Mail bag: Florida’s “lost” river?

Mail Bag:

“How is the Turner River doing? I drove by there the other day and noticed it was gone. Or was I imagining things? I couldn’t stop because I was in a hurry on my way to Miami.”


The river is doing great.

What you saw, or didn’t see, was actually the canal, or what used to be a canal, and not the river itself.

The canal was dug in the 1950s for the purposed of building an elevated roadbed next to it called Turner River Road. That roadbed in turn blocked the swamp’s vital sheetflow from feeding the river’s headwater pools. That caused the natural channel to fill in with a thicket of vegetation.

The new artificial waterway was confusingly named Turner River Canal by merit of its location next to Turner River Road which, over time, shortened to simply being known as the Turner River instead (and who would know the difference anyhow since the natural channel had all but disappeared).

The canal was a popular spot because it connected to tide.

That made for good snook fishing. On the downside it also wasted a lot of precious swamp water prematurely to tide.

That all changed in 1996 when the reach of canal south of Tamiami Trail was filled in back to wetland grade. That stopped the freshet of canal water dead in its tracks, and instead rerouted it back towards the natural channel.

The result?

Turner River sprung back to life with flowing water. Kayakers and canoeists have been happily paddling in it ever since.

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