Tag Archives: Okeechobee

Lake Okeechobee and Honeybells

On Wednesday, we headed over to Placida, Florida to spend a few days with Diana’s cousin and his wife.  Placida is on the Gulf side of Florida, so our journey was going to take us completely across the peninsula.  We took State Route 70 out of Fort Pierce and headed west through the state’s agricultural land.  Not too far out of town, we stopped at Ace High Farms fruit stand to pick up some oranges and grapefruit.

Ace High is a sixth generation family farm.  Their citrus was freshly picked and it really showed, as it looked fabulous.  The first thing we spotted were a few bags of Honeybells, which we knew nothing about.  After questioning the owner, we purchased a bag along with two Ruby Red grapefruit.  When we arrived at Placida, Diana’s cousin and his wife looked at the bag and said “Those aren’t oranges….those are HONEYBELLS!!!”  In no time, we were each peeling the skin off of our fruit, juice flying everywhere.  My, oh my….they were delicious!


They are a fairly uncommon variety of tangelo, and they are listed as only being available in January.  We were right at the tail end of the season. According to one grower, Honeybells are so rare, only one in 5000 people have ever tasted them.  So if you have, consider yourself a rare bird!  😉

After our visit, we headed back on the same route.  There aren’t a lot of choices for roads in that region of the state.  It is almost completely level, and I am fairly sure that none of it exceeds 20 feet above sea level.  There are a lot of cattle, some sod farms, a lot of citrus groves and palm tree nurseries.  Canals criss-cross the land every so often, and the soil is rich and black.


It was a pleasant trip both ways, as it was a different sort of agriculture than we were used to seeing. At one point, I imagined myself in Midwest…until I saw a palm tree.  🙂

When we pulled into the city of Okeechobee, we decided to drive to the southern end of town and see Lake Okeechobee.  This is the nation’s third largest fresh water lake completely within the U.S. border (Lake Michigan is #1) and it is the largest that sits within one state in the Lower 48.  With that being said, the entire lake only averages over a little more than 8 feet deep, with its maximum depth just a touch over 12 feet deep.  Historically, it is a natural lake that takes in water from the Kissimmee River from the north and flows southward into the Everglades.  The key word being historically.  This is Army Corps of Engineers territory.  After a hurricane in 1928 sent a storm surge over the natural peat dam at the south end of the lake and killed 2500 people, the U.S. government stepped in. President-elect Herbert Hoover toured the devastation and after consulting the Army Corps of Engineers, proposed a dike around the lake.


By 1961, the current 30 foot high dike that encircles the lake was completed, basically turning it into a reservoir.  The former president was on hand for the dedication, as the project was named after him.


While a lot of good has come from this dike…namely, safety from the lake’s fickle level…so has a lot of not so good.  In 2008, a drought exposed large portions of the lake bottom, allowing the Corps to scrape 35,000 truck loads of polluted mud and dispose of it.  Problem was, it was so contaminated by arsenic, it created a huge disposal problem. That muck wasn’t there before the dike.  Currently, the water level is too high (due to El Niño), and the Corps is concerned about the dike eroding. The cure is to send the water into the canals and into the ocean and gulf, resulting in the fresh water damaging the salt water aquatic creatures and plants.  It is also creating algae blooms in the ocean and gulf, otherwise known as Red Tide.  As is usually the case, the more that mankind interferes with nature the more things are disrupted.  What most impressed me was the sheer size of the project.  I had no idea how large of an area this affected.

One thing we noticed is there is a National Scenic Trail on the top of the dike.  The portion we saw was asphalt, and it had plenty of folks using it.  It looks like a great place for a bike ride!  We will keep that in mind for the future.


There was also this fishing pier where we crossed the dike, along with a nice restroom building and picnic tables. We had our picnic lunch while enjoying the views.


From the pier, I was able to zoom in on the smokestacks of the power plant 15 miles to the southeast.  To the right of that, the lake extends another 20 miles to the south.


Lake Okeechobee is definitely a huge body of water!

After we left Okeechobee, we stopped back by at Ace High. We were fortunate to be able to get another bag of Honeybells. Diana’s cousins are great hosts and have a lovely place for entertaining. They prefer not having their picture posted on the web, so we are honoring their wish for privacy. They were very close to Diana’s parents, so it was nice sharing old memories and making new ones. What a nice way to spend a few days!


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