The Miami River: A Lesson for Jax's Waterways?

September 30, 2015 14 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The Miami River may be Florida's most unique working waterfront. The 5.5-mile river flows from the terminus of the Miami Canal at Miami International Airport to Biscayne Bay. Originally, the river was fed by several springs and rapids formed by water from the Everglades flowing over a rocky ledge. During the early 20th century, dredging and filling significantly altered the channel. In addition, over 29 sewer lines dumping untreated sewage into the waterway led to high levels of pollution.

Between the 1970s and early 21st century, the amount of freight shipped on the working waterway has doubled from 250,000 tons to 500,000 tons. While the Atlantic Coast's large ports are in a race to accommodate larger ships, the shallow Miami River fills a unique niche. Many of the river's small cargo terminals load cargo destined for shallow draft ports throughout the Caribbean ports. In fact, most of the river's trade is with the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Bahamas. Products shipped included used vehicles, dry foods, canned goods, appliances and clothing.

Scenery along the river has changed in recent decades. The 15-foot deep navigable waterway's shoreline features public riverwalks, city parks, over 7,000 new residential units, 17 restaurants and 16 historic sites. In addition, its fish houses, boatyards and international shipping terminals make it one of the most interesting ports in the Southeast. However, the explosion of high density development in downtown has resulted in several high-rise condominium towers and mixed use projects replacing long time maritime related businesses.

Today, the Miami River Commission, a watchdog, advocate and clearinghouse for the river, is working to improve the waterway, enhance public access to the river and preserve much of its working class heritage, while also accommodating additional high density infill development. Although only 5.5 miles in length, preservation, environmental cleanup, and public accessibility improvement efforts along the Miami River are worth keeping an eye on as we deal with our on issues involving the St. Johns River and its tributaries.

With that in mind, here's a brief photo tour of the Miami River.

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