Three Rivers, Fifty Springs, One Solution: Reunite the Rivers and Restore the Great Florida Riverway
The Great Florida Riverway is one of Florida’s environmental and economic treasures.
This vast, 217-mile river system reaches from the Green Swamp in Central Florida to the Atlantic Ocean via the Ocklawaha and St. Johns Rivers. The Great Florida Riverway is home to 50 freshwater springs: 25 at historic Silver Springs, 20 on the Ocklawaha River, and five in the Harris Chain of Lakes. Restoring the Great Florida Riverway is vital to improving the ecosystem and economic health of North and Central Florida.
The Ocklawaha River, the heart of the Great Florida Riverway, was dammed by the Rodman/Kirkpatrick dam in 1968. Constructed as part of the Cross Florida Barge Canal that was never completed, the dam flooded over 7,500 acres of forested wetlands, 20 springs, and 16 miles of the Ocklawaha River. The continued decline of water quality, spring flow, wetland forests, fish, wildlife, and recreation has led American Rivers to designate the Ocklawaha River as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2020.
Restoring the Great Florida Riverway by breaching this dam will re-establish access to essential habitat for manatees, bring back migratory fish, connect three river ecosystems, historic Silver Springs, and restore a lost riverway for anglers and paddlers from Ocklawaha’s Harris Chain of Lakes to the Atlantic.
Photo credits: Doug Engle, Mark Emery, and Will Dickey