Friday, August 1, 2014

Haulover Canal Historical Marker
People have been dragging canoes and boats across a thin strip of land between the Mosquito Lagoon and the Indian River Lagoon for longer than these places have had names.  That thin strip of land is now called the Haulover Canal.
The drawbridge you see today was built in 1963.  The Army Corps of Engineers took over the area in 1927, widening and deepening it to the size it is now.  The boat ramp, launch & parking lot were built.  Recently the ramp road has been paved with a Manatee Watching deck built on the north side of the canal.
The rules are simple, protect the manatees!
In 1887 the Florida Coast Line and Transportation Company started the canal at its present location.
In 1852, contractor GE Hawes dug a 3 foot deep, 14 foot wide canal using slave labor.  Heavily used by the riverboats and local traffic, it was completed just prior to the third Seminole War.
Going back in time, people pushed and pulled boats across mulberry tree bark which was laid on the ground.  They used logs later on to roll the larger boats and schooners across.
View to the southeast
This is a busy spot for launching small boats and kayaks into either lagoon to spend the day.  Part of the Intercoastal Waterway, large sailboats and motorboats pass through here daily.  I have fished there many times, catching nothing while watching paddlers unload their huge catches in front of me.  The place has a quiet appeal and the current makes paddling interesting as it changes direction with the tide.  I launched a canoe here a couple of times and spent a whole day around manatees while exploring the coastline.
How cool is it?
The new manatee watching area is nice with paved parking and a railed walkway above the water.  They have also added a thermometer to a sign so you can assure yourself the water is cool enough to attract manatees.  Educational signs have been added for children and there is school bus parking also.  The walkway has a plaque in memory of Wildlife Officer Joseph Oliveras, who served this area faithfully from 1971 to 2001.
Thank you and yours for many years of service
The Merrit Island National Wildlife Refuge surrounds this area with incredible bird watching opportunities all around.  Established in 1963 as an overlay of the Kennedy Space Center and containing 140,000 acres, it is a large place and since the shuttle program has ended, it is very quiet.  Pick up a pass at the visitor center every day from 9 am to 4 pm except Sundays and Federal Holidays, and tour Black Point Drive to see wildlife.  To fish here (for free) you need to pickup a free fishing permit.  If you want to watch large wildlife, look for turtles and alligators.  Yes, alligators seem to like the brackish salty marsh water so don't let them surprise you!
To get here, travel south on US 1 from New Smyrna, turning left onto SR 3 about two miles south of Oak Hill.  From I-95, take exit 220.  Drive east on SR406/Garden Street four miles and cross the Max Brewer Causeway Bridge.  The visitor center is 4 miles east of the bridge (stay right at the fork in the road).  To get to the Haulover Canal, take the fork in the road to the left.

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