Friday, April 14, 2017
Walk Across Florida - Tamiami Trail
I finally arrived at the Tamiami Trail. This road officially is the 260 miles of U.S. Highway 41 from Tampa to U.S. Route 1 in Miami. There is some controversy about just who suggested the name, Tamami Trail. Two different Tampa men claim this, but it is derived from “Tampa to Miami.” After Naples the trail becomes an east-west road crossing the Everglades and forms part of the north border of the Everglades National Park. The north-south portion was begun in 1915. This portion was on higher ground and included many rough roads already in existence. The east-west portion was begun in 1923 across the Big Cypress Swamp. At that time the Everglades had only ox paths and Seminole Indian trails in existence.
People said that it was impossible to run cars across the Everglades swamp! On April 1923 Dade County land developer Captain James Franklin Jaudin started out with ten “Model-T” vehicles, 28 men and two Seminole Indian guides to prove that it was possible. They called themselves the “Trailblazers.” They were successful, but it took them 23 days. Much longer than they thought!......
Of particular interest is the type of dredge used in building the Trail through the Everglades. The Bay City Walking Dredge sits on display in Collier Seminole State Park, which is 15 miles southeast of Naples on the Tamiami Trail. This machine was built in 1924 in Bay City, Michigan. It used pulleys and sheaves to move four wooden shoes and a central base forward in a walking motion that could cover five to ten feet at a time. The machine had a one-yard bucket, a 40–foot boom and was approximately 36 feet wide. Because of its width, it could straddle the canals it made.
In 1928 when the Tamiami Trail was completed it was considered a engineering marvel. However, it seems that no one had considered the potential damage that could be caused to the Everglades. The roadway and the canal became a dam to block the water flow from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. This was very bad for the ecology of the region. Since that time, in 1990 and today, some canals have been filled, extra culverts under the highway have been built, and a few miles of the highway have been raised onto a bridge to allow additional natural water to flow into the Everglades.
There was a small store at the intersection of Turner River Road and the Tamiami Trail. I went in. I dropped my pack near the entrance and before I could turn around a guy says,
“Howdy, what can I do fer ya?”
He was the owner…..I bought a few snacks and a soda and asked him if I could look at the swamp vehicles outside.
“Them there’s called swamp buggies,” he said “and go right ahead, make yourself at home.”
I looked around outside at one of the swamp buggies as I drank my soda. It was a crazy looking contraption, with an old 4-cylinder Model A Ford engine and chassis. There were real big tires with large chains on the rear wheels. Then there was a raised-up seating area behind the driver’s seat…..
I then continued east on the Tamiami Trail.