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Rivers

Florida’s largest rivers are in the northern part of the state. Portions of the watershedsCatchment area of a drainage basin. of many of these rivers are in Georgia and Alabama. Even the largest rivers in Florida – the Apalachicola, the Suwannee and the St. Johns – have only a fraction of the flow of the continent’s and the world’s largest rivers. In the Panhandle, rivers flow south to the gulf; along the west coast, rivers flow west to the gulf. In the central portion of the peninsula, streamflow is south. In the lower southeastern portions of the peninsula, rivers flow east to the Atlantic. In the northeastern and east-central portions of the peninsula, the St. Johns River flows north to the Atlantic and other rivers flow east to the Atlantic . The only major river that does not flow to the gulf or to the Atlantic is the Kissimmee River, which flows south and discharges to Lake Okeechobee (Nordlie 1990). Florida’s rivers may be classified as predominantly alluvial, blackwater or spring-fed.

Alluvial rivers, such as the great Mississippi, have large, well-defined drainage basins, carry high sediment loads and have large forested floodplainsland next to a stream or river that is flooded during high-water flow.. These rivers typically flood each year (usually in the winter in Florida), depositing a rich load of sediment. All of Florida’s alluvial rivers are in the Panhandle. The Apalachicola, Choctawhatchee, Escambia and Ochlockonee are examples.

Blackwater rivers have dark, stained waters from decomposing plant materials. Typically they drain pine flatwoods and cypress swamps. Many of Florida’s rivers are blackwater types, including New River in northwest Florida, which drains Tates Hell Swamp, and the Withlacoochee, Hillsborough and Peace rivers in central Florida, which begin in the Green Swamp (Clewell 1991). The Withlacoochee River takes major feed from the clear spring fed waters of the Rainbow River before its run through Lake Rousseau, a man-made lake with a dam structure at Inglis.

Spring-fed rivers are most common in the karstAn area of irregular limestone rock formations in which erosion has produced fissures, sinkholes, underground streams, and caverns.
Such terrain is created when ground-water dissolves the limestone.
regions of north-central Florida where limestoneSedimentary rock composed of carbonate minerals, especially calcium carbonate. Limestone can be created by clastic and non-clastic processes. Clastic limestones are formed from the break up and deposition of shells, coral and other marine organisms by wave-action and ocean currents. Non-clastic limestones can be formed either as a precipitate or by the lithification of coral reefs, marine organism shells, or marine organism skeletons. is close to the ground surface. Spring water is cool year-round, and clear. The Wakulla, Silver, Weekiwachee, Rainbow and Crystal rivers are spring runs issuing from five of Florida’s 33 first-magnitude spring systems. The Chipola, St. Marks, Aucilla, Santa Fe, Ocklawaha and Homosassa are also spring-fed rivers (Clewell 1991).

Many Florida rivers are a mixture of these types. For example, the Suwannee begins as a blackwater river draining the Okefenokee Swamp. As it travels south, it becomes a spring-fed river, as many springs contribute to its flow. As it approaches the gulf, it has a low-forested floodplainland next to a stream or river that is flooded during high-water flow. characteristic of alluvial rivers (Kautz et al. 1998).

Lakes

Florida has thousands of lakes, large and small. By far the largest (1,890 square kilometers or 730 square miles) is Lake Okeechobee, which extends into Glades, Hendry, Martin, Okeechobee and Palm Beach counties. Lake Okeechobee, the second largest lake wholly within the United States, has an average depth of 2.6 meters (8.6 feet) (VanArman et al. 1998).

Most of Florida’s other lakes are also shallow (between 2 and 9 meters, or 6.5 and 29.5 feet, deep), although a few sinkholeA pit like hole often found in areas of karst. These features are caused by the weathering of limestone or dolomite by subsurface drainage. Also called a sink or doline. lakes are hundreds of feet deep (Heath and Conover 1981). Over one-third of the lakes in Florida are found in four central Florida counties (Osceola, Orange, Lake and Polk).

Most of Florida’s lakes were formed in the same manner as sinkholes. Ground water dissolved limestone, forming underground cavities; the roof of these cavities collapsed, forming a depression, which then filled with ground water and rainwater. Other lakes were once depressions in the sea bottom, and still others were carved out by rivers.

According to Thomas Scott, many theories exist for the origin of Lake Okeechobee, including meteorite impact, compaction of underlying rock deposits and faulting along the northern part of an ancient lagoon (pers. com). Dr. Scott, a geologist with the Florida Geological Survey, thinks the lake developed from a large lagoon that existed at the northern end of the Everglades.

In addition to natural lakes, Florida abounds in constructed lakes and ponds created by digging into the shallow water tablein an aquifer, it is the upper surface of the zone of saturation under unconfined conditions; water in the rocks is at atmospheric pressure. for fill (sand and rock), for irrigation, mining or aquaculture (commercially growing fish or other water speciesA taxonomic category subordinate to a genus (or subgenus) and superior to a subspecies or variety, composed of individuals possessing common characters distinguishing them from other categories of individuals of the same taxonomic level. In taxonomic nomenclature, species are designated by the genus name followed by a Latin or Latinized adjective or noun.). Lakes and ponds are also designed and created to manage stormwater runoff from developed areas or to serve as reservoirsA natural or artificial pond or lake used for the storage and regulation of water..

Green Swamp Wildife Management Area consists of nearly 50,000 acres in Lake, Polk, and Sumter counties. Also known as the Green Swamp East, this area is part of the approximately 110,000 acres purchased to protect the land and water resources of the Green Swamp. The Green Swamp is a critical recharge areaThe area on the Earth's surface that receives water for storage into a particular aquifer. for the Floridan aquifer as well as the source of the Hillsborough, Withlacoochee, Ocklawaha, and Peace rivers.

Most of the landscape is pine flatwoods, cypress domes, and hardwoods swamps. Freshwater fishing is good along this segment of the Withlacoochee River. Stanley Fish Hole and Maynard Mines, both accessed from SR 471, are popular fishing spots. Paddling on the Withlacoochee east of SR 471 is not recommended due to the poorly defined channel and numerous logjams. Deer, hog, and turkey hunting are good, although high water makes hunting and other recreational activities difficult at times. More than 20 miles of the Florida Trail, 13.1 miles of which are part of the Florida National Scenic Trail, traverse the area. Portions of the trail are inundated in all but the driest years. Over 20 miles of unpaved service roads are marked for bicycling. Wildlife that may be seen on the area include alligator, white-tailed deer, bobwhite quail, armadillo, gray squirrels, feral hogs, and a variety of birds. Camping is permitted year round at designated campsites and along the Florida Trail, but requires a camping permit during non-hunting periods issued by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Brooksville office (352) 796-7211.

The Green Swamp West Unit consists of more than 34,000 acres in Pasco County and is part of the approximately 110,000 acres purchased to protect the land and water resources of the Green Swamp Basin of Central Florida. The area consists of a mosaic of varying habitatThe place or set of environmental conditions in which a particular organism lives. types whose distribution is based mainly on moisture gradients and soil types, and there are ample opportunities for hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding. Forty-two miles of marked trails are available for bicycling and horseback riding, and more than 50 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail traverse the area. Horse-drawn buggies are allowed on the marked trails. Primitive camping, including an equestrian campground, is available. Well water for horses is found at the equestrian campground. Freshwater fishing is good along the Withlacoochee River, and the best access is from River Road. Canoe launches are located at River Road and in nearby Withlacoochee River Park. Paddlers should check water levels as travel is difficult when water is low. Green Swamp West is one of the premier public hunting areas in the state for white-tailed deer. Special opportunity permits are required to hunt on this area except during small game season. The area is closed to the general public during hunts except for through-hikers on the Florida National Scenic Trail. This WMA is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. Wildlife that may be seen on the area include alligator, feral hog, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, bobwhite quail, and a variety of other birds.

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