Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Walk Across Florida - The Barge Canal

Excerpts from A Walk Across Florida by Bob Kranich

The highway 19 crossing over the Cross-Florida Barge Canal was a high point on my trip. (Pun intended) While writing my book and doing the research I came upon many interesting facts. 

A couple for example: The vegetation that was cleared for the canal, today has grown right back and even up to sides of the canal, tall and thick. One other fact that I found real interesting is the Crusher-Crawler that was custom built to knock down the tall trees for the Rodman Dam. 

Even today it would be a monster! Both of these topics are illustrated and shown with photos in my book. They are just a few of the more than 100 field illustrations, photos and watercolors I included.
The Cross-Florida Barge Canal
I headed south when I came to highway 19, there ahead of me was what was responsible for my detour, the Cross-Florida Barge Canal. If I excluded the occasional fire tower I have climbed, this would be the highest point I would attain on my hike across Florida…..
The Cross Florida Barge Canal was first proposed as a ship canal. In fact, as early as 1567 a canal was proposed by King Phillip II of Spain. They were having a lot of trouble with shipwrecks and piracy as their ships sailed around the southern tip of Florida and into the Caribbean. Again in 1818 Secretary of War John C. Calhoun proposed this for the same reasons. Nothing ever came of it until the 1900’s.
In 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt started work on the canal to provide work during the depression. Immediately 6,000 workers attacked the land, taking out ancient oaks and large longleaf pines, and driving out all forms of wildlife by clearing 4,000 acres. A year later work was stopped by the Congress and opponents of the canal…..
In 1963 President John F. Kennedy supported the canal for political reasons and in 1964 President Lyndon Johnson  was present for the groundbreaking…..
Rodman Dam was constructed west of highway 19. The dam was named for a small community on a site that was flooded when the reservoir was filled. The dam was an integral part of the Cross Florida Barge Canal in providing water control to the canal.
To help in the construction of the dam and reservoir, the Corps of Engineers had a machine built that was called a crusher-crawler.* It was used to flatten thousands of valuable cypress trees along the Ocklawaha River. This destroyed 9,000+ acres of river and floodplain forest and backed up the river for 16 miles. This machine weighed 621,000 pounds, was amphibious and looked like a World War I tank, but much larger. It had two 10 foot wide tracks running the entire length of the machine and a tree pusher bar protruding out front. It was approximately 12-15 feet high by 40 feet long. On top was a control cabin which was an additional 12 feet high. The crusher-crawler was powered by two 270 horse power Caterpillar diesels.
The barge canal was opposed by environmental activist Marjorie Carr, grass roots environmentalists and a legal challenge…..
so in 1971 President Nixon halted construction. The building of the canal was officially cancelled in 1991…..
Here I was at the highway 19 bridge crossing the Cross State Barge Canal. The signs read:
As for the NO STOPPING ON BRIDGE, I wouldn’t stop, but I would only be going about 3 miles per hour on the left side of the bridge facing traffic. I got my camera out, put on my pack, unfastened my hip belt and started my climb. ….
About the Author: After getting out of the Army Bob Kranich backpacked from the Georgia border to Key West in a 40 day adventure walk across Florida. His recently published book A Walk Across Florida is available from his website or

No comments:

Post a Comment