Welcome to Lake Okeechobee, the 7th largest fresh water lake in the US. Yes, we intentionally went in search of it on Saturday. If you look at any map of Florida, it's one of the first things noticed. That massive bit of water down toward the everglades. And we wanted to see it for ourselves. So off we went.
It's rather shallow for a lake that huge, mostly no more than 8 to 10 feet deep, but lousy with fish which also means birds. Loads of birds. Naturally it attracts fisherpeople, fishing from the pier, from boats and even the riverbank. It's an incredibly large lake, about half the size of Rhode Island in fact so the above photo doesn't do it justice.
One of my favourite factoids about it are the names of some of the creeks and rivers that feed the lake: Istokpoga Creek, Kissimmee River and Caloosahatchee River for example. Those are just plain fun to say! Of course I looked them up. Okeechobee means "Big Water" . Istokpoga, interestingly means, "People have died there"; apparently at one time there were deadly whirlpools in that water. Maybe the people who named it couldn't swim? The meaning of Kissimee is still being debated amoungst the peole who debate those sorts of things and Caloosatachee was an Indian tribe. I could not find it meant anything in particular but in the past, I have found that most tribes names mean, "The People". So perhaps that it so again.
I have to admit to being a little disappointed. I cannot say exactly what we expected to see, but not what we saw. Due to flooding concerns, there has been an enormous embankment built around the entire perimeter of the Lake so you cannot actually see it from your car is you circumnavigate it. What you actually see is the embankment itself, and a lot of very small RV parks with names like "Brothers" (a hand lettered sign), "Lake Breeze" and "Silver Palms". There are occasionally some houses right up against that embankment, which is very trusting I'd say, and occasionally the road would swing wide and there would be evidence of a small town.
Sometimes the access point to the top of the embankment had a pretty little park at the base with bathrooms and covered pavilions, sometimes it just a parking lot and concrete stairs. I have read that there is an historic battlefield park somewhere on that Lake but we didn't find it. All around the top of the embankment surrounding the lake is a concrete pathway wide enough to bike or walk the entire circle. It gave me the feeling that I was walking around the rim of a teacup.
The nicest surprise we found was the outside town of Clewiston. We were driving through yet another rural area; cows, citrus groves and fields of......something. Now at least half of my heritage is farming so generally speaking when we pass a field that has something growing in it, I can tell what it is. But this was was a mystery.
Very clearly these were plowed fields, nice straight lines, good rich dark soil, but it looked like weeds growing. Not "weed", shame on you, I meant weeds, the stuff you pull out of the cracks of your patio or your flower garden. I just couldn't place what I was looking at, was it maybe that decorative grass that you see planted in a flower garden? Somebody must grow that stuff, maybe it's these guys?
Well we discussed possibilities for a ridiculous amount of time until we actually entered the city limits of Clewiston, whose nickname is "The Sweetest Town. Well that is intriguing. We drove a little further and found a Sugar Festival. The light dawned in both our minds and just like in the movies, Tim and I said it at the exact same time. It was sugarcane that was growing in those fields!!!
That festival has my name written all over it! Wish we had known about that earlier as it was toward the end of the day and we were already homeward bound in our thoughts. Another time though, I would like to go back and check out that festival.
I think Okeechobee has been seen however. Yup, as far as Okeechobee goes, I'm good.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.