NEWS

HISTORY MYSTERY: When was the ‘new’ East Pass cut through the ‘old’ Norriego Point?

Hank Klein | History Mystery
Aerial Photo of East Pass with “New Channel of 1929” shown

Another one of the History Mysteries of Destin is when was the “new” East Pass cut through the “old” Norriego Point?  Some published articles have given the years of 1926, 1927, 1928 or 1929.  But which is right?  According to both the Army Corp of Engineers and Florida Department of Transportation it was actually 1929.

The spring rains of 1928 were so large that the east end of Santa Rosa Island was breached in April of 1928 while the pre-1928 East Pass inlet remained opened.  Later in the year the breach was closed, probably by a summer hurricane.  While the 1928 breach was open it is not known if the opening was deep enough for vessels to enter, but it probably wasn’t.  In 1929 there were more major spring rains.

There had been a tremendous amount of rain in the spring of 1929 in Alabama.  The Choctawhatchee River which flowed from southern Alabama and the Choctawhatchee Bay was at flood stage.  The bay had risen about four feet higher than the Gulf of Mexico, and the then restricted old pass was not adequate to allow the rush of water to flow out.  Every dock and many home sites were endangered.  Something just had to be done… now!

The Destin fisherman knew they had to do something to save their homes and docks.  According to O. T. Melvin’s obituary he and his son O. T. Melvin, Jr., Captain Dewey Destin Sr., Adolph Weekly, and Ian Strickland, armed with only the oars from a their skiff, made a small trench and a little trickle of water started going south into the Gulf.

Within an hour, there was a gully more than 100 feet wide; and by the next morning it was more than 100 yards across, and a new East Pass that was 1,300 feet across was formed. Of course the new East Pass which was formed in 1929 is actually where the 1928 breach had occurred. The new pre-1928 East Pass was still in existence and remained usable until about 1935.

Next time you come across the Marler Bridge in Destin and look out at the East Pass remember for more than 70 years it wasn’t where you see it today. Instead it was down at the end of the East Pass Lagoon between where the Sandpiper Cove Condominium is located and where the Pelican Beach Resort is located today.

H. C. “Hank” Klein is a Destin historian who visits often and lives in North Little Rock, Arkansas with his wife (the former Muriel Marler of Destin).  He also contributed historical research for Tony Mennillo’s recently published book “Salty Memories along the Coastal Highway – Historic Stories of Destin and the Emerald Coast.”  He can be contacted at klein@aristotle.net.