Native Americans in Florida built an extensive canal network for canoe travel. The only other such network of canals is in Mexico:
Tourists and residents walking in Old Naples are probably unaware they’ve been sauntering over a prehistoric engineering marvel, a roughly mile-long Indian canal dating back to at least 780 — the deepest canoe canal discovered in Florida…
“I think it’s a very important discovery, not only for the residents and community, but the state of Florida,” said Bob Carr, a world renowned archeologist and executive director of Archaeological and Historical Conservancy in Davie. “This has national significance. The fact that native people were actually successful creating this engineering marvel at such an early period is what’s important.”
It’s one of four others discovered in South Florida, the only place outside Mexico where similar canals were found. A small section of the Pine Island Canal remains at a 50-acre Pineland site, once a major town inhabited by the native Calusa.
The canal was dug mostly by an unknown tribe dominated by the Calusa Indians, which ruled the area from Fort Myers south to Marco Island. An 1877 expedition funded by the Smithsonian Institution show the roughly mile-long canal was about 50 feet wide and 25 feet below ground. It was used from about 700 A.D. and likely was abandoned by 1660 A.D.
“There was strong speculation that Europeans had dug it because no one believed Native Americans had the resources to do it,” said Judy Bishop, Naples Backyard History’s executive director.
The canal shortened the distance from Naples Bay to the Gulf from roughly three hours to a half-hour, creating a more efficient, safe route for paddlers and their possessions than open waters. It was still visible in the late 1800s, but was mostly covered by the 1920s, when Old Naples was being developed. By the 1960s, it had been totally destroyed.
The trail might have been forgotten here if it hadn’t been surveyed on the original plat of Naples in 1887 by the Old Naples’ original developers, Naples Land Company, said Bishop, who operates the nonprofit with her husband, David, and Gaynor.”
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