There’s a Rocket in the Everglades
In the southern area of the Everglades, less than five miles from Everglades National Park is a 180-foot deep hole with the largest solid fuel rocket ever built. In the early 1960s, fueled by the space race, Aerojet won the bid to build three solid fuel engines to power the Saturn Rockets to the moon. Homestead was awarded the location and a 5,500-acre site was built in the Everglades.
Three test rockets were fired at the site, including a night test that could be seen from Miami, before NASA decided to go with liquid filled rockets. The plant was closed, but still remains, including the 260” diameter rocket.
Too large to be trucked, the rocket parts needed to be shipped by barge. In order to accomplish this, the C111 canal was excavated from Barnes Sound, in Florida Bay to the facility. The canal would give the rockets a direct route to the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Canaveral. Now known as the Aerojet canal, the waterway is one of the largest of the many that transit the Everglades and the southernmost freshwater canal in the United States.
Both projects have turned into environmental disasters. The last test of the rocket failed, showering the area with toxic chemical debris. The canal is so wide and deep that hydrologists estimate it collects 3/4 of the water that once flowed through Taylor Slough into Florida Bay. The South Florida Water Management Bureau now owns the land and has demolished some of the buildings and placed a cover over the silo. There are also plans to reroute the water from the canal.
But what if someone tried to blow the rocket and change the Everglades? In researching Wood’s Revenge, I came across first the C111 Canal, and following it to its end, found the abandoned Aerojet facility—and then the rocket. This was a setting I couldn’t leave alone, and both the canal, the facility and the rocket are featured in the seventh book in my Mac Travis Adventure Series: Wood’s Revenge.