In my recent column about the dust up over the Shiloh Marsh, I mentioned Haulover Canal.
Whenever that name makes it into a column, I know that it will be followed by inquiries about what and where it may be. First off, let me say the name is a generic one used all across North America. Any place where there are rivers, lakes or swamps that need to be connected, invariably a haul over will happen.
It is just what it sounds like – a place where boaters must carry their vessels over land to reach the next body of water. Usually a haul over canal is dug to eliminate the carry.
Perhaps the most famous one is in Miami, but there are so many it is hard to say. I am not certain, but I believe our own Haulover is in Brevard County, but it could be in the extreme Southeast portion of Volusia County.
Many years ago the Indian River ended at a slender strip of land that separated it from Mosquito Lagoon. Early settlers located a place on that peninsula where a stream cut into the land from the south and one penetrated from the north. There the mariners could carry their boats a short distance to continue their journey. Of course, eventually they got to work to connect the two. Then a boat could be floated between the two lagoons. That was our original Haulover Canal.
For reasons that escape me, when the government decided to dig a proper deep-water cut, the canal was moved about a mile west to its current location. If you have ever been there, you can see it is so obviously man made. The one-quarter-mile canal has the perfectly straight edges Mother Nature does not make. The northern Halifax also was man-made and has the same surveyed shore lines.
Over the years, Haulover Canal has become much more than a short cut from one body of water to another. Before the size restrictions on red drum, I caught a 38-inch red fishing from the shore. It also is now famous for black drum and fish over 50 pounds have been caught there. The resident sheep’s head are also above average.
Near the little bridge and just off the boat ramp below is one of the best manatee viewing areas in the state. At this time of year, you will see them mating, but the canal has them year-round. Very unusual for those temperature sensitive creatures to be in a place like that during the winter. There has to be a spring warming the water to allow the manatees to linger during the cooler months.
Naturally when a haul over is dug, it is at the narrowest point of land. For many years, some of us have hoped for an inlet to be excavated on the north peninsula near High Bridge or down south of Turtle Mound. Both of those places could be valuable for the cleansing effect on the inland waterways. Neither is likely to happen.
Some years back, a narrow cut was dug across a barrier island at Tomoka State Park to allow a canoe to reach a dead-end waterway. The cut was only 8 feet in length and about 3 feet wide. Now that same cut is 90 feet in width and six feet deep in a place with little tidal flow. When you dig a canal or inlet, you must be very careful of the consequences. The power of nature is difficult to harness.
To get to Haulover Canal, go south out of Oak Hill and turn left (east) off U.S. 1 onto Kennedy Parkway and drive for about 7 miles. Once you launch there, you have the option of boating hundreds of miles north or south into a tangle of mangroves and islands seldom seen any place else.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to email@example.com. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.