LagoonFest – Lake Worth Lagoon, Then & Now

LagoonFest Lake WorthOn Saturday, November 1, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., folks in downtown West Palm Beach can attend and celebrate LagoonFest. Held in conjunction with the Green Market, LagoonFest is “a community celebration to showcase the many ‘faces’ of Lake Worth Lagoon and to highlight the lagoon’s connection to our lives.”

Lake Worth Lagoon, which is more commonly referred to these days as “the intracoastal,” is Palm Beach County’s largest estuary. LagoonFest will feature live music, wildlife exhibits, and kids’ activities, all aimed at educating visitors and celebrating this prized natural resource.

A few tidbits about the Lagoon’s history that you might not know. . .

  • Lake Worth was named after General William Worth, who, in the early 1840’s, was heralded as having protected early Florida settlers from Indian aggressions.
  • Palm Beach, and soon thereafter West Palm Beach, were aptly named after the abundance of palm trees found by settlers along the coast. Our area had more than its share of palm trees, due at least in part to the wreckage of a Spanish ship named the Provincia, which went asunder in about 1870. The ship’s cargo consisted of 20,000 coconuts still in the husk, that were tossed from the ship. They came ashore and littered our coastline, and mother nature took it from there.
  • The Lake Worth Lagoon gained notoriety as being the launch location for what would much later be named the route of the Barefoot Mailmen. This bit of folklore just happens to be entirely based on fact. In the 1880’s, Miami was little more than an outpost, and wasn’t yet developed. Henry Flagler had not yet brought in the railroad by then, and it was therefore terribly difficult to get mail from West Palm to Miami. The U.S. Post Office therefore set up a route to be handled entirely by letter carriers who literally walked along the coastline, often times with their shoes slung over their shoulders. The trip took three days each way, and each carrier had to brave harsh weather, alligators and sharks, and the occasional “beachcomber” who lived in the bush and survived off scavenging and piracy. At the conclusion of each WPB to Miami journey, the mailman would blow into a conch shell to announce his arrival. He’d then head back toward West Palm Beach on foot the next morning. Eventually, in the 1890’s, Flagler brought the railroad from West Palm to Miami, thereby eliminating the need for postal foot soldiers. But the Barefoot Mailmen will nevertheless be a part of our local history forever.

For more on the history of the Lake Worth Lagoon, check out my blog from back in January, called “When Lake Worth was a lake. . .”  It’ll make good reading before you head out to the waterfront for the festivities this Saturday.

(Lagoon photo courtesy of  Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources)

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