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Welcome to my blog. Here I share my successes and failures along my journey to becoming an anthropologist. My most prominent interest anthropologically are the new approaches to handing food security/healthy eating in the US, particularly in urban "food deserts". I enjoy the Anthropology of Tourism as well; combining food and tourism has scholarly promise. My other interests which have converted into anthropological hobbies of sorts include converts to Islam, diaspora of Muslims, and MENA in general. I also have some interest in historical archaeology.

I welcome comments, discussion and even respectful debating. I will however keep discussions to a respectable level. I reserve the right to ban anyone from this forum.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Taking a Toll On Tourism: Lake Apopka-Former Bass Paradise to Environmental Nightmare-Part I

Hi Folks. Here is my final paper. It has many research "holes" in it. More work needs to be done but I did my best. I am beating myself about my performance on this paper but it is over. :-) I will do my best to add some interesting photos throughout. This is a 6,000 word paper so be warned. LOL

Note: I will post this in 2-3 parts for reading ease. :)


Central Florida has the dubious honor of having Orlando, a very well known and traveled city within its boundaries. Yet, many who travel to the area may be unaware that West Orange County, about fifteen miles north of Orlando, has, at least prior to the mid-twentieth century, a notable history of tourism as well. In fact, the popular attractions with their iconic mascots that attract a multi-national visitor base to Orlando today were not what brought people to Central Florida during that time. Freshwater fishing was the major attractant for travelers to the West Orange County area in the early part of the twentieth century. (Duda 1984:819

West Orange County and the southeast part of Lake County is home to Lake Apopka, formerly a 14 mile wide lake described by wildlife writer, Lynette Walther, as a “bass nirvana” (Walther 1990: n.p). The lake was the second largest lake in Florida, covering 53,000 acres. Now, it is “the fourth largest lake” in the state of Florida (Mormino 2005:211). Oakland and Winter Garden are both abutted along the shore and were once popular destinations for fishing tourism. On the St. John’s River Water Management (SJRWM) website, they describe the Lake Apopka of the past as a “world-class bass fishery, luring the nation’s top fishermen to the lake to fish” (St. John’s River Water Management District 2010). Along similar lines, Friends of Lake Apopka (FOLA) documents on its website that the lake “was home to 29 fish camps on its 40 miles of shoreline” (Friends of Lake Apopka 2010:1). However, by the late 1950’s, Lake Apopka was facing serious degradation primarily due to agricultural pollution initiated in the early 1940’s (Duda 1984:819). Since agricultural development, “famed fisheries have collapsed under the eutrophic conditions, recreation is impaired, and tourism has been seriously affected” (Duda 1984:819).

I argue that the degradation of Lake Apopka is directly correlated to the decline of fishing tourism in West Orange County. I will focus my research regarding fishing tourism on Lake Apopka in general, but concentrate on the City of Winter Garden and the Town of Oakland. The boundary years I chose to stay within are 1920-1985. The year 1920 was chosen because it was about twenty years prior to the beginning of the degradation and was a “high point” of fishing tourism while the end boundary year, 1985 was set because that is when fish camps were documented to no longer be present on Lake Apopka.

Before I discuss my research regarding the decline of tourism on Lake Apopka, I talk briefly about the importance of “nature as an attraction” (Jakle 1885:53) to the American traveler in the early twentieth century. I then inform the reader with brief background into the history of tourism in Florida focusing on the said time period. I then address the topic of freshwater fishing in the United States in addition to defining some fishing terms I use throughout. Then, I will concentrate on the trajectory of the agricultural industry and follow with a discussion on the connection between agriculture and the degradation of Lake Apopka. Finally, I address the topic of the former fishing tourism industry on Lake Apopka and how the degradation of the lake affected tourism.

Check here for the Friends of Lake Apopka:


The data for this study derives from historical research, including scholarly and popular sources. For the past eight months, I have been on a team doing archaeological research at the former Oakland Hotel. The artifact analysis has not been completed as of this time, so the results will be released at a later date. Some of the resources I have utilized include archival information found at The West Orange Times Newspaper (WOTN), Oakland Nature Preserve (ONP), Central Florida Memory.org, and The Winter Garden Heritage Foundation (TWGHF). At the WOTN, I searched through the available archives and was able to acquire some geographic demographics of some of the guests who visited the Edgewater Hotel during the high season (December-mid-March). I was only able to acquire several weeks worth of data because some of the years are absent from their archives or the data was not published.

Early Twentieth Century Tourism in America

ransportation Technology
In the early twentieth century, “railroads and steamship lines set the standards for travel” (Jakle 1985:100). At the end of the nineteenth century up until 1916, “rail travel tripled” with a high point during the year 1920 (Boyd 2008: n.p.). Thusly, people had the capability, depending on funds, to travel many places around the country. Relating this to fishing tourism in particular, it was said by Mordue that, “with rail transportation came more opportunities for the middle-and upper-class urbanite to escape business and everyday life to enjoy fishing in relative rural remoteness, which was to signal the birth of modern fishing tourism” (Mordue 2009:533).

Furthermore, the automobile price fell in 1921, making them more accessible to a greater number of people (Stronge 2008:86). According to Stronge, the number of registered vehicles “exceeded 10 million” (Stronge 2008:86). Also, as Dulles notes, “every Tom, Dick and Harry toured the country in the 1930s-thanks to the automobile” (Weiss 2004:291). Indeed, the ability to travel faster due to new technology seemed to give the American people greater possibilities regarding where they traveled.

“Nature as an attraction” for the early American tourist

During the early twentieth century, “the search for natural beauty and other environmental amenities became a prime impulse in traveling in North America” (Jakle 1985:53). Also, social standing during this time period was determined by having “leisure as a nonproductive consumption of time” (Jakle 1985:56). For example, according to Jakle, he says that for the wealthy, “activity focused on the giant hotels, and on the spring houses and bathhouses where tourists drank and bathed in mineral waters” (Jakle 1985:53). Jennings concurs and asserts that “within Western nations, water has long been associated with restorative qualities and medicinal benefits” (Jennings 2007:2). Atlantic City’s seaside resorts, in contrast to the bathhouses and spring houses for the elite, attracted “the middle and lower classes. Atlantic city provided the allusion of catering to the elite” (Jakle 1985:56). According to Mormino, “at the turn of the century, few Americans could imagine, let alone afford, a week in Florida but they might indulge in a day at Coney Island or Atlantic City” (Mormino 2005:77). One should not forget the infamous Niagara Falls. It was not only a “must see” for the American tourist but the foreign one as well (Jakle 1985:54).

Other specific tourist destinations where “nature as an attraction” took center stage in the early twentieth century include the national parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite. In fact, “one of the first tourist events of the century was the Sierra Club's first annual outing in 1901… held in Yosemite Valley” (Weis 2004:314). The parks offered to the tourist, “physical and mental renewal” (Jakle 1985:83). Revisiting the concept of medicinal benefits, “tourists sought in nature physical and mental renewal. Physical exertion- drinking by the waters, bathing by the shore, hiking in the woods, mountain climbing-promised good health” says Jakle, referring to tourists who frequented the national parks (Jakle 1985:83). The national parks were “where nature was respected as an attraction and not fully exploited as a commercial resource” (Jakle 1985:83).

Early Florida tourism

According to Weiss, “the growth of Florida and other southern destinations…was largely a post-Civil War phenomenon” (Weiss 2004:304). Florida tourism began earlier than the twentieth century and attracted people who “initially came as refugees from northern winters” and who “grew fond of the balmy conditions of the Florida seashore” and decided create a permanent residence in the state (Sandoval-Strausz 2007:118). The tourists coming to Florida in the early 1900’s were, as Stronge asserts, “relatively wealthy” because most of the middle-class manufacturers could not afford a trip on an average salary of $526 per year so many of the hotels were designed for the wealthier classes (Stronge 2008: 81). Henry Flagler was a New Yorker who was instrumental in building the Florida tourist industry (Stronge 2008:39). According to Weiss, the upscale Flagler hotels “helped to create an image that the entire state of Florida was an exotic tourist destination” (Weiss 2004:306). Stronge says that, "Henry Flagler’s primary interest in coming to Florida was to build a winter resort destination for the wealthy” (Stronge 2008: 81).

People were coming to Florida for its natural beauty and as Thompson states, “Fascinated by the abundant sunshine and the beauty of its flora and fauna, a steady progression of visitors tantalized the rest of the country with an ‘Edenic’ image of the peninsula” (Thompson 2003:1). The image of a healthful environment was touted by Northern physicians such as George Walton (Thompson 2003:2). He published an article in the “early 1880’s” in Popular Science Monthly titled, “Florida as a Health Resort for Consumptives” (Thompson 2003:2).

The turn of the twentieth century, however, the image of health was, according to Thompson, “recategorized as an escape for America’s wealthier classes” (Thompson 2003:4). However, some of the advertising Florida used to increase tourism still appeared to have some component of a health image to them, at least during the first third of the twentieth century. For example, in the West Orange Times dated on April 20, 1934, there is an advertisement the ‘All Florida Committee’ ran titled “Health for Sale…to all the World” (see figure 1) (West Orange Times 1934:47). In addition, The Florida State Hotel Commission released a book in 1930 called Florida: Empire of the Sun. In it, the health benefits of visiting Florida were mentioned. It says, “great crystal springs, found in almost every part of the state, provide the setting for ideal health resorts” (Clark 1930:35)

Freshwater Fishing and American Culture

Defining the language

First, the term ‘water-based tourism’, as Jennings defines it, is tourism that “relates to any touristic activity undertaken in or in relation to water resources such as lakes, dams, canals, creeks and streams, rivers, waterways, marine coastal zones, seas, oceans, and ice-associated areas” (Jennings 2007:10). Secondly, ‘game fishing’, the kind of fishing people took part in on Lake Apopka is, according to the website managed by the Idaho Fish and Game (IFG) organization, is a type of fishing where “fish that are fished for as sport and subject to regulations of take” (Idaho Fish and Game 2010) . ‘Big game fishing’ however is a subset of ‘game fishing’ that focuses on “larger” pelagic species of fish. On the website of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), ‘Pelagic fish’ are defined as “fish that spend most of their life swimming in the water column as opposed to resting on the bottom” (National Marine Fisheries Service 2010). Third, the term ‘angling’, also is defined on the IFG website as “sport fishing for enjoyment, catching one fish at a time using a hook” (Idaho Fish and Game 2010). Finally, according to the IFG website, the term ‘nongame’ refers to “fish not considered sport fish and generally not regulated”.


Popularity of freshwater fishing in the United States
According to Mordue, “freshwater fishing, even though it is one of the most popular leisure activities in the western world, it is an under-researched area in the tourism and leisure literatures” (Mordue 2009:535). However, fishing as a leisure activity is not a new phenomenon. Mordue points out that it dates back to the “ancient Egyptians and Chinese nobility who deployed a stricter means of angling, with a line and a hook, that turned subsistence fishing into sport fishing for the privileged” (Mordue 2009:531). In the United States, Mordue says that the activity of fishing is “tied to a shared Anglo-American ‘countryside idea’ and that “once fishing made the transformation from work into leisure, the history of its social division began to be imbedded in elite and popular culture” (Mordue 2009:531). One example of early, fishing tourism is in the Adirondacks (Weiss 2004:306). Here, "tourism…revolved largely around hunting, fishing, and camping” (Weiss 2004:306). However, Weiss points out that the popularity was due in part to the need to travel to a non-urban and presumably “healthier environment” (Weiss 2004:307). Regarding part of the reason for the popularity of fishing, Killion says “fishing has become a popular sport motivated by the challenges of competition, whether against others or against the self” (Killion 2007:112).

Part II to come!!

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