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 About the Oklawaha River Aquatic Preserve
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Contact
Description of Site
Established
Location
Size
Watershed
Habitat
Ecological Importance
Rare / Endangered Species
Geomorphic Features
Archaeological Features
Uses
Management Status
References

Contact

Jeff Sowards - Jeff.Sowards@dep.state.fl.us
19152 SW 81 Place Road
Dunnellon, FL 34432
(352) 465-8565


Description of Site

The Oklawaha River Aquatic Preserve is made up of roughly 25 miles of the Oklawaha River system. The upper five miles of river were widened and straightened to some degree years ago to allow for navigation by larger vessels. The now defunct Cross Florida Barge Canal would have passed through these areas. The hydrology of this area of river is directly the result of discharges from the highly eutrophic Lake Griffin, through Moss Bluff dam. The shorelines however are wooded swampland.

About five miles downriver of the start of the preserve, the Oklawaha River meets the Silver River spring run. This run is one of the largest spring runs in Florida rivaling Rainbow Spring. It has an average discharge of over 500 million gallons a day. Over three miles of the roughly five-mile run are part of the preserve. The headspring area is a tourist attraction.

The next twenty miles of the Oklawaha River, downriver of this confluence follows a narrow winding course. It is a black water river with a swamp canopy along most of its length. Intermittently high areas meet the river forming sandy bluffs. The lock structure that was intended to flood the river as part of the Cross Florida Barge Canal still remains at the northern end of the Preserve.


Established

Established by the Florida Legislature as an Aquatic Preserve on October 1, 1989; Florida Statute 258.399.


Location

The river runs from south to north through the center of Marion County. Ocala is found just to the west of the center of the preserve and the Ocala National Forest is found along much of its eastern boundary. Two of the main access points to the river are at the Highway 40 near Silver Springs and the Highway 316 crossings near Eureka.


Size

The river and preserve is roughly 30 miles in length and approximately 4600 acres in size. Much of this area is riverine floodplain swamp.


Watershed

The Oklawaha River basin is large, beginning at Lake Apopka to the south and flowing north eventually through Rodman Reservoir and flowing into the St. Johnís River near Palatka. The basin contains several very large lakes of over 5,000 acres.


Habitat

The habitat type of the Silver River according to the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI) is a Spring-run Stream, characterized and dominated by flat bladed submersed aquatic vegetation.

The Oklawaha River is considered a blackwater river. Its wide floodplain is a cypress and hardwood swamp.


Ecological Importance

The Oklawaha River is one of the oldest rivers in Florida due to its location in the Central Highlands and itís protection from geological fluctuations in sea level. As a result is has developed a diverse fauna and flora.


Rare / Endangered Species

Common Name
Scientific Name
State
Federal
       
Reptiles        
American alligator Alligator mississipiensis SSC T (s/a)
Eastern indigo snake Drymarchon corais couperi T T
       
Birds      
limpkin Aramus guarauna SSC n/a
little blue heron Egretta caerulea SSC n/a
snowy egret Egretta thula SSC n/a
tricolor heron Egretta tricolor SSC n/a
Florida sandhill crane Grus canadensis pratensis T n/a
bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus T E
wood stork Mycteria americana E E
       
Mammals      
Sherman's fox squirrel Sciurus niger shermani SSC n/a
Florida manatee Trichechus manatus E E
Florida black bear Ursus americanus floridanus T n/a
       
Plants      
Venus hair fern Adiantum capillus veneris T n/a
star anise Illicium parviflorum T n/a
pondspice Litsea aestivalis T n/a
grass-of-parnassus Parnassia grandifolia E n/a
whisk fern Psilotum nudum T n/a
Florida willow Salix floridana T n/a
Florida pinkroot Spigelia loganoides E n/a
cardinal flower Lobelia cardinalis T n/a

State listings are taken from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or as with plants Florida Department of Agriculture. Federal listings are taken from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. E= Endangered; T= Threatened; T (s/a)= Threatened due to similarity in appearance; SSC= Species of Special Concern; UR= Under review; n/a= information not available or no designation listed


Geomorphic Features

Oklawaha River, Silver River, Silver Springs


Archaeological Features

unknown


Uses

The Silver River portion of the preserve is a very popular boating and swimming area. However, it has an idle speed boating restriction and no fishing restriction in place. Much of it is also a part of the Silver River State Park.

The Oklawaha River is popular for fishing. In addition, there is recreational boating and canoeing.


Management Status

The Oklawaha River was designated as an Aquatic Preserve in 1989. It is sovereign submerged state-owned land. The current designated manager is Jeff Sowards. Contact information is listed above.


References

Florida Department of Environmental Protection; 1991. Oklawaha River Aquatic Preserve Management Plan .

Last updated: February 24, 2009

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