A Magical Place
alm Beach County was once quitedifferent than it is today. TheEverglades encompassed muchmore of its area. Early Seminole andMiccosukee peoples could push their long dugout canoes across the Evergladesto what is now the Amtrak Station in WestPalm Beach. Continuing their journey onland, they would cross the Ridge to whatis now Lake Worth.An 1848 account describes theEverglades as a magical place of “pro-found and wild solitude.” It seems thatnot much had changed 90 years later inthis
WPA Guide to Florida
description of the lush Everglades in Palm BeachCounty:
oday, the Everglades is confined tothe western portion of Palm BeachCounty. This large county hasseveral distinct regions, each with its ownunique environmental features.
The Treasure Coast.
Closer to theGulf Stream than any place on the eastcoast of the United States, Palm BeachCounty boasts 45 miles of coastline andtwo barrier islands. The Treasure Coast,considered a world class diving location, isa haven for tourists, who help support itsmany hotels, motels, and restaurants. TheJohn D. MacArthur State Park on Singer Island, with almost a mile and a half of coastal maritime hammock and goldenbeach, hints at what the area looked likebefore it was settled by Europeans.Between these barrier islands and themainland is the Intracoastal Waterway,running north as far as Maine. Locally, amajor portion of the Intracoastal comprisesthe Lake Worth Lagoon, a saltwater estuaryspreading from North Palm Beach toLantana that is a valuable recreational andcommercial asset. Northern Palm BeachCounty is home to the pristine estuarineenvironments of Jupiter Sound and theLoxahatchee River, both now designated asstate aquatic preserves.
Just a few miles wide,the Atlantic Coastal Ridge was theprehistoric shoreline. Higher in elevationthan the rest of the county, the Ridge isbetter protected from hurricane stormsurges and has been a perenniallyattractive area for development. HenryFlagler laid his railroad on the Ridge tokeep it out of the “swamps” and reduce theHere, far as the eye can see, theflatlands are carpeted with wavingsawgrass, of the sedge or bullrushfamily, with long folded leaves edgedwith sharp teeth. Pale green in summer,brown in the dry season, the grassthrusts up a tall stalk, topped withpanicles of brownish flowers . . . Smallanimals find refuge in the undergrowthalong the roadside; rabbits vanish atthe approach of automobiles, butbolder field rats stand still and cocktheir heads at passers-by, scurrying for cover only when a car stops. In winter months mallards, blue bills, canvasbacks, and other migratory waterfowlflock to the Everglades, a vast film of water dotted with miragelike ham-mocks of cypress and palmetto. Duringthe summer rainy season the water often rises as much as 6 feet, but atother times its depth is from 3 inches to3 feet.