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FISHEATING CREEK

Source Details: Wikipedia

The name Fisheating Creek is derived from the Seminole name for the stream, Thlothlopopka-Hatchee, which is translated as “the river where fish are eaten”. Fisheating Creek is between 40 miles (64 km) and 51 miles (82 km) long. It flows southward through an area called the Cypress Swamp in the southwestern part of Highlands County and into Glades County, where it turns eastward about 1 mile (1.6 km) north of County Road 731 and flows about 30 miles (48 km) to Lake Okeechobee. The stream spreads out into Cowbone Marsh for the last 8 miles (13 km) before entering the lake Fisheating Creek is the second-largest natural source of water for Lake Okeechobee (behind the Kissimmee River), supplying close to 9% of the water flowing into the lake.

Fisheating Creek originally arose in a series of perennial marshes in Highlands County west of Lake Placid. Each marsh overflowed into another, slightly lower marsh until Fisheating Creek emerged. In the 20th century ditches and a canal drained the marshes, which were converted into agricultural land. In 2010 the United States Department of Agriculture purchased a conservation easement on 26,000 acres (110 km2) in Highlands County south of State Road 70, and plans to restore the land in the easement area to marshes.

Fisheating Creek flows through a landscape of prairies, both dry and wet, flatwoods, freshwater marshes, hammocks, bottomland forests, and floodplain swamps. Human activity has introduced improved pastures, and eucalyptus and pine plantations.  In 1842 Fisheating Creek was described as a large stream in the dry season, varying in width from a river to a brook, and very “tortuous”.  Lake Okeechobee has been artificially maintained at a lower level than prevailed before the 20th century, with the result that much of Cowbone Marsh has been drained and converted to agricultural land.  Lake Okeechobee has been almost completely enclosed by the Herbert Hoover Dike. The only gap in the dike is at Fisheating Creek, where the dike turns inland and parallels the stream on both sides for several miles, leaving Fisheating Creek as the only remaining free-flowing tributary of Lake Okeechobee. ] The Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail runs across the Herbert Hoover Dike.

The stream lies almost entirely within the Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area. The only populated places near Fisheating Creek are the small communities of Palmdale, near where U.S. Route 27 crosses the stream, and Lakeport, near the mouth of the stream on Lake Okeechobee.  Twenty-seven rare species live in the Fisheating Creek watershed.  Preservation of the Fisheating Creek ecosystem is considered critical to the long-term welfare of Florida panthers, black bears, swallow-tailed kites, whooping cranes, sandhill cranes, crested caracaras and other species.

History

The area around Fisheating Creek was occupied by people of the Belle Glade culture from as early as 1000 BCE. There are many archaeological sites from that period in the area, the best known of which is Fort Center, which was occupied from before 450 BCE until about 1700.

“Fort Center”, a palisade of cabbage-palm trunks named for United States Army Lieutenant J. P. Center, was built on the banks of Fisheating Creek during the Second Seminole War (1835-1843) (the archaeological site is named after the Seminole War fort).  In 1842, a reconnaissance party of 83 sailors and marines (along with a Seminole guide and his wife and child) led by United States Navy Lieutenant John Rodgers traveled in 16 dugout canoes from Key Biscayne through the Everglades, across Lake Okeechobee and up both the Kissimmee River to Lake Tohopekaliga, and Fisheating Creek to the head of the open stream, before returning to Key Biscayne. Fort Center had been abandoned by then, and the expedition had to repair the palisade when they occupied it for a few days. The expedition found evidence that Seminoles had been living in the area of Fisheating Creek, but did not encounter any in the course of the 60-day expedition.  Fort Center was reactivated during the Third Seminole War (1853–55) as a station on a military road from Fort Myers to Fort Jupiter, with part of the route using canoes to cross Lake Okeechobee.

A survey in 1881 found that Fisheating Creek was one of five main areas in Florida occupied by Seminoles.  Non-Indian settlement began impinging on the area in the 20th century. Lakeport, near the mouth of Fisheating Creek, was founded in 1915.  Increasing development around Fisheating Creek had forced the Seminoles out of most of the area by 1930. ] The Brighton Seminole Indian Reservation, established in 1935,  is in Glades County adjacent to Fisheating Creek.

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