by Mike Miller
(Mount Dora, Florida)
Musa Isle Alligator Wrestler
Musa Isle Indian Village was located in Miami.
Old timers in Miami tell me that the Everglades essentially began right about where 27th Avenue is today.
Everything west was The Swamp, and land was filled for development over the years until now the sprawl heads out west almost to Krome Avenue.
They say there was a natural rapids or waterfall near where NW 27th Avenue today crosses the Miami River. Just downstream of the waterfall was Musa Isle, and Seminole Indian village that was created as one of Miami's earliest tourist attractions.
I don't think you can see any remnants of the attraction, and I believe it closed in the 1950's. It was on the south bank of the Miami River just east of the current NW 27th Avenue bridge over the Miami River.
Musa Isle featured all kinds of alligator wrestling shows, Seminole dancing, weaving, jewelry, clothing and other hand made items from the Seminole nation.
Only old timers remember the place, but they speak fondly of the simpler days when it was a big attraction.
COMMENTS FROM OTHER VISITORS
Jul 16, 2014
Wish I would have known it would all disappear, but then we didn't have the cameras and videos that we have today. Alligator alley was just a lonely stretch in the road.
Jul 16, 2014
When the Miami River was Green - Musa Isle.
by: M. L. Wiley
My elementary school took a field trip there. My grandmother would shop there for what I can't remember. My crew and I , 8-12 years old, would float a leaking rowboat from the bridge at 7th Avenue to 27th Avenue passing the Indian caves in the banks of the river. Sometimes we went even further.
The environment started look like the mighty everglades as we took the river to what is now MIA property. I can remember when they would stop traffic on Jejune to pull airplanes to the east side for the students at the plane engineering/mechanic school.
The big ships used to plow up the river almost swamping us.Maybe two of the 6-8 on board could swim. I saw my first manatee.I thought that we had seals in Florida.
Pictures painted in my mind.
Mar 02, 2014
I too lived across the street from the Musa Isle Indian Village. I was very young then (1940's)and we used to ride the Jungle Queen Riverboat to downtown Miami from time to time. The daughter of our landlord worked at the village so we were able to visit the village often at no cost.
I remember the Seminole ladies sitting in their chickee huts sewing with foot operated sewing machines making shirts and dolls to sell.
I remember the tourists tossing money into the Miami River and the Seminole boys would dive in to get the money.
To this day I can still remember the smell of the women cooking over open fires making meals for their families.
There was a family named "Tiger" that we often spoke to when we went there. Bobby Tiger wrestled alligators for whatever money the tourists would toss into the alligator pit after the show.
It was a great area to live in. Had many happy days then.
Jan 03, 2014
Paradise paved over, I think all of you have good memories of history in the real. I have been reading all the web site of Cypress Indian Reservation,, and good to know history has been important and worthy of saving. Thank you for sending the site. I feel a story from all of you, as you know the true history. Happy New Year everyone!!!
Dec 31, 2013
If you are really interested in the history of Seminole Villages, head over to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum on the Big Cypress reservation. They have a whole exhibit on postcards and colonial perceptions. John Roop, the owner of Musa Isle Grove leased a portion of his property to Willie Willie, a member of the Bird Clan, in 1919. Willie established the Musa Isle Trading Post and Seminole Village. Famous families (Tony TommiePanther Clan, Cory Osceola Big Town Clan, and William McKinley Osceola Big Town Clan) lived there. This is not where alligator wrestling started. That came out of Coppinger's Tropical Gardens and Pirates' Cove Indian Village where Henry Coppinger Jr. taught the Seminoles how to wrestle alligators as a tourist attraction. Camps like these proivded financial opportunities to the tribe at a time when their traditional ways of living and hunting had been threatened through the drainage of the Everglades, increased population due to the new railroad, and hunting competition.
Dec 15, 2013
I Lived Across The Street
In the early 1950's, I lived 3 houses away. Musa Isle was on the river (real Indians), Tropical Hobby Land was on 27th Ave (not so-real Indians). I was too young to play at Musa but my sisters did. Remember walking across 27th Ave to get a soda at a crumbling convenience store, that had those cheap "birds" on sticks that whirled around when you blew on them, hung all around the roof edge in front, along with bananas. If I remember my history, the village grew up around the turnaround point for the river cruise ( where the boat couldn't pass the rapids), to give the tourists an opportunity to see an authentic Indian village (and purchase authentic artifacts) for maybe a dime.
Oct 23, 2013
How much fun you had in your younger days to have played in Musa Isle. I am hoping that since the country has finally noticed to preserve the past, to know the future, some one or organization will be interested in a tribute to the long forgotten village. I wonder if the Indian heritage is still around the Miami area?
Oct 23, 2013
Remembering Musa Isle
by: Jeff R.
Although shut down by then. I lived directly across the street. Back then it was 16th st. Rd. I believe I have some old pic's. The time was about 1968 thru 70.
Oct 22, 2013
by: Jeff R.
I believe it was 1968 thru 1970 that I lived in the house directly across the street from the entrance. 16th St. was actually 16th St. Rd. Musa Isle had already shut down by then.
Looking back I wish it were still open. At the time though, I had full access to an empty village that was heavily overgrown with vegetation.
There was a large concrete building on the left side as you looked at the entrance. Attached to that was a wall made out of coral rock that I used to climb. I remember very wide stairs that led to a wishing well of sorts and a path down to the bottom of that well which looked somewhat secretive.
I collected bones and pottery. Free play back in the day from the street to the river. Really great memories. I have a few pic's I think of the wall out front. Would love to share.
The house I lived in was actually the same house my father lived in. My grandfather built the house and several others on the block but I'm sure my father would have some great info. I just happened to stumble across this site, so he doesn't know about it yet.
Ten years ago I went through there and was disappointed to see it was all gone. However, on the property there is a service drive where the garbage dumpster sits and there is a plaque commemorating Musa Isle off to the side.
All the history and memories condensed on an 18 x 12 piece of pop metal. Could be gone by now..don't know.
Going to get those pic's. would love to show. Hopefully more to come.
FLORIDA BACKROADS TRAVEL SAYS: Jeff, thanks for the memories. If you'd like to share your photos, go to the bottom of our Lost Attractions page and write us a little story and attach the photos. We'd be glad to publish them.
Oct 05, 2013
Smithsonian has for visitors a beautiful replica of Indian villages, and designed it with dignity to compliment the culture.
However, the leased land for gambling doesn't say much for the CULTURE. All about the money. Sad.
Oct 05, 2013
I'm not so sure about a resurrection
by: Gumbo Limbo
I'm not so sure about that. Would you like your heritage/way of life put on display as a tourist oddity? Seems kind of exploitative in this day. It was back then, too, but we weren't that aware.