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Oklawaha River Aquatic Preserve Project Spotlight

"The Oklawaha and Silver Rivers offer us a unique glimpse into our past that must be protected for future generations to cherish."

Jeff Sowards, Aquatic Preserve Manager

The Oklawaha River

Key Accomplishments

  • As a member of the Silver River Working Group, we were able to successfully sponsor a key piece of land to the Florida Forever Program to provide protection for the Silver River recharge area. This piece of land is managed by the Department of Forestry and is now known as Indian Lake State Forest and is roughly 4,500 acres of critical recharge for Silver Springs.
  • As a member of the Marion County Water Resources Stakeholder Group, preserve staff helped to draft a proposal for land use regulations for development within the critical recharge areas of Marion County. The proposal was presented to the Marion County Commission. Local officials are now recognizing the need for protection of critical spring recharge area.
  • The Preserve staff are members of the Marion County Springs Festival planning committee. Each year, the three day event brings public and private entities together to educate the community about issues that affect our springs and groundwater and to promote public stewardship. To date, thousands of people have come to the three day event to view over 30 interactive booths and to hear presentations from state and federal experts on issues that affect our Florida Springs. The Marion County Springs Festival continues to be a huge success. It was recently awarded the 2008 Outstanding Event of the Year Award by the Florida Park Service.
  • Programs to educate Marion and Citrus County students in aquatic ecology are also conducted by the aquatic preserve throughout the year. Over 500 students from area schools were given educational presentations on wildlife ecology during field trips by aquatic preserve staff.


The Local Connection

Being a member of the Silver River Working Group and the Marion County Water Resources Stakeholders Group enables the Oklawaha River Aquatic Preserve to be on the cutting edge of local issues that affect the preserve. Land use and water resource decisions that significantly impact the Silver and Oklawaha Rivers are made on the local level. Through this partnership, the aquatic preserve can provide input to local and county officials. Thanks to the working group's application sponsorship and recommendations, significant parcels of land have been purchased (Selden property) or added to the Florida Forever Program to protect the surrounding spring-shed of the preserve. The stakeholders group recommendations on land use changes within the two and ten year recharge area of Silver Springs are being considered by Marion County to protect water quality and quantity.

 Quick Facts about Oklawaha River Aquatic Preserve
Map of Oklawaha River Aquatic Preserve


Marion County


406 acres of sovereign submerged lands


Jeff Sowards
Aquatic Preserve Manager
19152 SW 81st Place Road
Dunnellon, FL 34432
(352) 465-8565

Download a printable version of this page.

Oklawaha River Aquatic Preserve Management Plan

Cypress in marsh

Cypress and marsh wetlands

Young alligator

Young alligator



Red-bellied turtles basking

Red-bellied turtles basking


  • Because of its location in the Central Highlands and its protection from geological fluctuations in sea level, the Oklawaha River is one of the oldest rivers in Florida.
  • The dark-water Oklawaha, spring-run Silver River and their flood plain swamp support a diverse natural system of flora and fauna.
  • The preserve is home to 110 species and 12 families of fishes.
  • This area is rich in cultural resources; human habitation dates back to 7500 B.C.
  • 43% of the federally listed threatened or endangered species rely directly or indirectly on wetlands for their survival. (USFWS)

Last updated: June 27, 2016

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