The salt producing islands have expansive natural shallow seawater ponds, most of which were developed in varying degrees to facilitate the rapid evaporation of seawater.
The 1852 Grand Turk Lighthouse.
It’s known that prehistoric Taino natives would travel to Turks Islands to gather the naturally accumulating sea salt, as did early European explorers. By the end of the 1600s, the Bermudians began to seriously establish the industry.
The system of salt production became more sophisticated over time, with dividing walls in the salinas to split up different levels of brine, gates to control input from the ocean, and windmills to pump water between ponds. This allowed for efficient evaporation and at the height of production about 800 acres of salt pond was worked over the three islands.
Due to the larger populations and economical income that salt exports afforded, small towns grew on the three salt islands, with architecture based off the British Bermudian Colonial style.
Cotton and Sisal Plantations
The Great House at Cheshire Hall Plantation on Providenciales.
The larger and greener Caicos Islands supported a different kind of industry: Cotton and sisal growing. The ruins and historical sites on these islands are almost entirely plantations, with field walls, buildings and support structures. The plantation islands never had the populations or civil buildings that the salt islands had. Providenciales, North Caicos and Middle Caicos each have a plantation that has been developed to a limited degree so as to allow for tourism.
Evidence of the pre-Columbus Taino natives does exist at a few locations in the Turks and Caicos, but these features tend to be quite limited in scope and are typically in the most remote parts of the country. There is no Taino historical site developed for tourist access in the country.
Another interesting yet short-lived industry that took place in the Turks and Caicos was bat guano cave earth mining.
Graves on Grand Turk. Until about the start of the 1900s, waterborne pathogens took more European lives during the colonial expansions than all other causes combined. Land surrounding these graves also served as a place to isolate the sick to limit the spread of disease. Many are children's graves.
In the late 1800s,
Conch Bar Cave and
Indian Cave on Middle Caicos, and several cave systems on
East Caicos were the site of this activity, and the material was largely exported to sugar cane growers in the Caribbean.
A small-scale rail network, complete with causeways where needed, was built on the western half of East Caicos. Donkeys were used to pull the rail carts, and descendants of these animals still roam on the uninhabited island.