The Cross Florida Barge Canal
Teacher's Guide for the Cross Florida Barge Canal

Background Information

As far back as the 16th century, when the Spanish had control of Florida, shippers and government officials wished there were some way to shorten the lengthy and dangerous voyage necessary to sail around Florida from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico. A number of ideas emerged for digging a canal, but the enormous expense of the project led private and public authorities to shy away from it.

Ironically, the arrival of the Great Depression gave the plan a boost off the drawing board and into action. Local politicians urged the federal government to take on the canal project as a federal relief program through the New Deal. The Franklin Roosevelt administration allocated funding for the project in September 1935.

Camp Roosevelt, located south of Ocala, was built to provide temporary housing for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the large labor force it needed to build the Cross Florida Barge Canal. The plans called for what amounted to a small city, complete with medical and recreational facilities, a dining hall, a post office and headquarters buildings.

The camp's population quickly swelled with workers, but their stay was to be much shorter than planners had expected. Vocal opponents of the project in Central and South Florida argued that digging the deep canal would expose and contaminate the underground aquifer that contained their water supply. Concerns about the canal project’s impact on tourism and the water supply aroused concern among the public and Congress. Works Progress Administrator Harold Ickes dropped his support, and Congress failed to extend the original 1935 appropriation. In the summer of 1936, with only preliminary work completed in several locations along the proposed route, work came to a halt.

Enthusiasm for the canal remained, however, with efforts to restart the construction in the 1940s and the 1960s.
Marjorie Harris Carr, founder of the Florida Defenders of the Environment, successfully led the effort to stop the construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal. President Richard Nixon issued a stop order on January 19, 1971, ending construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal.  

 

Some Useful Questions to Ask

  • How did the priorities of canal enthusiasts and opponents differ? How were they similar?
  • How did attitudes toward the Cross Florida Barge Canal change over time, and what factors may have accounted for this?

 

Next Generation Sunshine State Standards

  • SS.4.A.1.1: Analyze primary and secondary resources to identify significant individuals and events throughout Florida history.
  • SS.8.A.1.7: View historic events through the eyes of those who were there as shown in their art, writings, music, and artifacts.
  • SS.912.A.6.15: Examine key events and peoples in Florida history as they relate to United States history.
    Examples are Mosquito Fleet, "Double V Campaign," construction of military bases and WWII training centers, 1959 Cuban coup and its impact on Florida, development of the space program and NASA.
  • SS.912.A.7.17: Examine key events and key people in Florida history as they relate to United States history.
    Examples are selection of Central Florida as a location for Disney, growth of the citrus and cigar industries, construction of Interstates, Harry T. Moore, Pork Chop Gang, Claude Pepper, changes in the space program, use of DEET, Hurricane Andrew, the Election of 2000, migration and immigration, Sunbelt state.

Florida Standards

  • LAFS.4.RI.1.1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • LAFS.4.RI.1.2: Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
  • LAFS.4.RI.1.3: Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
  • LAFS.4.RI.1.1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • LAFS.68.RH.1.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • LAFS.68.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • LAFS.68.RH.2.6: Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).
  • LAFS.68.RH.3.7: Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
  • LAFS.910.RH.1.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
  • LAFS.910.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
  • LAFS.1112.RH.1.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  • LAFS.1112.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.