The Okeechobee Waterway

Excerpt from the 2011 Southern Edition Waterway Guide :

The Okeechobee Waterway is considered by many to be the dividing line between Central Florida and South Florida. When traveling from the north, this is where you will begin to see greater changes in the climate and vegetation, and even in the people—more “Northerners,” either seasonal “snowbirds” or full-time transplants, and a decided increase in the Latino culture.

Opened in 1937, the Waterway offers a chance to see rural Florida, with small towns much as they were early in the last century. The scenery varies as the passage progresses from east to west from river to canal, to lake, to canal, and back to river again. On the Okeechobee Waterway, ranches and big commercial farms alternate with moss-hung wilderness, while bustling boomtowns coexist alongside sleepy villages that popped up long before Miami was built. With its backwaters and “bywaters,” its islands and coves, and its flora and fauna, the Caloosahatchee River was once the only way to get from the Gulf of Mexico to Central Florida, via small steamers and freighters. Some still consider the Caloosahatchee (76.6 miles) the most scenic part of the Okeechobee Waterway, thanks to the old river’s off-channel oxbows. Small cruise ships now occasionally make the trip.