from the Panama Canal Review, March 6, 1953

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The Dying Jungle, slowly being covered by the rising water of Gatun Lake, looked like this in 1912, when the lake had risen to 52 1/2 feet above mean sea level.

Forty Years Ago In February

The oddities of Gatun Lake after its first rainy season were the subject of individual curiosity and comment as well as official attention as the future source of the Canal water supply.

The Canal Record waxed almost lyrical about its "varying shades of blue," etc. after noting that the lake had commercial value although it was still 30 feet below its final height.

The lake was then being used by a man in Gatun who had fitted out a launch on which he conducted Sunday sightseeing trips; the lighthouse service was using the rising water to tow sand and other material to the "very spots" where the range lights were being erected; and three gasoline launches and six canoes were making "venturesome trips on the wind-swept surface."


"Every little creek that formerly poured into the Chagres has become a water highway through the woods," The Record reported.

It was also explained, for the benefit of "strangers to the Canal work," that the trees in the area covered by the lake were left standing for the simple reason that the cost of cutting them would have amounted to about $2,000,000.

Anyway, The Record pointed out, a tree smothers when its roots are covered with water and "what with decay, insect attack, and wave motion, it is probable that within a decade the soft wood trees that now stand so naked and ghostlike above the water will have been uprooted and will have floated downstream."


Other oddities were the "floating islands," masses of vegetation and earth loosened from the bottom of Gatun Lake by the rising water, that were moved about by the winds, effecting fast and uncanny changes in the scenery. The largest then floating was about 3 acres in area. The islands were being towed to Gatun Spillway where they were floated over the dam.

The tops of orange and lemon trees were sticking out of the water at Tabernilla where the fruit could be picked from a cayuco. Orchid hunters could tie up to the limb of a tree and load a cayuco full of orchids at points along the Gatun and Trinidad Rivers.


One effect of the rise of the water was to shake the skepticism of the bush dwellers who formerly could not be made to believe that it would be necessary for them to leave the area to be flooded by the lake. "Altogether," The Canal Record concluded, "the impression one gets today from a trip on Gatun Lake is that in the very near future, it will be renowned as one of the most beautiful places on the beaten tracks of travel."

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