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Archaeological site in Fort Lauderdale opens as city park

The location of the midden (mound) can be seen here, facing northeast. (Photo Damon Scott)

FORT LAUDERDALE – An almost two-acre green space in the Sailboat Bend neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale that was recently purchased by the city to preserve it as an archeological site has opened as a passive park. Artifacts discovered there by archeologists indicate that the Seminole and Miccosukee tribe’s ancestors once occupied it.

The property known as Rivermont, located at 1016 Waverly Road on the banks of the New River, is dotted with oak and palm trees and has residential lots to its east and west. A 1918 built pioneer home that sat on the site’s midden, or mound, was demolished several years ago.

Middens often contain domestic waste, which may consist of animal bone, botanical material, shells, potsherds and other artifacts associated with past human occupation.

“This site represents the most intact and deepest surviving black earth midden along the New River, with at least 2,000 years of prehistoric occupation. It likely is the best-preserved prehistoric site in eastern Broward County,” city archeologists said in a 2020 survey report.

The report said the site has intact archaeological deposits as deep as four feet. Ceramic dating and archival research indicates the site was used during periods roughly between 500 B.C. and 1513 A.D., as well as during the second and third Seminole Wars (1835–1858) and throughout the middle 19th century.

Prehistoric artifacts found at the site include shell refuse and faunal bones. The most common artifact was pottery – 1,414 ceramic sherds were found. Oyster shell, animal bones (mostly fish), conch shell, and charcoal were also discovered. Bone artifacts include bone point or pin fragments, perforated shark vertebrae, and a drilled shark tooth. Sunfish, gar, and shark were identified, along with amphibians and reptiles such as soft shell turtle, box turtle and alligator. Mammals identified at the site include deer and raccoon.

During a 2006 due diligence survey, a blue Seminole glass trade bead was found at the site, and a human molar was found in one shovel test in 2014. No other human remains were identified from those shovel tests.

‘Milestone accomplishment’

In late 2020, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission approved the purchase of the property for $2.5 million. As part of the discussion to approve the acquisition, Commissioner Steve Glassman, who represents District 2 where the site is located, requested that an application be initiated for local historic designation as an archeological site, and to submit a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

On Feb. 16, 2021, the City Commission adopted a resolution approving the historic designation as an archeological site and the Florida National Register Review Board made a favorable recommendation to list Rivermont in the National Register of Historic Places – which was accomplished on April 20, 2022.

“It is a milestone accomplishment that we are preserving this archeological Tequesta site and midden,” Glassman said in a Feb. 20 newsletter to his constituents.

Seminole and Miccosukee ancestors are sometimes referred to as the Tequesta and Calusa Indians.

The site opened as a passive park this year – accessible from sunrise to sunset – and is managed by the city’s Parks & Recreation Department. A passive park requires minimal ground disturbance and maintenance – it contains two picnic benches and one trash receptacle.

Glassman’s office said future plans are to make it a permanent municipal park as funding is developed. The site, which is the city’s first designated archaeological site and preserve, could eventually feature interpretive signage to offer an educational opportunity for visitors.

The Rivermont site is located on the south bank of the New River. (Photo Damon Scott)
Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at