The Great Book Of Anchorage series and will cover the Okeechobee Waterway and the Gulf Coast from Cape Sable, FL to Mobile, AL. Most folks avoid the rim route because of the reputation for shallow water, but we know a little secret that will allow even deeper draft boats to use the rim route in all but extreme low water levels. Prior to any Lake crossing there are three things a boaters wants to know before starting at either the east or west end of the OWW. There is one place to find two pieces of the info you need and that is on the Corps of Engineers website - the lake level and lock restrictions. The third is weather information - the National Weather Service website for Lake Okeechobee can be found here.
clicking the link here. The page is updated daily, gives the overall Lake level and the lowest depths for the Route 1 or Route 2 crossing. The depths given are not the depths for the entire crossing but the shallowest depths anywhere along the route. It's important to know where those lower depths might be found to avoid running aground. There will be much more water on 98% of the trip than the lowest levels reported. The second thing a boater will want to know is if there are any delays or changes in the schedules of the five locks that have to be transited along the OWW. That information can be found by clicking the link here. Then the trip can begin and it's a trip we highly recommend. There is one other piece of information that is important to sailors. There is a height restriction that will keep sailboats with masts higher than 49 feet from using the waterway. Those boats with taller masts will have to go down the ICW and around through the Keys to get to the opposite coast.
town of La Belle. The town has constructed docks adjoining the canal and they are free to boaters for a maximum of three days. There is power and water on the docks, also free, but the boat needs to be tied up so that you will be able to get off either on the bow or the stern. There are no finger piers, except two small ones with water depths of only a foot or two and no power or water. In the downtown area there is a restaurant, coffee house, playhouse, pizza shop and groceries, and other restaurants are only a short walk. The docks are first come, first served and during the busy season, can be full. At the time we were there, they were having problems with the power and it was not available at all of the slips. Someone from the city did come down to work on them and told us this has been an ongoing issue.
marina and campground. Just as the marina at St. Lucie Lock, Franklin is part of the National Parks and offers the same $24.00 per night or $12.00 with a senior pass. This includes electric and power and is good for a maximum of two weeks. This would be our next and final stop on the Okeechobee Waterway before reaching Ft. Myers. A nagging oil leak on the front of the engine was getting progressively worse so a stop for repairs would be needed. We had already contacted a mechanic in the area and ordered the needed parts from American Diesel. The parts would arrive at the downtown marina about the same time that we would arrive. For now we planned to just enjoy the park at Franklin Lock.
For additional information on the Okeechobee Waterway, see our previous posts...