Wednesday, November 22, 2023

11/22 St. Lucie Lock & Dam, Stuart, FL

This is some detail of the lock and dam that is adjacent to the St. Lucie South Campground.  Watching the boats come in and out of the lock is part of what makes this a fun campground.  You just never know what you will see next.  

The purpose of this lock and the four other locks along the Okeechobee Waterway is to control the level of Lake Okeechobee.  Way back about 100 years ago, Lake Okeechobee was raised about 20 feet when a tall dyke was built around it in order for it to hold more water for agricultural purposes.  The rivers into and out of the lake also provide fishing and other recreational opportunities.  The locks are open from 7 am to 5 pm, though the last lockage trip begins at 4:30 pm.  If your boat misses the last opening, you will have to wait in the river or find a place to tie up until the next morning.  

The nicest thing about this lock is that, at least during most times it is operating, you can walk right up to the lock and watch boats entering and exiting.  In addition, as long as the western end gates are closed, you can walk and even stand directly on the lock gates!  It is a pretty big lock and occasionally has to handle large barges and tugboats.

The western end gate is closed, but it will soon open to let water enter from the higher level so some waiting small boats can enter.

It does not take long for the level to rise a full 13'.

The gates are opening.

Boats tie up loosely to one of the sides, as directed by the lock operator.  They have to tie up loosely so that the ropes can be adjusted as the water level changes. 

The far gates open and the boats leave.

Another boat is coming in. 

Later in the day, two larger boats came to go through the locks.  This one may not look very big, but it is 92' long and is for sale for $8,149,000.  It has 6 staterooms, each with its own full bathroom, and crews quarters in the rear.  You can get a better idea of how big it is by looking at the crew member standing on the bow.   It is a 2015 Viking 92 and is called "High Cotton."  

If you happen to have a few million $$ extra and are interested, check out the photos of the interior on this site:   (Click on the Gallery of photos on the right side of the opening page.)  If you get bored with the luxurious interior photos, check out the engines on slides 57 - 78.

The yacht behind it is only 60' long, but has only 3 cabins for owners and guests, plus crews quarters.  Cost is less than $2 mil, however, so it is much more affordable.

On their way....

Later in the day yesterday, I saw a tugboat pushing an older boat.  They were tied together with steel cable. 

I'm sure there will be more boats this weekend, so I might add to this posting if there is anything interesting. 

11/21 St. Lucie South Lock & Dam Campground, Stuart, FL

This is one of my favorite places in Florida.  If you own a large boat you can sleep on and want to take a shortcut from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico, you can take the St. Lucie River to Lake Okeechobee and then take the Caloosahatchee Canal west to Fort Myers.  There is lock and dam east of the lake and two west of the lake.  This is 200 miles shorter than going all the way around southern Florida.

Nearly always, when the U.S. Corps of Engineers builds a dam and/or a lock it also builds recreational facilities--usually this includes a campground.  I have stayed at all three campgrounds on this particular shortcut.  They are well taken care of and cheap for seniors like me who have a federal pass.  

This campground is unusual for a COE campground in that it has only 9 campsites for RVs, 3 tent sites, and 8 boat sites.  All but the tent sites have both electric and water hookups.  The RV sites are paved with gravel patio areas and covered picnic tables.  Because of the trees, it was hard to get a photo of the entire campground, but here are a few.  The first photo shows the view from my site, looking back towards the entrance.  The river, dam, and locks are on the left. 

This shows four of the campsites, except that two were unoccupied when I took this.

Another photo showing four of the sites, including mine, second from the right behind the trees. 


This is my site--#5.

The prime sites are these three because they are directly on the river and have an excellent view of boats coming into and out of the locks. 


And these are the 8 boat sites.  Each has electric and water hookups.  

There is a very small day-use area near the boat sites and closer to the dam and lock.   The fire pit is for the use of the boaters. 



There are a lot of gopher tortoises in the campground and surrounding woods, so you never know who is going to drop by.  Gopher tortoises graze on grass and other plants, and lay their eggs in the burrows they dig.  This adult is probably at least 40-60 years old, and it can move amazingly fast!    

Lots of tortoise food around here, but they prefer to graze when the day is warm and sunny.   Gopher tortoises are very different from turtles, as they dig burrows and never go into water.  When they abandon their burrows, they get used by foxes, snakes, and other small animals looking for a home.    

Gopher tortoises are federally protected because their burrows are so valuable to other animals.  Note all the sand this one has tossed around in digging a burrow.

On a sunny day, you can often see a tortoise sunning itself on the edge of its burrow.  They don't seem to be bothered by humans watching, but will hide if you get too close.  Here are some rules and regulations about gopher tortoises:   Note that if one is on land you own, you need to get a permit before relocating them.  Also, you may not "take, attempt to take, pursue,hunt, harass, capture, possess, sell or transport any gopher tortoise or pars thereof or their eggs, or molest, damage, or destroy gopher tortoise burrows" without permission from the proper authorities.

Behind the campground is a nice little pond with assorted birds.

These are apparently black-bellied whistling ducks.

Friday, November 10, 2023

11/10 Gamble Rogers Memorial State Park, Flagler Beach, FL

This also is one of my favorite campgrounds.  The biggest reason is that it is the only state park in Florida (other than Fort Clinch) that is directly on the Atlantic Ocean.  It has a lot of disadvantages because the beach part of the campground is very long and narrow and is very close to Highway A1A, so there is a lot of road noise day and night.  Also, sites are not paved, and the sand somehow tracks into RVs a lot easier than the sand did in Fort Clinch.  And like Fort Clinch, it is very difficult to get a spot here.  There are other campgrounds directly on the Atlantic like this one is, but they cost about 5-6 times as much!!  

This state park was named after a folksinger who lost his own life while saving the life of a swimmer at this park.  


Gamble Rogers is about three miles south of Flagler Beach and about 20 miles north of Daytona Beach.  One of the nice things about this area is that the main highway was built directly along the ocean, so there was no space to built the huge hotels that are common farther south.  This means you can drive along the coast and have a terrific view of the ocean.  You can also own a home or rent a place to stay that is directly across from the beach, which is very unusual in Florida. 

As you can see from the photos below, this is a very basic campground.  The highway is right behind the RVs on the right, and the ocean is directly in front of the ones on the left.  There is a newer and much larger camping area across the highway.  It does have a view of the inland waterway, but there is nothing like being directly on the ocean, so the beach campground is much more popular.  


My motorhome is the multi-color one on the left about halfway to the restroom building in the distance. 
I got my reservation 11 months ago, and was lucky to get this site where there was not much greenery blocking my view.   The maximum stay in Florida State parks is 14 days, so I made my reservation for the maximum. 
You are not allowed to walk on the dune areas anywhere in Florida, but my site was right next to one of the walkways to the beach.  
It was very rough when I arrived here, with strong winds, as you can see from the nearby walkway. 

It's hard to tell, but these waves are 5-7' tall.  This photo below looks towards Daytona Beach.

Only a few people on the beach. 

A few birds looking for a meal. 

The second week here was much warmer and calmer than the first week, as you can tell by the lack of clouds and smaller waves.  People even started fishing and walking on the beach.

I am heading farther south in a couple of days.  I have spent most of my time indoors while I have been here, but it has been great that I have had such a good view out of my front window!