Time Capsule: Canal Threatens Florida's Oklawaha River
There are two Oklawaha Rivers today. There is the twisting, unspoiled black-water stream of the Florida Wilderness. And there is the dammed, straightened, Army Engineered desolation of the unfinished Cross-Florida Barge Canal.
Must the Oklawaha, in the President's words, become only a memory? A year or two ago the answer might have been yes. Not so today. Thanks to the extraordinary group, Florida Defenders of the Environment, the public has been awakened to the crisis. The attempted rape of the Oklawaha has been denounced in the national press. The Department of the Interior would like to see it returned to the wild rivers system; the Forest Service is prepared to buy back the valley from the state and add it, as a recreation area, to Ocala National Forest. A lawsuit, based on the people's right to save their environment, has been brought against the Army Engineers. Owing to cuts in congressional appropriations, construction has virtually ceased. Eureka Dam remains high and dry; the tree-crushing "monster" lies rusting on the shore; and the river beloved by William Bartram and Sidney Lanier, though sorely injured, is still alive. Future generations may yet enjoy, as Coleridge wrote in his Note Book: "Some wilderness-plot, green and fountainous and unviolated by Man."
This story originally ran in the July-August 1970 issue as "Oklawaha: 'The Sweetest Water-Lane in the World'"