water. The waters of the
state, by a curious paradox, are at once Florida's great-
est asset and its greatest liability. They temper its
climate-softening the rigors of winter and the tropical
heat of summer. Kept within bounds they moisten the
soil and permit of its cultivation the year around, but
unrestrained they flood millions of acres and render
them of no value. They provide an inexpensive means
of transportation, and, indeed, until comparatively re-
cent years were the only feasible lanes of communica-
tion between various sections of the state.
Florida has a tidal shore line of 1,277 miles. If the
islands were included Florida's coast line would be in-
creased by 999 miles. It contains a number of lakes that
drain into the sea through rivers which, taken altogether,
literally flow toward all points of the compass. Lake
Okeechobee contains an area of 730 square miles.
For many years the waterways of Florida were the
only practicable arteries of communication. During the
winning of the state from the Indian tribes, the princi-
pal "forts" established by the United States army were
all on navigable waterways, and the names of many

prosperous cities and towns in the state now bear wit-
ness to that fact. Little by little, however, railroads
have extended their mileage to most portions of the
peninsula, and the state is now engaged in an intensive
and extensive program of highway construction. For a
time the waterways, as public utilities, have been all but
occulted, but with the improvements in the design of
ships and motive power they are rapidly coming back
into service. The waterways, like the railways, high-
ways and airways, have their proper field of usefulness
and the state will attain its highest prosperity by a
judicious use of all these various means of transporta-
tion-not in competition but in cooperation with each
other. The waterways are great natural resources, but,
like other resources, they are capable of being exhausted.
Their beauty and utility may be grieviously impaired, if
not wholly destroyed, by the misguided ambitions of man.
Therefore, any movement looking to the conservation of
the state's resources should look first of all to the waters
of the state, for without them Florida would not be
Florida, but a desolate waste.
The Constitution of the United States grants to Con-
gress, among other powers, the power "to regulate com-
merce with foreign nations and among the several states
and with the Indian tribes" and reserves to the respec-
tive states or to the people the powers not delegated to
the United States. This fundamental principle of our
government leads to a dual control over the public navi-
gable waters of the state. It leaves to the state authori-
ties exclusive control over those waters which do not
come within the purview of the federal statutes, that is,
which cannot serve the purposes of interstate or foreign
commerce. Within the meaning of the federal statutes,
those rivers must be regarded as public navigable rivers
in law which are navigable in fact, and they are navigable
in fact when they are used or are susceptible of being
used in their ordinary condition as highways for com-
merce over which trade and travel are or may be con-
ducted in the customary modes of trade and travel on
water. And they constitute navigable waters of the
United States, in contradistinction from the navigable
waters of the states, when they form in their ordinary
condition, by themselves or by uniting with other waters,
a continued highway over which commerce is or may be
carried on with other states or foreign countries in the

customary mode in which such commerce is conducted by
water. The true test of the navigability of a stream does
not depend on the mode by which commerce is or may be
conducted nor the difficulties attending navigation. If a
waterway be capable in its natural state of being used
for purposes of commerce, no matter in what mode or to
what extent the commerce may be conducted, the stream
is navigable in fact and becomes in law a public river or
Excepting the public lands to which the United States
holds title, it is not the owner of -the soil of the beds of
navigable waters, nor of the shore of tidewaters below
highwater mark. The title to the beds and shores of
navigable water is in general in the state or in the indi-
vidual riparian owner, but under the constitutional power
which permits it to regulate commerce, Congress may
assume and often has assumed the power so to regulate
navigation over navigable waters within the states as to
prohibit its obstruction and to cause the removal of ob-
struction thereto, and such power, when exercised, is
conclusive of any right to the contrary asserted by the
state or the individual. In exercising this power Con-
gress cannot divest rights of title or occupation in a state
or individuals, but these rights are left to be enjoyed as
before, subject, however, to the paramount public right
of freeing navigation from obstruction possessed and
exercised by the United States.
Most of the waterways of the State of Florida are un-
der the supervision of the United States, though there
are a number of lakes and streams which, having no
surface connection with the ocean, are not susceptible of
use in interstate commerce and are, therefore, not em-
braced within the federal statutes. For the administra-
tion of the lands owned by the state, including the beds
of lakes, bays and rivers, the State of Florida has created
a special agency known as the Trustees of the Internal
Improvement Fund, and has empowered these trustees
to sell the lands in certain localities under specified con-
ditions. While, legally speaking, there is no conflict be-
tween the powers vested in the trustees and the powers
vested in the national government, some instances have
occurred where the trustees have sold submerged lands
to private individuals or corporations and the United
States has declined to permit the development of such
lands. This has occurred when, in the opinion of the
United States authorities, the development contemplated
would constitute an unreasonable interference with the

interests of navigation. It is said, however, to be the
policy of the trustees to cooperate with the federal
authorities in securing the most advantageous develop-
ment of waterways for navigation.
The national government exercises its jurisdiction
through the Secretary of War, and under him through
the Chief of Engineers, U. S. Army, and the United
States Engineer Department at Large. The country is
divided into districts upon the basis of drainage (not
state) lines, and in consequence, the panhandle section
of the state west of the Aucilla River is administered
by the U. S. Engineer Office in Montgomery, Alabama,
while the office in Jacksonville has jurisdiction over the
peninsula and over certain portions of Georgia which
drain into the Suwannee and St. Marys River systems.
St. Marys River, Fernandina, and the inland waterway
from the latter point to the mouth of the St. Johns River,
are, for convenience, administered by the U. S. Engineer
Office in Savannah, Georgia. The United States has been
engaged for many years in surveying and improving the
rivers and harbors of the state, and up to date has
expended over $21,000,000 on this work. The number
of waterways under improvement and the amount of
funds being spent each year have increased with the
development of the state subsequent to the Spanish-
American War. Incidentally, it is a rather significant fact
that the state did not enter upon its remarkable develop-
ment until after the causes of malarial and yellow fever
had been definitely determined and the efficacy of pre-
ventive measures had removed from the mind of the
northern immigrant the fear which attached to residence
in the peninsula.
The State of Florida, incidental to the drainage of the
Everglades, has constructed many miles of drainage
canals, which are being used for purposes of transporta-
tion. A corporation, organized under state statutes,
created a navigable inland waterway along the east coast
of Florida, which, however, is no longer adequate to meet
the needs of that section of the state. The property
rights were recently acquired by individuals, who state
their intention to provide a waterway nine feet deep and
to operate freight and passenger boats.
Some of the streams formerly improved by the United
States have temporarily ceased to be of any value as
transportation facilities and no work has been done on
them for a number of years. As already stated, there
are indications that they will again come into use and

when the demand actually arises Congress will undoubt-
edly appropriate funds for their further improvement and
At the present time the United States is engaged in
improving a number of rivers and harbors, among which
those named hereinafter are the most important.
St. Johns River rises in the marshes of Brevard County,
Florida, near the east coast, and flows northerly and
generally parallel to that coast to the City of Jackson-
ville, where it turns abruptly to the east and discharges
into the Atlantic ocean. It has a total length of about
285 miles and under normal conditions tidal influences
may be detected in the lower 135 miles, and during dry
periods in the lower 175 miles. From the City of Palatka,
83 miles above the mouth, to a point a few miles below
Jacksonville, the river is really a lake-that is to say, the
surface is practically level and the daily tidal variation
at Palatka is practically the same as that at Jacksonville.
Immediately above Palatka the river is generally narrow,
and above Lake George up to Lake Harney the average
width is only 200 to 300 ft. Above Lake Harney the river
becomes very narrow and is soon lost, in a navigable sense,
in the marshes and prairies of that section of the state.
In its original condition at times of high water, steamers
penetrated as far as Lake Poinsett, 252 miles above the
mouth, and small boats could at times go as far as Lake
Washington, 276 miles above the mouth. At low water,
navigation was scarcely possible above Lake Harney,
which is 198 miles above the mouth.
The United States is improving this river in three sec-
tions. The first and most important section is that from
the mouth of the river to the City of Jacksonville, which
will permit large ocean-going vessels drawing not over
30 feet to proceed to the various terminals in that city.
The engineer department has under consideration a pro-
ject for further improving this section of the waterway
with a view to removing some of the sharp turns which
render navigation difficult, and with a further view to
deepening the river should the business of the port de-
mand such additional depth. The United States has ex-
pended on this work about $10,000,000.
The next section extends from Jacksonville to Palatka,
which has been improved so that vessels drawing not
over 13 feet may proceed to the latter city. Due to the
increasing size of vessels, there are now very few schoon-

ers capable of using this section of the river to full load.
Vessels drawing 16 to 18 feet do, however, proceed to
Palatka and take on a partial load of cypress lumber and
then drop down stream to deeper water and complete
their load by means of lumber transported from Palatka
on lighters.
The next section of the river, from Palatka to Lake
Harney, has been improved by the United States. At
present the controlling depths are 12 feet to Palatka, 6
feet to Sanford, and 3 feet to Lake Harney. The Clyde
Steamship Company operates boats between Jacksonville
and Sanford and does a considerable volume of business.
Other smaller boats also use the waterway between Jack-
sonville and Palatka and between Palatka and Sanford.
At the present time the United States has under consid-
eration the question of improving the upper sections of
the river with a view to affording better transportation
facilities for the business centering at Palatka and San-
ford. In passing upon such questions a study must be
made of the character and volume of business to be ac-
commodated, for the United States will not appropriate
funds for an improvement unless the responsible authori-
ties are convinced that it will prove a wise investment of
government money.
The Oklawaha River, which rises in the lakes in the
vicinity of Leesburg, formerly carried a considerable
business, but the advent of the railroad introduced com-
petition which made transportation by water unprofit-
able. However, the increasing railway rates and the im-
provements in vessel and engine design and the develop-
ment of new types of business on the Oklawaha River
indicate that the latter will again serve a useful purpose
as a transportation facility. The United States has re-
cently completed a lock at a point known as Moss Bluff,
not far from the Oklawaha railway station. This lock
will accommodate vessels not over 125 feet long and not
over 30 feet wide. The river below the lock is now being
dredged with a view to straightening, deepening and
widening it. There is reason to believe that this river
will see the revival of water transportation within the
next year or two.
The Federal Government, in cooperation with the City
of Miami, has created a channel leading into and across
Biscayne Bay to the City of Miami, and the latter now
enjoys the advantages of a seaport. Vessels of the Clyde
Steamship Company, the Merchants and Miners' Trans-
portation Company, and the Baltimore and Carolina

Steamship Company, and many other companies, visit
this port, and vessels ply between the City of Miami and
the port of Nassau in the Bahama Islands and Havana
in Cuba. The railway has reduced its freight rates in
order to meet the competition furnished by water, and
in consequence of this condition the annual freight bill
of Miami is less by one and one-half or two million dollars
than it would otherwise be. Miami can attribute not a
little of its magnificent growth and prosperity to the cre-
ation of a deep water channel. Congress has recently
approved a project which will give Miami a channel 25
feet deep and will permit of larger vessels visiting this
port. Work is about to begin on this new improvement.
The harbor at Key West has long been under improve-
ment by the United States. and vessels drawing not over
30 feet may now visit that city in perfect safety. For
many years Key West was accessible by water only and
did a very thriving business, which has, moreover, tre-
mendously increased with the arrival of the railroad, and
the city is now engaged in promoting and constructing a
highway to the mainland. The completion of this high-
way will undoubtedly lead to a further increase in the
general business of Key West and this in turn will lead
to an increase in the business by water.
Tampa Harbor in its original condition permitted ves-
sels drawing 20 to 21 feet to enter the bay, but they were
obliged to anchor south of Interbay Peninsula, many
miles distant from the present cities of Tampa and Port
Tampa. Vessels drawing 12 feet could enter Hillsboro
Bay at low water, but the minimum usable depth in the
upper part of the bay was but five feet leading up to the
mouth of the Hillsborough River, which is the site of the
city. The situation at Port Tampa was but little, if any,
better. However, by reason of improvements accom-
plished by the United States, vessels drawing 27 feet may
now proceed with safety to the very heart of the City of
Tampa, and vessels drawing not over 26 feet may go to
Port Tampa. For many years Tampa was an insignificant
little port, dependent entirely upon water transportation
for its assistance, but with the advent of railways and
highways, the city has grown and has become one of the
most important seaports on the Gulf of Mexico. The
present 27-foot channel is scarcely adequate to meet its
requirements, and the United States is engaged in making
a study of the question of further improvement.
The United States has also under improvement the
Caloosahatchee River which serves Fort Myers and the

region between that city and Lake Okeechobee. The
City of Fort Myers, for many years dependent upon
water transportation, is now enjoying a remarkable
growth, induced in part by the extension of the railway
and the improvement of the highways centering in that
city. A similar condition obtains at Boca Grande and
Punta Gorda on Charlotte Harbor.
All of these cities, Jacksonville, Miami, Key West and
Tampa, as well as others that might be mentioned, have
increased in size and prosperity as they have been able
to utilize the various means of transportation. These
cities signally illustrate the principle that a community
grows as it is able to make use of all possible means of
communication. They illustrate the principle that when
the various agencies of transportation are properly
utilized, competition between them is not in fact destruc-
tive, but is cooperative and mutually productive.
The Anclote River, leading to Tarpon Springs, has been
improved by the United States and is the principal seat
of the sponge industry. Tarpon Springs is reported to
handle a greater volume of sponge business than any
other single point in the world.
In addition to the waterways mentioned, the United
States has under improvement certain portions of the
inland waterway on the East Coast, Sarasota Bay, Man-
atee River, the harbor at St. Petersburg, Apalachicola
Bay and River, Chattahoochee River, and others. It
formerly spent a considerable amount of money annually
on the Suwannee River, but in recent years there has
been no great volume of business on that particular
stream. It is also engaged in removing the water hya-
cinth from the streams of the state wherever such action
is necessary in the interest of real commerce. Certain
sections of the Withlacoochee River are regularly
patrolled by engineer employees who remove the plant
from the waterway and thus permit of water transpor-
tation which serves various communities and assists in
regulating freight rates on the railways entering the
Although Fernandina and Pensacola harbors, St.
Josephs and St. Andrews Bays are not in my district, they
are important waters within the State of Florida and so
entitled to notice. Fernandina Harbor in its original
condition had a much better entrance than the harbor
of Jacksonville, but, like the latter, the point of crossing
the bar was subject to great changes in location, moving
in a series of years as much as one and one-half miles

north or south. The government has improved this
entrance by dredging and by constructing two jetties so
that there is not less than 27 feet depth in the outer
harbor at mean low tide stages. Work is now in progress
to secure substantially the same depths in the inner
harbor. The principal articles of commerce handled at
this port are phosphate rock, lumber and lumber
products, and sea food (fish, shrimp. et cetera).
Pensacola harbor, if not the best, is one of the best
natural harbors in the southern states. In its original
condition, the channel across the bar was 22 feet deep,
while in close proximity to the city and naval station
there was a spacious anchorage area of five square miles
with depth of more than 30 feet. The plans for improve-
ment provide for a channel 30 feet deep and 500 feet
wide from the Gulf of Mexico to the wharves at the
eastern end of the City of Pensacola. The port does a
thriving import and export business. The foreign imports
consist largely of whale oil, nitrate of soda and fertilizer.
The exports are naval stores, tobacco, cotton, lumber,
fuel oil and sulphate of ammonia. The harbor is the site
of an important naval station, which is defended by forts
manned by the U. S. Army, and has come into prominence
lately by reason of plans of certain railways to develop
extensive terminals on the bay.
St. Josephs and St. Andrews Bays on the northwest
coast of Florida are natural harbors used chiefly as har-
bors of refuge. St. Josephs Bay is 13 miles long and
four miles wide. with depth of 30 to 36 feet. The en-
trance channel has been dredged to a depth of 24 feet.
St. Andrews Bay is 10 miles long and two miles wide.
The entrance channel has a depth of 22 feet and depths
in excess of this are available to Panama City.
There are many other waters in the State of Florida
administered by the Savannah, Jacksonville and Mont-
gomery districts, but space will not permit of their de-
scription. The United States publishes annually a report
by the Chief of Engineers which contains much infor-
mation on all projects in process of improvement by the
federal government. Numerous reports of preliminary
examinations and surveys ordered by Congress have been
published concerning rivers and harbors for which the
federal government has made no appropriations and
anyone interested in details can obtain information by
making application to the proper district engineer or to
the Chief of Engineers, U. S. Army.


Much more might be written on the waters of the
state, but considerations of space forbid. It is proper to
add, however, in conclusion, that one of the unique
charms of the State of Florida lies in its waterways, and
a voyage on almost any one of the interior streams is a
succession of beautiful vistas of tropical luxuriance.
Silver Springs, a few miles outside of Ocala, with its won-
derful aquatic growth and marvelously transparent
water, is one of the scenic wonders of the world. The
lands adjoining the Oklawaha River are almost in their
primitive state, and each succeeding turn or twist in the
stream imparts to the traveler the thrills enjoyed by the
original explorer. Unfortunately, however, delights of
travel on these waters have not been given sufficient
publicity, nor is there at present any organization
equipped with suitable boats ready to accommodate the
traveler who might desire to explore the waters.

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