The Magical History of Lake Okeechobee

Attending OMF this year?

Want to learn more about the festival site and its past? Here’s a history of the lake and what it means for your trip to Okeechobee in 2020.

Lake Okeechobee’s History

Lake Okeechobee is the largest freshwater lake in Florida at 730 square miles. The name comes from “big water” in Hitchiti, from an indigenous tribe of the Southeast US. Migrants traveled down to Florida in the 1920s to work on farms around the lake for $9 a week.

Lake Okeechobee

One long night in 1928, a hurricane struck Florida with 125 mph winds. The dikes of Lake Okeechobee failed and about 2000 people died. In response, the Army Corps. of Engineers worked day and night to stop the flooding. Today, the Herbert Hoover Dike still controls the waters of the Everglades. This storm changed the American mindset around weather and natural disaster forever.

In 2018, dangerous algae bloomed across Florida waters and tourism dollars plummeted. Since then, the state has pledged billions of dollars to fight the pollution that helps these toxins flourish. This plan has already lowered the pollution levels in Lake Okeechobee, but the industries that caused the problem are fighting back. Sugar cane companies want clean water while communities want to protect the Dike and the lake. The struggle continues, yet the lake grows healthier.

OMF 2020

Today, Lake Okeechobee is home to OMF, a blockbuster music fest bringing the best artists of today. If you are like me, you might be wondering: Is the water safe? As of June of last year, the answer is no. The EPA considers the lake as having twice as much algae as would be considered safe. However, plenty of people will be out on the water. If you choose to join them, stay safe! Don’t submerge yourself and rinse off when you’re done.

Beyond the lake, OMF has plenty of fun in store. From the Tea Lounge to performers and live art exhibitions, there is plenty to keep you busy before and after stellar sets.

Consider the Lake

Think about what we, as festivalgoers, bring to the lake. This place was a gathering site for workers from every background, then tragedy struck. Next, it was a place of tourism and fun, and then danger bloomed. So now it’s our turn to bring back the good vibes for good.

It might seem silly to think that a music festival could have a lasting impact on a place, but consider this: The economic impact of OMF 2017 was about $17 million. Now think of your footprint on the ground. You have the chance to change what people think is possible at Lake Okeechobee. It isn’t a gravesite or dumping ground, it’s The Portal. It connects us to one another and to art. The lake still gives us life, and she’s our responsibility now.

Helpful Tips:

-Bring garbage and recycling bags

-Throw away extinguished cigarette butts in the garbage

-Share the lake’s story

-Be kind to one another and the Earth

-If you want to join the cleanup crew, visit the Clean Vibes site to volunteer.

Check out the National Park’s Leave No Trace Campsite Rules for more.

Check out Conquerwild’s post on Leave No Trace as well!

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