Please Note That Postings Below From Fellow Cruisers Are Listed in Chronological Order, Based on Publication Date
Please Note That Postings Below From Fellow Cruisers Are Listed in Chronological Order, Based on Publication Date
The docks, ramps and campgrounds at this popular Waterway stopover have been undergoing renovations for several months, see http://cruisersnet.net/?p=144069. The W.P. Franklin Lock is located at Okeechobee Waterway Statute Mile 121, west of unlighted daybeacon #2 (western side of lock).
January 5, 2015
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District closes swimming beach at W.P. Franklin South Recreation Area
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District has closed the swimming beach at W.P. Franklin South Recreation Area on the Caloosahatchee River near Alva due to concerns about water quality.
“Public safety is always our primary concern, so we have temporarily closed the swimming beach at the W.P. Franklin South Recreation Area,” said George Melanson, natural resource manager in the South Florida Operations Office in Clewiston. “We will let the public know as soon as possible when we are able to reopen the beach for their enjoyment.”
The closure was recommended by the Florida Department of Health after routine water test results returned with elevated levels of enterococcus bacteria. The Department of Health re-sampled water in the swim area this morning, and results should be available tomorrow.
For information on the W.P. Franklin Lock and Visitor Center, call 239-694-2582. Additional information can be found online at www.saj.usace.army.mil and then clicking the “Recreation” icon or http://1.usa.gov/1cmNXQK.
What a grand way to get into the Holiday spirit! Pink Shell Beach Resort and Marina, A SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR!, overlooks the westerly banks of the Mantanzas Pass channel, west of marker #13.
We seldom get inquiries about specific individuals, but Skipper Schofield’s query seems genuinely sincere, especially with his kind words for Bob Wallace. If you have knowledge of Bob’s status or wish to relate your own experiences with Bob, please us hear from you.
The Fort Myers Beach Mooring Field is found east of the high-rise bridge, just north of Estero Island. The mooring field is hosted by City of Fort Myers Yacht Basin, A SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR!
We’ve anchored in what is now the mooring field a few times but not for several years, the last time back in 2000. I wonder if anyone knows the latest on Bob Wallace who welcomed boaters to his dock to land, take on water and all he asked in return was that they sign his visitors book. I guess Bob will have passed away but I thought he had a son who might have carried on the tradition. I guess it’s a less necessary facility these days but it was wonderful back then and a hugely generous gesture by Bob. Anyone know anything?
Fort Myers Yacht Basin lies along the southeasterly banks of the Caloosahatchee River, between the 3rd and 4th bridges from west to east. We are proud that this fine SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR is offering their expertise and advice to Okeechobee and West Florida transients!p>
Hello to all of those transiting the beautiful Okeechobee Waterway.
For current conditions on the waterway, please allow the staff at the City of Fort Myers Yacht Basin to assist you. We will be happy to provide tidal, lock schedule, weather and any other impacting information in order to help you make it through. We can be reached at 239-321-7080, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and channel 16 when closer. We are open 8 to 6 and are here to serve you.
Leif Lustig, Dock Master
Notice of upcoming Okeechobee Waterway closures;
Please review the tentative schedule for waterway closures to navigation which can be found on the City of Fort Myers web page at http://www.cityftmyers.com/yachtbasin, as construction continues on the I-75 bridge at mile marker 129.
Leif Lustig, Dockmaster
More Fun Stuff: With a name like theirs, these folks are bound to be fun to meet and share a brew or two with. They are primarily off-shore sailors, but they are sure to be able to offer wisdom about the Okeechobee and the West Florida Intracoastal. The Cape Coral Yacht Club is in the vicinity of the transient slips at Cape Coral Yacht Basin.
The Caloosahatchee Marching and Chowder Society
Winner of US Sailing’s 2012 Outstanding Organizational Support Award
The sailing club with the very unusual name formed around 1970 at Cape Coral, Florida, with sailors from all over Southwest Florida as charter members. The unique name came from an effort to make it forever obvious that this was not a “Knife and Fork yacht club,” but a group of offshore sailors who wanted to race, cruise and explore the coasts of Florida, the Keys, the Tortugas, and the Bahamas. The name also describes the offbeat informal humor of the offshore sailor. It consists of folks from all walks of life who unite in their love of the sea.
Guests are always welcome to one of our casual monthly socials / meetings at 6:30 PM on the third Tuesday of every month (except January) at the Cape Coral Yacht Club, 5819 Driftwood Pkwy., Cape Coral, FL. (No dress codes here.) To learn more about CMCS, simply, scroll down on this page to view our online journal (BLOG). You may also go to About Us for additional links, or email us by going to Contact Us.
For schedule of activities, go to:
Skipper Heidi is referring to a May, 2014 posting also asking for advice on the height of these five bridges, see: http://cruisersnet.net/?p=140221. As Skipper Heidi is aware those published 55ft heights will expand and contract depending on water and weather conditions, as well as vessel conditions. If you have recent experience at the I-75 and Edison Twin bridges, let us hear from you!
Did you make the trip? Do you have any information about the clearance for the I-75 and Edison Twin bridges? Our mast is only 52f but last year in August we barely made it underneath these bridges at high tide. The “clearance boards” did read only 53f…(Officially some bridges have a clearance of 54.8f, not 55f – see http://www.city-data.com/bridges/bridges-Fort-Myers-Florida.html)
Now we have to go back, but we are gained a few inches by unloading the boat and the water level is higher than last August….Of course we’ll go a low tide but I’m still concerned…
As detailed in this article by Adam Linhardt in KeysNews.com, this is a real No-Brainer, and surely no SSECN reader would ever be guilty of abusing the use of emergency flares. However, it is a good topic of conversation to have in public places where some of the less-informed might overhear!
False flare cases plague Coast Guard
BY ADAM LINHARDT Citizen Staff
Misuse of emergency marine flares is giving the Coast Guard headaches and costing taxpayers a ton of money, the agency said last week.
Since June, the Coast Guard Seventh District headquartered in Miami, of which Sector Key West is included, reported more than 60 flare sightings. Watchstanders then launched air and boat crews in every instance at a total cost of more than $5 million, according to the Coast Guard.
Each search typically costs between $60,000 and $90,000 when fuel and manpower needs are totaled, according to data released by the Coast Guard.
“Shooting a flare in a nondistress situation is no different than dialing 911 and hanging up,” said Capt. Todd Coggeshall, chief of response management for the Coast Guard Seventh District.
To read more, go to:
A SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR! Fort Myers Yacht Basin lies along the southeasterly banks of the Caloosahatchee River, between the 3rd and 4th bridges from west to east.
The City Of Fort Myers Yacht Basin is well known for being a beautiful, convenient, well-run marina with transient and live-aboard slips, access to downtown amenities, and a protected location on the Caloosahatchee River. Change may be in the winds for this municipal facility, however, according to the September issue of its “DockLines” monthly newsletter:
ATTENTION YACHT BASIN CUSTOMERS
The City of Fort Myers Mayor and City Council are discussing “potential public/private partnerships with the City of Fort Myers Yacht Basin”. More information will be provided once it is known. Public assistance in providing input to the elected officials will be very important in setting the direction that the marina is to proceed in. Please
contact the Yacht Basin for elected officials contact information. The City built and has successfully run the marina since 1937 to provide safe dockage to the area boaters. Please help us keep this a great public marina.
Leif Lustig, Dockmaster
This report is from the first of two public forums scheduled for September, see http://cruisersnet.net/?p=143945.
Our thanks for Skipper Waln for this excellent report.
Florida Anchoring Meeting, Vero Beach (And the Beat Goes On)
Tonight I attended the FWC hosted Vero Beach meeting on regulatory Concepts for anchoring in Florida. The meeting was well run by Maj Moore of the FWC who was supported by Capt Klein and a staff of non-uniformed personnel. Seven regulatory Concepts were presented with repeated requests throughout the meeting for the attendees to put their thoughts in the comments sections of the questionnaires provided. A similar meeting is scheduled for Bradenton tomorrow evening. A regulated open mike session allowed time for cruisers, other boaters, home owners, members of the boating industry and locality representatives to speak.
The core purpose of the meeting was to provide the FWC access to a broader thought base when developing regulatory alternatives to respond to legislative attempts to return to locally controlled anchoring. While the FWC Anchoring Pilot Program was extended for three years in the last session, there is no reason to believe it won’t come up again this next session.
The elephant in the room issue is a regulatory concept allowing anchoring keep out zones in the vicinity of waterfront residences. The initial language proposes expansive keep out zones which would largely eliminate anchoring in Florida’s most populous and/or geographically constrained waterfront regions — a boon to marina owners and mooring field operators — and quite possibly unconstitutional if not simply illegal.
As is usual in cases like this, the public comment was all over the map. About 75% of the comments were on topic, the rest were either meandering or sales pitches or diatribes of some sort. Some comments were more appropriate to a legislative comment environment. Of the on topic comments, about half were polite rants [actually this was a very polite crowd, considering the potential downside of both legislation and the FWC keep out concept] the other half contained a few useful ideas and raised issues that will likely require a court challenge to ever see settled. Several people spoke in favor of uniformity in application — but several worried one size may not fit all considering Florida’s geographic variety.
About 100 people attended. Roughly a third spoke. A couple of people on both sides of the issue behaved badly, but they failed to ignite audience passion or participation.
I agree with Major Moore. It is better to have this dialog now and concepts in hand when the legislative juggernaut starts up again than it is to respond to proposed legislation with “duh.”
All seven concepts can be found at. http://myfwc.com/media/2847550/anchoring-public-meeting.pdf
We are greatly indebted to Captains Susan Landry and Chuck Baier, owners of Beach House Publications, publishers of “The Great Book of Anchorages,” for providing superb, in-depth articles for our readers! This west coast anchorages guide is a welcomed addition to their previous guides and includes a dedication to the late Claiborne Young, co-founder of SSECN.
A New Guide Release and a Commitment to a Worthy Cause
Media Information: For immediate release
Sarasota, Florida – September 1, 2014 — Publishers and long time boaters Chuck Baier and Susan Landry of Beach House Publications announce the release of their fourth guide in The Great Book of Anchorages series, The Gulf Coast, Cape Sable, FL to Mobile, AL, Including the Okeechobee Waterway. This fourth guide has been the most requested to date by fellow boaters. The authors extensive on-the-water travels and research from their trawler Beach House provides the most comprehensive Gulf Coast anchorage guide currently in print. Previous guides in The Great Book of Anchorages series are The Chesapeake Bay, Including the Potomac River, Hampton Roads and Norfolk to The Florida Keys, Including the St. Johns River, and The Bahamas – The Route Most Traveled. Details are available on the website at https://www.tgboa.com/.
In dedication of this current release, the authors have made a commitment to donate $2.00 from every order placed between August 25, 2014 and September 30, 2014 to one of their favorite charities, The Wounded Warrior Project, http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/. They also challenge other boating publications to offer similar donations. Owner Chuck Baier is himself a veteran from the Vietnam era and understands the need to provide support and additional services to the men and women that sacrifice so much for our country and freedom.
Beach House Publications and The Great Book of Anchorages series was conceived in August of 2012 on a laptop in the cabin of their Marine Trader trawler, Beach House. All of the guides have been researched, compiled, edited and distributed from their trawler while living aboard and cruising full time. In addition to publishing, the husband and wife team have been freelance writers for over 20 years and have shared their knowledge and experiences in such major boating publications as Cruising World, Bluewater Sailing, Soundings Magazine, Sail Magazine, Southern Boating, Lats and Atts, Marinalife Magazine, Nor’ Easter, Good Old Boat, Living Aboard Magazine and a host of internet sites. The pair often gives presentations to boating organizations such as individual Yacht Clubs, the Marine Trader Owners Association, Americas Great Loop Cruising Association and most currently, TrawlerFest Baltimore 2014.
If you would like more information on The Great Book of Anchorages series, would like to order books, or interview Chuck or Susan, call us at 713-244-4686 or email email@example.com.
Susan Landry, Publisher/Author/Editor
Chuck Baier, Publisher/Author
Beach House Publications
P.O. Box 1418
Sarasota, Florida 34230
For an excellent description of Franklin Lock and Dam Park by our good friends Susan Landry and Chuck Baier, go to: http://cruisersnet.net/?p=142643
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District has announced it will close docks at the W.P Franklin Campground near Fort Myers effective immediately due to structural concerns.
The closure impacts four “boat-in” docks at the campground north of the Franklin Lock & Dam. Officials at the campground identified structural issues with the docks that require significant repair.
Boat ramps at the campground and at the Franklin Recreation Area on the south side of the Lock & Dam will remain open as those facilities aren’t connected to the “boat-in” docks.
“We recognize the inconvenience this closure may cause to people planning to use the docks as part of a trip to the Franklin Campground,” said Steve Dunham, Chief of the Corps’ South Florida Operation Office. “However, the safety of the guests at our campgrounds is our top priority. We will work to reopen this facility as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Initial estimates indicate the docks will likely be closed for at least six months. “Boat-in” docks allow up to eight houseboats and other similar vessels access to a camping facility similar to an RV park, except on the water.
The W.P. Franklin Campground along the north side of the Caloosahatchee River offers 30 RV/tent campsites and is open year round. The W.P. Franklin Recreation Area offers a swimming beach and boat ramp for daily use.
For more information on the Corps of Engineers recreation opportunities within the Jacksonville District, please visit the following website:
Readers have mentioned the use of a “senior pass” when docking in the Okeechobee Waterway: http://cruisersnet.net/?p=141594. Skipper Will asks for clarification as to which senior passes are accepted in the Waterway. My guess would be the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass (62 and older, $10/life.) If you have a better or different answer, please let us hear from you!
Great Info [link above] -Thanks very much-looking forward to using the Okeechobee myself this fall. Which GOLDEN AGE pass is the one in play here- there are so many, and with different virtues?
Aren’t you glad we asked: it’s $10 for life! As Skipper Bennight says: the best government fee ever!
Yes the Senior Pass from the NPS -formerly known as the Golden Age Pass http://www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm $10 for life works its magic not only at National Parks but various other federal recreation areas. In this case it gets you half off the normal $24/night slip fee…..
The Senior pass is offered by the U.S, Park Service and is good for all national parks but not state or county parks. It is not issued at every park so check ahead.
The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is indeed for those of us 62 and older but that $10 pass is a Lifteime Pass – not annual. (The best $10 government fee ever.) It is available to a U.S. Cirizen or permanent resident.
Boy, I’ve never heard of this and I’ve been across it several times, both directions.
The Okeechobee Waterway runs parallel to the Palm Beach Glades Airport near statute mile 55, then the waterway makes a dogleg southeast to southwest at Paul Rardin Park near statute mile 58. The area of caution noted below in bold runs from marker #82 to marker #91. The Herbert Hoover Dike Rehabilitation Project has been ongoing since 2012 and not expected to be completed until 2016.
Thalle Construction Company, Inc. is replacing two culverts along the Okeechobee Waterway near Belle Glade, FL (Culverts 12) and Pahokee, FL (Culvert 10) as part of the overall Herbert Hoover Dike Rehabilitation Project sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Construction consists of the steel and earthen cofferdams on both the lakeside and landside of the dike to create a self-contained work area. The waterway will be obstructed during the installation and removal of the cofferdams and during the process of replacing the culverts. Recreational and commercial boaters are asked to use caution when navigating through this section of the waterway between the Paul Rardin park boat ramps location (26 45.363N, 080 41.498W) and just north of Palm Beach Glades Airport location (26 47.309N, 080 41.947W). Four (4) obstruction buoys with solar powered lights, reflectorized hazard warning and symbol will be placed at the outermost edge of cofferdams obstructing the waterway to delineate the cofferdam location and guide boaters through the work zone area. Also, two (2) obstruction buoys will be placed in the vicinity of boat ramps. Once the culvert replacements are complete, the cofferdams will be removed and waterway restored. Construction will occur 5 to 6 days a week, with the possibility of night time work. The project is anticipated to be completed in 2016. The Project point of contact is Tim Pernsteiner at 919-282-4674 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Chart 11428 LNM: 28/14
Franklin Lock, the westernmost lock on the Okeechobee Waterway, is located at Statute Mile 121 and St. Lucie Lock, the easternmost lock, lies west of Stuart, FL near Statute Mile 15. This notice was posted on Seven Seas Cruising Association by Susan Landry.
July 14, 2014: We received this note this morning from Skipper Parker and a phone call to the ACOE confirmed that at this time there are no restrictions on the Okeechobee locks:
I spoke with the St Lucie lock master this morning. The lake is up so there are no restricted hours at this time. We locked through with no problem. It might be prudent to call ahead.
We locked through Franklin over July 4 weekend. They were operating on demand. Spent weekend @ docks there which were half empty even on a holi. day weekend. $12/night (with senior pass) includes power and water. Great time.
Kim s/v TrustMe!!!
For an excellent description of Franklin Lock and Dam Park by our good friends, Chuck and Susan Baier, go to: http://cruisersnet.net/?p=142643
The old Local Notice:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District has announced restrictions on lock operations on the Okeechobee Waterway due to falling water levels on Lake Okeechobee.
Effective Thursday, June 5, locking operations at the W.P. Franklin Lock & Dam near Fort Myers and the St. Lucie Lock & Dam near Stuart will be conducted every two hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. This action is the result of the water level at Lake Okeechobee falling below 12.5 feet.
“This is standard operating procedure whenever the lake falls below 12.5 feet” said Steve Dunham, Chief of the Corps’ South Florida Operations Office. “We encourage boaters to be aware of the lake level and consider that drafts will continue to decrease if the lake drops more in coming weeks. ”
The updated schedule means that lockages will occur at Franklin and St. Lucie at 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m., and 7 p.m. Operations at the other three locks, Ortona, Moore Haven, and Port Mayaca, will continue on demand between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Should the lake drop below 11.5 feet, additional reductions in service will be necessary. A Notice to Navigation has been issued on this subject. For more information on navigation notices concerning the Okeechobee Waterway, please visit the following website:
FLORIDA – AICW – FORT MEYERS TO CHARLOTTE HARBOR AND WIGGINS PASS – CALOOSAHATCHEE RIVER
The following change has been approved to the aids to navigation system in the Caloosahatchee River.
CALOOSAHATCHEE RIVER DBN 74 (LLNR 54065) will be permanently discontinued. Chart 11427 LNM: 24/14
The recently improved and expanded LaBelle City dock overlooks the south side of the Okeechobee Waterway, just west of the LaBelle bridge. Our thanks to Skipper Landry for this report! For photos of the LaBelle City Docks, go to http://cruisersnet.net/?p=136870
Tonight we are tied to the free town docks at La Belle. The docks are new and very nice with both power and water, except the power isn’t working on half the pedestals. There are no finger piers so you must pull in between two pilings about 15 feet off the dock and climb off the boat either at the bow or the stern. This is right next to the highway bridge so there is traffic noise. But hey, it’s free. We are sharing the dock with two sailboats and a houseboat. Tomorrow we’ll explore La Belle a bit, we have been here by car before.
Back on 5/19/14, the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net was privileged to publish a superb article authored by my good friends, Skippers Susan Landry and Chuck Baier, about mooring their trawler, “Beach House,” at the inexpensive wet slips immediately west of the Okeechobee Waterway’s St. Lucie Lock (the easternmost lock on this Waterway – see http://cruisersnet.net/?p=140813).
Later we learned that Chuck and Susan had found a similar facility adjacent to the W. P. Franklin lock, the westernmost Okeechobee Waterway lock. And, as you can readily guess, we asked them to repeat the process, and they have kindly done so. The story below is the happy result!
We are once again greatly indebted to Captains Susan Landry and Chuck Baier, owners of Beach House Publications, publishers of “The Great Book of Anchorages,” (http://www.tgboa.com) for providing this superb, in-depth article and copious photographs! THANKS CHUCK AND SUSAN!
WP Franklin Lock and Dam Park
We recently visited the St. Lucie Park and had written about what a pleasant and unexpected gem it was. Imagine, then, our surprise at what we found at the WP Franklin Lock and Dam Park. It is the westernmost lock in the Okeechobee Waterway out of the 5 locks in the OWW. Initially we had thought we might go ahead through the lock and continue on to LaBelle. However, as we approached the lock, the wind began to gust and we decided it was time to call it a day. I had glanced over and realized that the docks were on the east side of the lock and not the west as I had originally thought. Also, they are tucked up in a protected basin and not right next to the river as the docks are at St. Lucie. We spun the boat around and headed for the docks.
A very nice gentleman, Walt Vliet, who was out for a few weeks cruise with his wife June, came to our aid as we docked with the wind blowing us up on the finger pier. No matter how many years of experience one has, it is still difficult to dock with a single engine and a good, stiff breeze on the beam. Once secure, we had the opportunity to visit with Walt and June. Both are about to turn 80 soon and have been cruising for years. They live in Hobe Sound and often travel back and forth across the Okeechobee on either their small sailboat or their Marine Trader trawler. They were a pleasure to meet.
But the real story is the park. It is truly a beautiful little place. The RV park and marina, situated on its own little island, is located on the northeast side of the river and lock. Slow speed buoys are located at the entrance to the marina basin. There are 8 slips here as there are at St. Lucie, with 4 being first-come, first-served and the other 4 able to be reserved. Very little wake makes it into the basin. Trees and a decent size picnic pavilion are very near the docks, and a short walk west past a number of RV sites, takes you to very clean heads and showers. Recycling bins are available jus t next to the trash.
In the middle of the island is the ranger’s office where you pay your dockage. (Again, the same as St. Lucie – $24 per dock including water and electric, or $12 if you have your Golden Age pass for those 62+.) Just next to the office the ranger’s trailer and little fenced in yard that houses her “babies,” three small dogs. From there, turn and walk due south out to the lock and fishing pier, or turn north to walk over the short causeway to get some exercise or a different view of the island. The other, or west, end of the island has many more RV sites and a larger head and shower facility which also houses a washer and dryer. You can walk beyond that building and find another large covered pavilion at the southern end as well as a bench with a great view to the west.
If the docks are full, no problem. Figure out which direction you need wind protection from. There is plenty of room to anchor in the east basin beyond the docks, then dinghy in to the boat ramp near the heads and showers. Or anchor in the basin on the west side of the locks tucked up near the causeway that leads over to the island for great easterly and southerly protection. On this side, dinghy into the beach near the large trees just behind the building that houses the heads. The ranger is happy to have you come ashore.
You cannot walk across the lock to the other side like you can at St. Lucie Park, so drop your dinghy in the water and visit the beach on the other side as well as the visitor center. The only downside we can see is there are no provisions nearby, so come well-stocked and enjoy this little piece of heaven.
About a week ago, I saw a submission by my good friend, Skipper Susan Landry, about mooring their trawler, Beach House, at the inexpensive wet slips immediately west of the Okeechobee Waterway’s St. Lucie Lock (the easternmost lock on this Waterway).
And so, I asked both Susan and her “partner in crime,” Skipper Chuck Baier, to please provide the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net with a fuller account of this facility. The below article is the happy result of my request.
We are once again greatly indebted to Captains Susan Landry and Chuck Baier, owners of Beach House Publications, publishers of “The Great Book of Anchorages,” (http://www.tgboa.com) for providing the superb, in-depth article and copious photographs, set below! THANKS CHUCK AND SUSAN!
The St. Lucie Lock and Dam is located a little more than 15 miles upriver from the “crossroads” at the St. Lucie Inlet, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and the St. Lucie River. Approximately 10,000 vessels transit this lock every year and the majority of them are recreational vessels. The Locks are operated from 7 AM to 7 PM, seven days a week. It takes about 20 minutes on average for boats to lock through completely. Signs indicate the arrival point on both sides and the Lockmaster is contacted on VHF Channel 13. He will give instructions to wait for the green light before entering and the Captain can choose the side of the lock on which to tie. Lines are dropped from the lock walls to secure the boat at the bow and stern as the water levels are raised or lowered. The Lockmaster announces when it’s safe to proceed after the lock gates are opened.
Immediately after exiting the Lock heading westbound, boaters will see a series of finger piers on their port side with space for eight boats. The finger piers are short, but with some creative tie ups, boats up to 40 feet have used the facilities. The slips are also narrow, making it difficult for two boats with wide beams to tie up in the slip. But if you find the space acceptable, this can be an excellent stopover along the Okeechobee Waterway and an excellent value for transient dockage. Daily fees are $24.00, a flat fee, and include power and water. If you happen to be 62 or over, you are eligible for a Golden Age Passport, allowing you half price entry to any national park, including the St. Lucie Lock and Dam Park. It’s hard to beat $12 per night for dockage that
includes power and water! The signs near the docks say that there is a 14 day maximum, but the park has allowed boaters to stay a month or more. Technically there are four slips that can be reserved in advance and four slips on a first-come, first-served basis. The Park Rangers don’t seem to enforce this and at the time we were there, everyone had just arrived and paid the fees with no problem. Some boaters from Stuart make this an annual trek to get away from the hustle and bustle of the town for a while.
The Park is located quite a distance from any kind of shopping or restaurants so without transportation, there is not much to do except rest and relax and maybe get caught up on a few boat projects. As luck would have it, a couple of the boaters there had vehicles and offered rides to anyone that needed one. The campers in the RVs and travel trailers were also a friendly bunch and could be a source for a ride into the shopping centers if needed.
The Park has clean restrooms for the use by the campers and the marina. Each restroom also has a shower. These are cleaned daily by the Park employees and we found everyone very friendly and helpful. A large pavilion with picnic tables, a fire pit and charcoal grills made for an excellent evening get together spot for the boaters and some of the campers. Every afternoon and evening several of us gathered to share drinks, snacks and swap stories. It’s surprising how much the boaters and the campers have in common. We enjoyed the comradery and solitude so much that we decided to stay for a week and take care of some errands. Enterprise Rent-A-Car will pick up and drop off at the Park if a car is needed.
There are several smaller pavilions around the Park, all with charcoal grills and picnic tables. Walking is our exercise of choice and the Park offers a number of walking trails. There is a walkway across the entire lock and spillway to the other side of the river, where more pavilions and walking trails are available. The view from the lock is pretty incredible – just be sure to be off the gates when they open and close for passing boats. All kinds of wildlife can be found around every corner. Hawks, eagles and osprey soar overhead and the gators lounge in the sun along the banks of the river. You might even find a few snakes along the trail, so be ready for just about anything. A good insect repellent comes in handy for those times when the wind drops off and the little pests come out to feed. At the opposite end of the lock on the same side as the campground is a small visitor center. There are exhibits on the wildlife and history of the lock, and videos with interesting information. The Ranger at the center can answer any questions and they post the Lake levels daily from the Corps of Engineers website. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there and looked forward to getting to the park at the W.P. Franklin Lock on the other side of the Lake and farther across the Okeechobee Waterway. The Park there offers the same services. But that’s a story for another time.