1889 Survey of New River Inlet at Fort Lauderdale reveals littoral shift of 4,500 feet

Between 1882 and 1889, the New River Inlet drifted almost a mile (4,500 ft.) as shown in this marginal map made by A. F. Wrotnowski for a formal report  of survey submitted by Elmer Corthell to the Florida canal company.

Between 1882 and 1889, the New River Inlet drifted almost a mile (4,500 ft.) as shown in this marginal map made by A. F. Wrotnowski for a formal report of survey submitted by Elmer Corthell to the Florida canal company.

Artur F. Wrotnowski, another civil engineer and graduate of West Point, performed the ground survey of the proposed Florida East Coast Canal (Intracoastal Waterway) for acclaimed Chicago railway and inland waterway engineer Elmer Corthell whom the Florida canal company had engaged to render the final survey in 1888.

In examining the work that lay ahead, Wrotnowski noted that from 1882 to 1889 the New River Inlet in Fort Lauderdale had moved almost a mile (4,500 feet) north along the Florida coast line. The New River Inlet was a natural inlet that until the Hurricane of 1947 existed across from today’s Bahia Mar Yachting Center (then, Coast Guard Station 6).   Littoral (shore) drift is a natural process along the coast called Atlantic littoral drift that closes an inlet by the shifting of sand by complex current movements and sometimes opens another south or north of the original inlet. Here, the inlet shifted north because the currents pushed the sand south, as shown in the marginal map.

Inlets were considered beneficial because the influx of sea water into a inland waterway ordinarily kills off natural fresh water plants that often choked off a waterway. The problem, however, was how to deal with the constant movement of inlets along the Atlantic coast.

Many inlets were artificially made, as in the case of the Lake Worth Inlet; others were natural, like the Hillsboro Inlet that has existed in one location and hadn’t moved for hundreds of years, according to ancient maps of the Florida coastline.

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