The Duck Club
It's me again. Gatordan. This month we'll visit the "Duck Club".
In the beginning, the hammock on which the Duck Club now stands was inhabited by Miccosukee or Seminole Indians. In fact, Florida International University determined that 5 generations of Native Americans lived on the hammock before the Duck Club was built. Even today, you can easily dig up artifacts from the original inhabitants.
Like the Crandon camp, the construction of the Duck Club is truly a sight to behold. The Duck Club is the crowned jewel of the East Everglades. The structure is about 24 feet wide and 32 feet long. Those dimensions do not sound like much, but you need to consider were this building is located. IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE!!
The foundation that supports the structure is a combination of 16" column block or 12" diameter logs buried far enough to contact the cap rock about 2' deep in the Everglades muck. All the holes had to dug by hand. There are 25 supports. Now that's backbreaking work not to mention all those block and logs were hauled out to THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE! I still marvel at the fortitude it took to build this camp.
The floor joist supports rest on the structure supports and are 4" x 10" by 20'long mammoths spaced at 8'intervals. The 2"x12"x20' floor joists, spaced at 1' intervals, rest on the floor joist supports. So now I've listed enough wood to cover the State of Florida. How did they haul it all out there? Of course I haven't talked about the rest the Club like the exterior walls, sub-floor, oak floor, partitions, hand made roof rafters, bathrooms (2), bedrooms (2), kitchen, chimney, metal roof, separate servant quarters, septic tank, drainfield, generator shed, and storage shed. What a project!
Anyway, I was fortunate enough to talk with the camp custodian, Charlie Lang who is 88 years young and still lives out in the Everglades. Charlie said Earl Moore built the Duck Club in 1950. The hammock is still leased to the Miami Rod and Reel Club. The Club president at the time was Colonel Clark and one of the Club's founding fathers. Apparently 4 Rod and Reel members financed the entire project. The Club members and guests enjoyed a comfortable place to stay in the middle of the Everglades after a day of duck hunting. The Duck Club is still a place were you can sit by a warm fire with a fine cigar and tonic, and fabricate all kinds of stories. The folks that live in the East Everglades say that President Eisenhower frequented the Club on several hunting expeditions and a good game of cards.
Even today the old Duck Club is a charming place to spend a quiet weekend. It is one of my favorite places to visit whenever I'm airboating in the East Everglades. Karen (my better half) and I like to sit on the picnic table and just listen to the wind rustling through the gumbo-limbo trees. I also like to show the place off whenever I take guests for an airboat ride. Everyone reacts the same. They find it amazing that the Club was built way out here and has held up all these years.
This past October, Dennis Hopper produced a movie titled "Held for Ransom". Several scenes were shot at the Club. A near-by airboat tour guide is frequently asked to shuttle photographers and models to the club for photo shots. Prior to the high water that has destroyed the East Everglades, the ducks would inundate the area around the Duck Club. I remember millions and millions of ducks as a child. The East Everglades was in the fly over route of the ducks migrating from as far as Canada on their way to Cuba and the out islands of the Caribbean.
Unfortunately, the water level in the Everglades has been modified by several agencies. The National Park Service, Army Corp of Engineers, and Water Management. To often the water has been artificially raised and held at abnormal levels for sustained periods. This action has destroyed the food chain the ducks, mostly mallards & teals, required for survival. As the food sources disappeared, so did the ducks. The man made water levels have forced the ducks to change their fly over routes to areas that have a food source.
The Everglades is capable of nourishing all kinds of birds and animals. During the rainy season (June to early November) the long legged creatures like the Great Blues and Whites thrive. During the dry season (December to May) the short creatures have their turn to feed. The ducks would arrive in the middle of the dry season, so the water was shallow enough for them to feed on minnows or crustaceans and the vegetation that followed the cycle was also available. The agencies think the Everglades is supposed to be underwater year round so they artificially control water levels. The water levels were held so high it has corrupted the ecosystem and the result has been disastrous.
Unfortunately the destruction will continue until the NPS, ACE, WM are held accountable for the damage they have done. Many of hammocks, such as the Duck Club hammock are dying from the high water. These hammocks took thousands of years for Mother Nature to create, and the intervention of the listed agencies has resulted in their destruction in just 30 years.
The Miccosukee Indians have been filing suits to expose the destruction. They have had limited success. The "Restoration Plan" will require constant supervision. Already, it appears the Plan will keep water levels to high to restore the Glades. However, those of us that were born here and know what it takes to make the Glades productive are fighting to get her back in shape. Ever try to get a politician to listen. It's been a terrific fight and we're tired but we won't give up.
Well folks, I've about worn out my welcome for the Duck Club. Next we'll be visiting ole Frank Barnes camp. So long from the Glades.
p.s. I'd like to thank all the
sportsmen and conservationists that helped me with the Duck Club
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