The Wild West of Sanibel, Part 2

September 30, 2016 -- My new Autumn routine includes a 3-mile walk early in the morning, in addition to my usual 2-kilometer swim in the pool at mid-day.  The walk always includes at least a few minutes on the beach; the rest is along the shared-use path.

If conditions are good (low-ish tide, no rainstorms threatening, not too much hot sun), I will walk on the beach the entire way to the trail head on Silver Key.  There, I can either take the trail or continue along the beach. Continuing along the beach requires some nimble maneuvering around, through, and over some dead trees -- trees whose lives were claimed by the Gulf of Mexico.

Looking out at the Gulf from the opening at Old Blind Pass this morning

The great reward, after maneuvering through the trees-turned-into-driftwood-statues, is that I reach the point where Clam Bayou/Old Blind Pass now meet the Gulf of Mexico.  For years, this meeting of the waters did not exist; the sandy beach separated the bayous from the Gulf.  Last month, that changed.  Some experts said the re-opening would just close up with the next storm.

Well, that didn't happen, I'm happy to say.  As of my morning walk today, the opening is still there.

The opening is good for the bayous.  They are flushed and refreshed with salt water.  That does the mangroves much good.  Mangroves are extremely important to this ecosystem -- and they prevent erosion of the land.

Another consequence of the opening intrigues me.  That is the fact that our Santiva end of Sanibel Island is now an island itself!
Looking into the Old Blind Pass/Clam Bayou from the Gulf beach

The water body that Tom and I live on -- Dinkins Bayou -- opens directly to Wulfert Channel, which leads right to Blind Pass -- the water that separates Sanibel Island from Captiva Island.

If you follow Dinkins in the other direction, you reach a big culvert that goes under Sanibel-Captiva Road.  That culvert connects Dinkins Bayou and Clam Bayou, as Nature intended before San-Cap Road separated those bayous.

Now, with the Old Blind Pass arm of Clam Bayou open to the Gulf of Mexico, the circle is complete. Santiva, it could be argued, is an island of its own!

I'd never want our "island" to secede from Sanibel, however.  And I wouldn't want it to become part of Captiva, either.  Sanibel is where we belong, with so much land dedicated to conservation and protected from development, and with the development severely restricted in intensity and density.

A long time ago -- perhaps more than 100 years ago? --  this "Santiva" end of Sanibel Island was actually part of Captiva Island.  That's why the lower arm of Clam Bayou is called Old Blind Pass. That's where the pass was situated, and it was very blind -- that is to say, it zig-zagged its way through, definitely separating the two islands.

Way back then, the Wulfert penninsula would have still been connected to Sanibel Island as it is today .  Old Blind Pass and what are now bayous to the south and west of Wulfert separated Sanibel from Captiva at that time.

Hurricanes changed all that.  The various geographic changes made by those storms caused interesting real-estate controversies, like the one I described in the post called The Wild West of Sanibel, Part 1, on November 22, 2014.

I love walking this long stretch of very natural beach at
Silver Key because there are no houses along it;
Silver Key is a park, with no parking lot.
You reach it by walking a good distance along the beach.
Yes, Part 1 was quite a story, especially the part about the Harry Ford family.  This was not the same as the auto-maker Henry Ford who was Thomas Edison's friend.  Harry Ford was a grocer, and maybe a bootlegger.

For almost two years, Tom and I owned 3.6 acres of land that we bought from the Harry Ford family -- specifically, from his daughter, who is now in her 90s.  Then we found the perfect house for us, so we sold that land to author Randy Wayne White and his wife, Wendy Webb.  They wisely combined those acres with a parcel across Pine Avenue that has a boat dock on a canal that leads right to Dinkins Bayou.  Now they have the combined property listed for sale.

Curiously, Randy has a little story about the land we owned, and its cistern (which I prefer to call a spring-fed pool).  In the real-estate listing are these words:  "Purchase For Buyers Looking For The Privacy Of An Estate, Yet Also Having Nearby Dockage For Pleasure Boating And Fishing. Located On This Historic Property Is [sic] A 20' X 20' Water Cistern, Built Of "coquina Cement" Back In The Early 1900s To Irrigate Exotic Plants Used By Thomas Edison During His Quest To Make Synthetic Rubbers [sic]."

Ahem.  I believe Randy is trying to say that Harry Ford the grocer and Henry Ford the automaker are one in the same.  But they're not.  Anyway, it sure is a good story.  Wish I'd thought of it.  But somehow I find the bootlegger possibility more exciting.

Local lore is that the land was part of a tomato farm.  Tomatoes need lots of fresh water, hence the need for the cistern/pool.  I noticed that when we owned it, even in the most severe drought the water level in that pool didn't drop hardly at all.  And the pool never smelled stagnant or sulphery, even when stirred with a stick.  So, I concluded, the pool must be fed by an oozing spring.  There are such springs scattered all over South Florida.

That "coquina cement" has held up extremely well.  The pool is in pretty good shape and does not seem to leak.  I agree that the pool must date back to the early 1900s because the Harry Ford family bought the land in 1925 -- along with lots of other land in South Florida.  The Fords never lived on Sanibel; they lived for some time in Sarasota, and some of them still do.  And I'm sure they never farmed this Sanibel land -- although a tenant farmer could have rented it from them.
Birds on a sandbar near the opening at Old Blind Pass

As far as I can tell, the land had been owned by a farmer named Angus MacDonald.  Even before the destructive hurricane of 1926, earlier hurricanes in 1910 and 1919 as well as 1921 had damaged farmland with salt and discouraged farmers mightily on Sanibel Island.

So it is likely that MacDonald was very pleased to be able to sell his land to Harry Ford, and it is unlikely that Harry would have needed any farm income.

I would guess that farming ended on that land in 1919 or 1921.  That's why today the land has so many glorious, very mature trees on it.

When I walk in the early morning on the shared-use-path (when not walking on the beach), I walk along the lengthy San-Cap Road frontage of that land.  I think about its stories every time I see that land.  I also am reminded of all the work Tom did and had done to remove invasive exotic plants from those acres.  The result is a gracious subtropical hardwood hammock, as it should be.


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