Homer Stuart, the namesake of Stuart, Florida came to the Treasure Coast looking for land and possibly wealth in the newly created Pineapple industry.  At Long last, he left the area when his fiancee would not move to Florida. Love wins every time!
The small town of Stuart, Florida was growing thanks in part to the reputation of the St. Lucie River  being a jungle river full of fish and wildlife. Eco-tourism boomed in the early years of the 20th century.
At the beginning of the 1900's fishing and hunting were quickly becoming the main source of economic growth on the Treasure Coast. The term "Eco-Tourism" hadn't been invented yet, but Stuart was well on its way to becoming a world class fishing location.
Not bad for a day's catch. The grouper were plentiful at the beginning of the 1900's and the tourists flocked to Stuart and the rest of the Treasure Coast.
Former presidents including Harding, Cleveland, and Roosevelt were employed to shout the praises of the Treasure Coast.
Early settlers had a rough time getting established. The St. Lucie and Indian Rivers were the only means of transportation.
Early settlers were just as likely to make money in the Pineapple and Citrus industry as anything else.
The Stuart Commercial Club's vision of the newly proposed St. Lucie Canal that would be built as a means of promoting commerce with the Ft. Meyers area on the other side (Gulf Coast) of the state.
One of the first dredges employed to open the shallow St. Lucie River inlet so that coastal freighters could pick up and deliver cargo.
Work began on the St. Lucie canal in the early 1900's. This drag line made the initial cut, which was then followed by larger floating dredges.
The St. Lucie Canal continues to grow in this picture which shows dredge pilings on the banks of the newly cut canal.
The first of two locks under construction on the original St. Lucie River canal. The lock was opened to boat traffic around 1921.
Hurricanes have always played an important part in the history of the Treasure Coast and the hurricane of 1928 played a major part in the further development and expansion of the St. Lucie Canal.
More destruction from the 1928 hurricane that hit the Belle Glade area around Lake Okeechobee especially hard.
Casualties from the 1928 hurricane were so large that a morbid construction boom of sorts sprang up as coffins were needed by the hundreds.
Migrant farm laborers flocked to the Everglades Agricultural Area for jobs in the fields that had been carved out of Lake Okechobee's flood plain.
Like the migrant farm laborers in John Steinbeck's, "The Grapes of Wrath", unemployed laborers came from everywhere to the Everglades Agricultural Area in hopes of getting what little work there was
Agricultural workers as seen in the Everglades Agricultural Area during the Great Depression era of the 1930's
The Farm Security Administration offered workers from all over the country transportation to the EAA for as little as $8. Florida was one of the few places in our nation where agricultural workers could work year round.
Workers arrive in the fields hoping to be assigned jobs during the height of the great depression.
With year-round growing conditions, Florida became a magnet for migrant farm laborers.
Poverty was the norm, not the exception in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). The Great Depression hit farm workers especially hard.
During the great depression, poverty of an unprecedented scale was all too common around the communities of Pahokee and Belle Glade.
Levee construction around Lake Okeechobee began in earnest shortly after the hurricane of 1928. Flood gates and locks were constructed in an effort to control the flow of water.
Drag Lines moved thousands of yards of dirt and muck each day during the construction of what would become known as the Hoover Dike.
Additional drag line work as the base of the Lake Okeechobee dike is formed.
Ernest (Ernie) Lyons grew up along the banks of the St. Lucie River and was one of its strongest defenders.
Algae blooms have become much more frequent in recent years. The St. Lucie River along with the Caloosahatchee have become drainage canals for algae laced water from Lake Okeechobee.
Great algae lines the shores of the St. Lucie River during the massive blooms of 2016.
The Martin County Commissioners meeting in July of 2016 was overrun with angry citizens demanding change to protect the river, the environment, and their public health.
The Martin County Commissioners meeting room wasn't large enough for the crowds that gathered to express their frustration over the continued dumping of algae laced water into the St. Lucie River.
A dead catfish floats on the surface of the algae chocked waters of the St. Lucie River during the height of the 2016 blooms.
In 2016 the "Buy The Land" rally at Stuart Beach brought thousands of protesters demanding an end to the water releases from Lake Okeechobee.
Protesters at the "Buy The Land" rally in the summer of 2016.
Protesters at the "Buy The Land" Rally were asking for land to build storage reservoirs in order to prevent the release of algae laced water into the St. Lucie River.
Buy the Land protesters during summer of 2016
People stand in formation to spell out the words "Buy the Land" so that an aircraft could take a picture showing the protesters in formation
A protester holds up a sign to "Stop the Flow" referring to the flow of algae lacked water from Lake Okeechebee into the St. Lucie River
One sign said it all.
America's Amazon
The Story of the St. Lucie River
America's Amazon
The Story of the St. Lucie River

From the earliest times of Indian settlements to the present day, the St. Lucie River has played a vital part in the history of Florida's Treasure Coast. 

Today, the river is frequently plagued with toxic algae blooms and pollutants that have caused immeasurable damage to the environment, but why has our river become one of the most polluted bodies of water in the nation?

To find the answer, photographer, and documentarian John Nelson tirelessly worked over three years to create America's Amazon: The story of the St. Lucie River. John explored documents, films, audio tracks, historic images, and technical drawings. 

He researched the archives of the Elliott Museum, the Florida Photographic Library, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the Army Corp of Engineers, the University of Florida, Florida State University, and many other sources to meticulously document the history of the river.

Throughout the film, leading scientists and environmentalists such as legendary photographer, Clyde Butcher; Dr. R. Grant Gilmore, senior scientist and founder of Estuarine, Coastal & Ocean Science: Dr. Paul Gray, Science Coordinator of Audubon Florida's Everglades Restoration Program; Dr. Edith (Edie) Widder, founder of Ocean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA); and the late Nathaniel Reed who was Florida's Environmental Advocate and co-author of the Endangered Species Act will be cited.

John said, "Discovering the untold history of the St. Lucie River was a challenging piece of detective work. As I started researching the river, especially from the mid 1800's on, the documents took me into areas that I would never have imagined.

The St. Lucie River was once called "America's Amazon" and the "Jungle River", and early pioneers saw eco-tourism as a means of building the economy of the Treasure Coast, but others attempted to engineer the river for public commerce.

​Only after seeing this documentary can one truly appreciate how different the river is now, and how serious the environmental problems are that we have created. There is hope for the St. Lucie River's future if we can learn from out past.

John Nelson is the voice of The Audubon Moment which is heard locally on WQCS, 88.9 NPR for the Treasure Coast. He is also an assistant instructor for the University of Florida's Florida Master Naturalist program. He will return to Indian River State College's Fielden Lifelong Learning Institute to teach this spring as he will be doing a lecture series on the St. Lucie River.
America's Amazon; the Story of the St. Lucie River is a one hour documentary film that is now available on DVD for $19.95

Go to our online store in order to make your purchase of this important look at the story of this remarkable river.
An undeveloped region of the North Fork of the St. Lucie River
A Little Blue Heron forages along the banks of the St. Lucie River
An Osprey lands with a fresh catch near the St. Lucie River inlet
There are still a few places where the Jungle River displays its beauty.
A Film by John Nelson - Now Available on DVD