ago: The last interglacial warming period
begins. South Florida is covered by a warm, tropical lagoon in which
the coastal ridge and much of the limestone bedrock of the southern
Everglades are being formed.
5,000 years ago:
The ocean's rise drops to approximately nine inches per year, and
southern Florida's mangrove coast starts to stabilize. The Everglades
Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon names North America's most familiar
appendage La Florida, or "land of flowers." He finds no
streets of gold, only the fierce and proud Calusa, who mortally
wound him on a subsequent visit.
Thirteen-year-old Hernando d'Escalante Fontaneda, shipwrecked en
route from Spain to Colombia, begins 17 years as a Calusa captive.
Although Fontaneda writes that the Calusa have "no gold, less
silver, and less clothing," they have nevertheless fashioned
a high prehistoric culture along the edge of the Everglades, building
oyster-shell islands and digging canals.
Sugarcane is first grown in Florida, in the Spanish settlement of
The word Everglades is coined from the old English "glyde"
or "glaed," which means "opening in the forest."
James Audubon visits southern Florida to study the area's amazing
variety of birds. He paints a number of species, including the roseate
spoonbill, the brown pelican, the magnificent frigatebird, the crested
caracara, and the great blue heron.
The second of three Seminole Wars begins. Soldiers report on the
nature and extent of southern Florida, which has been virtually
unknown to most Americans.
On May 28 the first snail kite collected in the Everglades for scientific
purposes is shot near the headwaters of the Miami River, the current
site of Miami International Airport.
Florida becomes the 27th state in the Union, with a population of
Congress passes the Swamplands Act, which authorizes the transfer
of 20 million acres to the state of Florida for the purpose of drainage
William T. Hornaday and C.E. Jackson collect a pair of large
crocodiles in Arch Creek, near the head of Biscayne Bay. These are
the first two American crocodiles taken for science.
The first Everglades reclamation effort is launched. Philadelphia
millionaire Hamilton Disston buys 4 million acres from the state
of Florida; within 10 years he drains 50,000 acres and cuts 11 miles
William Harney, writing in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, proposes
an elaborate system of canals and dikes to harness the flow of water
out of Lake Okeechobee.
A terrible freeze cripples the citrus industry in central Florida,
attracting the interest of railroad magnate Henry Flagler, who becomes
convinced that Fort Dallas, later called Miami, is the heart of
Florida's true fortunes.
Cory bags four cougars in the Everglades for Chicago's Field Museum
of Natural History. They are the first scientific specimens of the
Florida panther, which will be named Puma concolor coryi, after
Explorer Hugh Willoughby crosses the southern Everglades from the
Harney River to Miami by canoe. He recounts his trip in Across the
Everglades, declaring that more is known about the interior of Africa
than about the interior of southern Florida.
The population of the lower east coast of Florida is listed as 22,961;
when the price of feathers exceeds the price of gold, some of these
people begin to kill wading birds for the millinery trade.
The Audubon Society spearheads efforts to protect bird populations
from hunters, resulting in laws prohibiting bird hunting in much
of the Everglades.
Floods destroy crops in South Florida, and President Teddy Roosevelt
transfers more federally owned land to the state.
Napoleon Bonaparte Broward is elected governor of Florida, largely
by promising to create an "Empire of the Everglades,"
by wringing the last drop of water out of that "pestilence-ridden
The Audubon Society's first president, William Dutcher, hires Guy
Bradley as Florida's first game warden, to prevent the poaching
of wading birds. Bradley is shot to death in July.
Melaleuca is imported from Australia as an ornamental and is later
planted to help drain the wetlands. Today it covers 359,000 acres
of South Florida, 47,000 of which support little else; its control
becomes one of the restoration's principal goals.
Henry Flagler's Overseas Railroad reaches Key West. The railroad's
construction constricts the flow of water between Florida Bay and
the Atlantic Ocean, affecting both the bay and the chain of coral
reefs off the eastern shore of the Florida Keys.
In May a pair of ivory-billed woodpeckers and their young are observed
on Royal Palm Hammock, in the southern Everglades, the last reported
ivorybill sighting in South Florida.
Ernest F. Coe, a distinguished member of the American Society for
Landscape Architects, forms the Tropical Everglades Park Association
and writes a proposal for a national park to be located within the
Everglades of southern Florida.
The population of the lower east coast of Florida reaches 228,454.
Several years after a pair of deadly hurricanes cause Lake Okeechobee
to overflow, drowning more than 2,500 people, a federal flood-control
project is signed by President Herbert Hoover. The spoils from dredging
a navigable canal around the southern end of the lake are used to
build Hoover Dike, which disconnects the lake from the Everglades.
Dr. T. Gilbert Pearson, president of the National Audubon Society,
sits on a commission to investigate the possibilities of a national
park unit in the Everglades.
About 15,000 acres of sugarcane are being grown in the northern
Rookery Branch, a nesting colony near the mouth of Shark River Slough,
the Everglades' main drainage, hosts nearly a quarter-million white
ibis, the largest colony since the millinery trade devastated the
Congress authorizes the creation of Everglades National Park; 2,164,480
acres are to be acquired through public and private donations.
In March, after a killing frost and a severe drought, almost the
entire Everglades goes up in flames.
October marks the beginning of a 10-month drought, during which
less than an inch of rain falls on South Florida. The Everglades,
now referred to as a "dust bowl," burns for months and
leads The Miami Herald to proclaim, "Only an Act of God can
halt the flames."
Summer thunderstorms and a pair of hurricanes dump 108 inches of
rain on parts of South Florida. Dairy farmers in Dade and Broward
counties, driven out by the floods, head north into the Kissimmee
Marjory Stoneman Douglas gives the world a lasting and gorgeous
image with her landmark The Everglades: River of Grass.
President Harry Truman dedicates 1.3 million acres for Everglades
National Park, the first park in the world to be protected for its
biology rather than for its spectacular scenery.
Because of torrential rainfall the previous year, Congress establishes
a public-works project called the Central and Southern Florida Project
for Flood Control, and charges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
with controlling the water flow of the Everglades.
Canals and water-control structures are completed to separate the
northern Everglades, which is now called the Everglades Agricultural
Area, from the central and southern Everglades.
On September 10, Hurricane Donna passes across Florida Bay and up
the mangrove coast. The storm packs steady winds of 140 mph and
gusts as high as 180 mph. Donna drops 12 inches of rain on South
Florida and sends a 5-foot storm surge through Everglades City.
The canal and levee system that divides the central Everglades into three Water Conservation
Areas (WCAs) is completed. WCA 2 and WCA 3 are managed by the Florida
Freshwater Game and Fish Commission. WCA 1, called Loxahatchee National
Wildlife Refuge, is leased from the state and managed by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service.
On March 11, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially places
the Florida panther, the snail kite, and the Cape Sable seaside
sparrow on the federal endangered-species list.
After several years of drought, compounded by the Army Corps of
Engineers' elaborate drainage system, Congress sets the minimum
water flow to Everglades National Park at 315,000 acre-feet per
year. It is still not enough water.
As part of the Central and Southern Florida Project for Flood Control,
the Army Corps of Engineers completes the straightening of the Kissimmee
River, Lake Okeechobee's largest tributary. The winding, 105-mile-long
river is straightened to a deep, wide, 56-mile-long canal. Some
45,000 acres of floodplain become pasture.
Writing in Audubon, Marjory Stoneman Douglas calls Ernest F. Coe
"the Forgotten Father" of the Everglades. "Without
his startling vision, slow-burning passion, steely endurance, and
indomitable will," she says, "there would be no Everglades
National Park today."
The state of Florida begins to acquire land to create Fakahatchee
Strand State Preserve, the largest, deepest strand in the Big Cypress
Swamp, to protect its unusual collection of rare plants and animals.
The American crocodile, whose entire North American range is in
and around Florida Bay and Biscayne Bay, is placed on the federal
endangered-species list. At the time, the population is listed as
200 animals, with just 10 nesting females.
The Florida legislature passes the Kissimmee River Restoration Act,
mandating the development of restoration measures.
On October 26, UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Scientific,
and Cultural Organization, recognizes Everglades National Park as
part of the international network of biosphere reserves.
The Everglades Agricultural Area temporarily stops backpumping phosphorus-rich
water into Lake Okeechobee. To spare the lake, the South Florida
Water Management District begins pumping untreated farm runoff into
the central Everglades. Today more than 50,000 acres of phosphorus-loving
cattails have spread across the WCAs.
Governor Bob Graham launches his Save Our Everglades program with
an executive order calling for restoring the Kissimmee River, Lake
Okeechobee, and the Everglades.
On February 28 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service places the wood
stork on the endangered-species list.
The federal government authorizes the purchase of 109,000 acres
to increase the flow of water into the eastern side of Everglades
About 450,000 acres of sugarcane are being grown in the northern
On August 24, Hurricane Andrew, the nation's most economically devastating
disaster ever, rips through the southern tip of Florida, spreading
melaleuca seeds across the central Everglades.
new state law, called the Everglades Forever Act, gives the South
Florida Water Management District the power to impose taxes on sugar
farmers to pay for the cleanup of farm runoff. The state plans to
build a 40,000-acre artificial marsh and sets preliminary water-quality
standards to be met by 1997.
Eight female cougars from West Texas are released in South Florida
to bolster the Florida panther's dwindling gene pool.
Save Our Everglades, a group headed by Mary Barley, places three
amendments on the Florida ballot. One would force farmers to pay
a penny for each pound of sugar produced in the Everglades Agricultural
Area to fund an Everglades cleanup. Sugar interests spend $35 million
to defeat the amendment.
In May, Marjory Stoneman Douglas dies at the age of 108.
The final draft of the Restudy, a 3,500-page dossier on Everglades
restoration, is completed on April 1 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The plan has a budget of $7.8 billion and a timeline of more than
On May 16, Florida Governor Jeb Bush signs the Everglades Investment
Act, representing the state's commitment to paying 50 percent of
the cost of restoring the Everglades.
On December 11, President Bill Clinton signs the Water Resources
Development Act of 2000, committing some $4 billion to Everglades