Whiskey Creek, a roughly 2 mile stretch of mangrove lined shallow canal, sits quietly in John U Lloyd State Park in Dania Beach, just across from the mighty Port Everglades. It is nestled between the stunning natural (and largely very quiet) beach, and the intracoastal waterway. It’s very easy to miss. I have known this area for many years and only found out about ‘Whiskey Creek’ after seeing a picture of it on facebook!
The history of Whiskey Creek
I don’t think I need to elaborate on why Whiskey Creek was given its name and when. Suffice to say that it was the obvious place for the rum-runners of the Prohibition era. The reasons are simple, as it is just a hop, skip and jump to both the beach and the intracoastal waterway. The Bahamas are tantalizingly close to our coast, and in the 1920s and 1930s, bootleggers reportedly used an ocean inlet near Port Everglades. They would head south through dense mangroves until they reached Whiskey Creek, from where they would need to run only a short distance to the shore to hide their booty.
Further, the mangrove-lined and very shallow (even dry in parts at low tide) canal, can not be navigated by boats of any size, including coast guard cutters. So there you have it. History tells us of midnight skirmishes with men of the law lying in wait to catch the rum-runners red-handed.
Evidence of human habitation in the area and usage of the creek, dates as far back as the Tequesta Indians. The tribe lived in the area, and most notably in what is now Miami-Dade from approximately 3000 years ago until the 18th century. They occupied also the area of what is now greater Fort Lauderdale and including Whiskey Creek, at the time of the first European contact in the 16th and later centuries. The Tequesta were officially extinct in the 18th century.
Murder at Whiskey Creek
Little did I know, as I was kayaking and wading in this picturesque little creek amongst the mangroves, that some decades prior, the bodies of two mutilated women were found here! I had to research this story around ‘Murph the Surf’, and this is what I dug up (no pun intended):
Meet infamous Jack Roland Murphy, or ‘Murph the Surf’, who was not only involved in the biggest Jewelry heist in the United States, but also in the killing of two women in 1967, whose bodies he and his accomplice dumped in the shallow waters of Whiskey Creek:
“Murphy and a guy named Jack Griffith had partnered with two young women in the theft of $500,000 in stocks. They were on a water-skiing trip in the Intracoastal when one woman apparently threatened to talk if she didn’t receive a bigger share.
The two women ended up dead — beaten, shot, thrown overboard, weighed down with concrete blocks. For what the press called “The Whiskey Creek Murders” both men received life sentences.”(source: Tampa Bay Times). Here is a link to an article regarding their court case, published in the Chicago Times of 1969.
Murph was released in 1986, with some conditions, including a large donation to ‘meals on wheels’ and a restriction on returning to Dade and Broward counties, where he committed these crimes. He still lives in Crystal Springs, Florida, after having turned his life around and lecturing in prisons and youth detention centers. Subsequently, his lifetime parole was terminated in the year 2000 due to his apparent change in lifestyle and contribution to society in his later years.
Kayaking Whiskey Creek
Despite its illustrious history, the little creek sits as peacefully as ever in John U Lloyd State Park and lets you escape the hustle and bustle of Miami and Ft Lauderdale within minutes. If it weren’t for the frequent rumble of jet planes overhead, you could slip back in time amongst the mangroves.
It is a truly special place. The water is clear and little and not-so-little fish can be spotted everywhere. So can little fiddler crabs doing a dance with their little claws but mysteriously disappearing in holes as soon as you get near them.
Beware if you want to kayak the creek at low tide, as there are places particularly at the very southern end of it, close to Dania Pier, that it may be necessary for you to carry or at least wade the kayak.
Occasionally, it can be nice to get out and do just that, especially when you are paddling against the tide and/or current:
All in all it is a little sanctuary and makes a great get-away for an afternoon of paddling, very safe and easy. Boats do not have access to most of the creek due to its shallow nature. The boats and masses are all found at the North entrance to the creek, close to the boatramp (easy to launch your kayak from here). There are kayaks and paddleboards for rent here also.
Make it a whole day excursion!
It’s easy to make a whole day out of this short paddle…we opted for a day just sitting in Whiskey Creek with our Kayaks and a beverage or two and watch the fish:
However, you have other options:
If you want to make it a longer paddle, at the southern end there is the possibility to get across the intracoastal waterway and into West Lake, through the Dania cut-off canal (turn left at the first opportunity when in the canal). Just watch out for boat traffic in the intracoastal and the Dania cut-off canal.
At the northern end you actually are facing Port Everglades, and while it is nice to watch the huge freighters and cruise ships from afar, and paddle around the outer banks of John U Lloyd Park – always with an eye on the boat traffic please – you are best advised to stay away from Port Everglades, as it is a high security area and you might even get fined for paddling too close to the operational area of the Port. Nevertheless, it is interesting to watch from afar…
Have you been? Let me know how you like it!