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Lock No. 1 North New River Canal

Lock No. 1 North New River Canal

Built 1912, listed in National Register of Historic Places 1978
6521 State Road 84, Davie

Photo captions:

Judge Clayton Nance at the Lock #1
Image Courtesy of the Broward County Historical Commission, Nance Family Collection

Views of the Lock
Image Courtesy of the Broward County Historical Commission, Jeff Siegel Collection

Views of the Lock
Image Courtesy of Bill Cunningham

Also known as the Sewell Lock and the Broward Memorial Lock, Lock No. 1 is located on the North New River Canal, south of Plantation on State Road 84 just west of the Davie Road Extension. It was built for the Everglades Drainage District and was constructed by the Furst-Clark Construction Company. It is a single lock, 149 feet long, with the entry controlled by wooden gates. It was designed to allow increased agricultural activity along the New River Canal. The Everglades drainage program, which was begun in 1906, has probably had a greater historical and continued impact on South Florida than any other single factor. One of the canals, the North New River Canal, was, in the early years, a major transportation artery between Fort Lauderdale and Lake Okeechobee. In order to make the canal useful for transportation, locks had to be constructed. Lock No. 1 at the south end of the canal was the first to be built in South Florida.

The opening of the lock led to an increased agricultural exploitation of the newly drained land along the New River Canal. Produce grown in this area and around Lake Okeechobee was brought down the canal through the locks to the railroad in Fort Lauderdale. An even more important cargo was Okeechobee catfish. New River was lined with fish houses, overhanging the river. Boats traversed the distance between the lake and Fort Lauderdale in groups. This made the trip go faster since more than one boat could get into the hand-operated lock at a time making it more efficient.

The locks also made it possible for small steamboats to operate on a regular basis between Fort Lauderdale, the lake and Fort Myers via the Caloosahachee River. Regularly scheduled steamers included the Suwannee, Lily and Passing Thru. These boats carried passengers, cargo and tourists up and down the river. By 1926 the canals had shoaled to the point that boat traffic was no longer practical and the waterway was replaced by a railroad and highways as the primary transportation method to and from the lake. That year the locks were closed permanently and allowed to deteriorate due to the lack of use.

The Broward County Historical Commission worked with the site’s owner, the South Florida Water Management District, Department of Natural Resources, to list the lock in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The boat lock had been inoperative for many years but was in remarkably good condition at the time. In the early 1990s the Historical Commission worked with Broward County’s Engineering and Parks and Recreation divisions, the state’s Department of Transportation and South Florida Water Management District, and Department of Natural Resources to have the lock restored. The lock is now the centerpiece of Broward Memorial Boat Lock Park, North New River Lock No. 1, which is part of the County’s New River Greenway. It stands today as a reminder of the importance of the great drainage project to the development of South Florida.​​