An Ocklawaha River Information Mini-Page
"Let us leave no bit of useful information uncollected, unstudied, or unused in our shared work
for the restoration to free-flowing again of Florida's 56-mile Silver and Ocklawaha River system."
An Information, Opinion, Photos, & Sources Report
Compiled by Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca
Photos by Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca, Captain Erika Ritter, Roy R. "Robin" Lewis III, & K. Alwine
Revised: 17 February 2014
"My words was straight, but my intentions was crooked as the Ocklawaha River"
is an excerpt from The Yearling (1938) by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1896-1953).
OCKLAWAHA RIVER RESTORATION NEWS RELEASES
12 February 2014 ONE YEAR TEN MONTHS ANNIVERSARY ("Federal agencies project that the [1973 Endangered Species Act Section 7] consultation process could take up to two years to complete") of letter from Jay McWhirter of U.S. Department of Agriculture (for USFS) to David Guest of Earthjustice at:
26 August 2013 NEW WEBPAGE named "September 30, 1968 An INFAMOUS Date for Florida's Ocklawaha River" features the PREVIOUSLY ALMOST
UNKNOWN OF September 30, 1968 Ocala Star-Banner newspaper photograph by Ray Price of the mainstream Ocklawaha River channel (and the roadway bridge that spanned it) still flowing through the earthen dam just before the closure of Rodman Dam by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on 30 September 1968. Ocklawahaman has informed the U.S. Forest Service (who owns that portion of the dam) of the existence of this rarely seen photo.
"Last View Of The Old Channel"
"The above view shows the old channel of the Ocklawaha River at the Rodman Pool. The U.S. Corps of Engineers said that the river will be filled today closing the Ocklawaha to boat traffic for a period of time. Note the mound of dirt at the right of picture. It will be bulldozed into the channel."
NOTE: THIS IS A MUST SEE PHOTO! Visit the following webpage:https://sites.google.com/site/ocklawahamanpaulnoscareports/september-30-1968-an-infamous-date-for-the-ocklawaha-river
26 July 2013 Susan Jeheber-Matthews, Supervisor of National Forests in Florida, encourages the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers "to reconsider including removal of the Kirkpatrick Dam as mitigation for the Jacksonville Harbor Navigation Study.":
07 July 2013 Ocala Star-Banner newspaper OP-ED "Removal of Rodman dam will quickly undo mistakes" by Roy R. "Robin" Lewis III (Robin Lewis):
10 June 2013 OP-ED "New Pressure Growing to Remove Rodman Dam" by Ron Littlepage:
13 May 2013 Gainesville Sun newspaper OP-ED "Remove Rodman Dam" by Robert L. Knight:
12 April 2013 ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY of letter from Jay McWhirter of U.S. Department of Agriculture (for USFS) to David Guest of Earthjustice at:
23 October 2012 "BBMP [Black Bass Management Plan] Update - Rodman" from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at:
"On February 21, 2012, the Florida Defenders of the Environment and the Florida Wildlife Federation provided the United States Forest Service a notice of their intent to bring civil action in federal district court against the USFS for alleged violations of Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act and its implementing regulations. In response to this action, the USFS has reinitiated a Section 7 consultation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service to assess activities associated with authorization, function and maintenance of the Kirkpatrick Dam in regard to potential impacts to the manatee, Atlantic sturgeon and/or other species.
"The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Department of Environmental Protection and St. John’s River Water Management District have been requested to assist in the consultation process by providing technical assistance to the USFS and USFWS in regard to information requests and their interpretation. Federal agencies project that the consultation process could take up to two years to complete."
26 July 2012 "Briefing Paper" from U.S. Forest Service (USFS) regarding Ocklawaha River restoration was available at:
This entire document is available for viewing at the bottom of this webpage.
07 June 2012 final report entitled "Rodman Reservoir Historical Perspective" by the FWC was available at:
A shortened version of this document is available for viewing at the bottom of this webpage.
12 April 2012 letter from Jay McWhirter of U.S. Department of Agriculture (for USFS) to David Guest of Earthjustice at:
21 February 2012 "60-Day Notice of Intent to Bring a Citizen Suit Under the Endangered Species Act for Violations of Section 7" by David Guest of Earthjustice, Tallahassee, FL for the Florida Defenders of the Environment, Gainesville, FL; & the Florida Wildlife Federation, Tallahassee, FL:
February 2007 "Emergency Action Plan Abridged Edition Kirkpatrick Dam and Rodman Reservoir (National Inventory of Dams No. FL00156) Palatka, Florida Prepared for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (Dam Owner & Operator) by URS Corporation Tampa February 2007":
"Kirkpatrick Dam is jointly owned by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and operated by FDEP’s Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT). The USFS owns the portion of the dam from the historic river channel southward."
20 March 2001 "Federal Register / Vol. 66, No. 54 / Tuesday, March 20, 2001 / Notices":
"The USDA Forest Service along with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), intends to prepare a draft environmental impact statement to authorize continued occupancy and use of national forest system land for operating and maintaining portions of Kirkpatrick Dam, Rodman Reservoir, and Eureka Lock in conjunction with the implementation of the partial restoration of the Oklawaha River."
"The FDEP has chosen the Partial Restoration of the Oklawaha River as its preferred alternative. This plan will restore river hydrology and floodplain function to historic conditions through breaching the dam, with limited removal and/or alteration of structures and topographical manipulation, and allowing for restoration by natural processes."
NOTE: Click-on individual photos to enlarge them!
Captain Erika in a hidden "Blue Spring" of the Middle Ocklawaha River
IS IT THE "OCKLAWAHA" RIVER OR THE "OKLAWAHA" RIVER?
The United States Board on Geographic Names in 1992 changed the official spelling back to "Ocklawaha", which was the original traditional way that this river's name was spelled from 1824 until 1892. The Federal government had officially decided in 1892 that the spelling should be "Oklawaha" & it was so for a century. OCKLAWAHA (Native American for "crooked" or "great" water) is the correct way since 1992 to spell its name.
Middle Ocklawaha River
Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca, who strives for accuracy & honesty, worships zealously a more natural Ocklawaha River Valley that includes the restoration of the 56 river miles from Silver Springs to the St. Johns as a free-flowing stream. He is a member of NO environmental organization but volunteers his Ocklawaha experience, observations, research, & sources to groups that share his zeal for this old "crooked river." Ocklawahaman has fished, hunted, & explored the Florida outdoors since 1962. More of his outdoor time has been spent in the Ocklawaha River Basin than anywhere else.
"The 30 September 1968 completion of Rodman Dam caused the loss of 21 river miles of free-flowing riverine ecosystem. Florida's peninsula was blessed by the Creator with thousands of lakes but very few swift-flowing streams of any considerable length. The 'pre-Rodman Dam' 56-mile long 'Silver-Ocklawaha River' was unique in this state by virtue of having one of the world's greatest-flow 1st magnitude artesian spring groups (73 degree F Silver Springs) as its supreme headwaters with unimpeded access for fish & other aquatic life--located more than 50 miles above tidewater influence." - Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca.
Ocklawahaman with an Ocklawaha River largemouth bass
caught on a buzz-bait from a canoe drifting in swift current!
It is a real shame that the historical natural striped bass fishing of Marion County, Florida's Ocklawaha River continues to be sacrificed to keep Rodman Reservoir in place for commercialized largemouth bass fishing interests! Native striped bass in the 30-pound class & largemouth bass up to 21 pounds have been reported from the free-flowing Ocklawaha River of Marion County in the past--with NO assist from Rodman Dam & many miles upriver from any part of the Rodman Reservoir. No world record or state record (heaviest) largemouth bass has ever been taken from Rodman. The damming of the Ocklawaha on 9/30/1968 to create Rodman Reservoir (Rodman Dam upstream to Eureka) has only produced one reported 17-pound 2-ounce largemouth bass (its largest ever) from that 13,000 acre man-made "backwater" in all the 43 years since!
OCKLAWAHA RIVER & ITS BASIN:
The Ocklawaha River Basin, also known as Florida's Central Valley, contains one of the state's most ancient rivers at some 17,000 years old. The named mainstream of the Ocklawaha River is 78 miles long measured from its mouth at the St. Johns River estuary upstream to its head at the north end of Lake Griffin (elevation 59 feet). However, an 1891 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers navigation survey of the Ocklawaha River reported that the north-flowing waters of its entire drainage basin were 125 miles in length from the tidal St. Johns River upstream to the point of its first emanation (66.5-foot elev. Apopka Spring which flows into the "Gourd Neck") at the extreme south-western end of Lake Apopka. It is possible to travel in a small vessel from the Ocklawaha's mouth at the St. Johns River to Lake Apopka (elev. 66 feet) by moving through four sets of navigational locks. Rising about 246 feet above Lake Apopka's western shoreline is Sugarloaf Mountain, of the Lake Wales Ridge, which at 312 feet above sea level is peninsular Florida's highest natural elevation--& the most prominent hilltop in the entire state. The basin's most south-western cruising water of Lake Louisa (elev. 98 feet), head of the Palatlakaha chain of lakes & fed by the drainage of the Green Swamp, can be reached by portaging over several Palatlakaha River water control structures upstream of the south-west corner of Lake Harris (elev.63 feet). By far, the Ocklawaha River Basin is the longest & largest stream-flow volume tributary of the entire St. Johns River Basin.
A view from Sugarloaf Mountain towards more of the Lake Wales Ridge
The entire basin is generally divided into two parts for water management purposes by the huge inflow of the 5-mile long Silver River into the Ocklawaha River. The "Upper Ocklawaha Basin" contains all of the waters that feed the Ocklawaha River upstream (south) of & before the confluence with Silver River. The "Lower Ocklawaha Basin" includes the Silver River plus any waters that enter the Ocklawaha downstream (north) of the junction all the way to the mouth at the St. Johns.
Looking east towards Lake Apopka from boat ramp road
Upper Ocklawaha Basin waters include the Ocklawaha chain of lakes (Griffin, Eustis, Harris, Dora, Beauclair, & Apopka) & the Palatlakaha River with its chain of lakes (Lucy, Cherry, Minneola, Minnehaha, Louisa, plus others) along with a portion of the Green Swamp.
Middle Ocklawaha River
Lower Ocklawaha Basin waters include world famous 73-degree F Silver Springs, arguably Florida's original tourist attraction, at about 40-foot elev. some 56 miles upstream from the St. Johns River. Amazingly during some extreme drought years the Silver River ("Silver Springs Run") provides over 80% of the Ocklawaha Basin's total discharge into the St. Johns River. Other Lower Ocklawaha Basin tributary streams include: Daisy Creek, Eaton Creek (drains Charles, Eaton, & Mud lakes), Mill Creek, Orange Creek (drains Orange, Lochloosa, & Newnans lakes), Bruntbridge Brook, Deep Creek, Sweetwater Creek, plus the upper section of Camp Branch (diverted into the Lower Ocklawaha Basin by the Cross Florida Barge Canal). In addition, some 30 or so other artesian springs (besides the Silver Springs group in Silver River) feed the Lower Ocklawaha Basin--many of these 73-degree F cool-water "jewels" are drowned in Rodman Reservoir which is the man-made backwater that formed behind Rodman Dam.
A "drowned" artesian spring is "re-born" during Rodman Reservoir draw-down!
From the influx of the Silver River downstream to the St. Johns River, the Ocklawaha meanders for 51 river miles through a 1/2 to 1-mile wide forested floodplain except where altered by Rodman Reservoir. This luxuriant swamp forest of bald cypress (baldcypress) & mixed hardwoods was originally 36,000 acres in size. Along many of those 51 miles the Ocklawaha has secondary channels or side-creeks making it a braided-stream with many additional miles of flowing rivulets, some canoe-navigable but others totally un-navigable. Between Rodman Dam & the St. Johns River, for example, the main Ocklawaha River channel is about 12 river miles long but a detailed search of United States Geological Survey (USGS) topographic maps reveals that there are about 52 miles total of flowing stream channels here separated by floodplain swamp islands.
OCKLAWAHA RIVER & POSSIBLE EARTHQUAKE/SEISMIC ACTIVITY PLUS GRABEN & HORST STRUCTURES:
Since statehood, northern Florida has felt several earthquakes. Especially between Silver River & Rodman Pool, the twisting course of the Ocklawaha River is very closely associated with identified geologic fault & fracture lines. In this area the Ocklawaha River (including its floodplain & Eaton Creek tributary) separates three other distinct physiographic regions from each other: "Ocklawaha River Lowlands" (W-side of river graben structure with deep-rock aquifer), "Lynne Karst" (E-side of river S of Eaton Creek horst structure with shallow-rock aquifer), & "Mount Dora Ridge" (E-side of river N of Eaton Creek graben structure with deep-rock aquifer).
RODMAN DAM, RODMAN RESERVOIR & BUCKMAN LOCK:
On 9/30/68, closure of the 7200-foot long RODMAN DAM was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers across the formerly free-flowing 56-mile Silver-Ocklawaha River system (about 12 river miles upstream from the St. Johns River) to create a 13,000-acre "navigation pool" for floating barges. This impoundment is usually known as RODMAN RESERVOIR although it is sometimes also called Rodman Pool or Lake Ocklawaha. Rodman Dam & Rodman Reservoir along with the associated BUCKMAN LOCK are all parts of the defunct (since 1991) Cross Florida Barge Canal (CFBC) project which was given the "green light" by the Kennedy-Johnson administration to begin initial construction work in 1964. Rodman Dam is also known as "Kirkpatrick Dam" since 7/1/98.
EUREKA LOCK & DAM:
Scheduled next for completion (after Rodman Dam) was the 4000-foot long EUREKA LOCK & DAM which targeted the 19,000-acre "Eureka Reach" of the Ocklawaha River Basin for inundation as the "Eureka Pool" (Reservoir). Although 90% built by January 1971, the Eureka Lock & Dam structure was never finished--thus sparing many thousands of acres of wildlife-rich floodplain mixed-hardwood/cypress swamp, mixed-hardwood hammock & loblolly pine forest from death by cutting or drowning. Thank you, President Richard Nixon* & conservationist Mrs. Marjorie Harris Carr!
FLORIDA POLICY REGARDING RODMAN RESERVOIR:
It has been Florida's official policy since 1995 that the Ocklawaha River shall undergo a partial restoration that makes it once again a free-flowing stream from Moss Bluff & Silver Springs to the St. Johns River. Commercialized largemouth bass fishing interests plus funding & permitting issues continue to stymie this restoration process.
Governor Lawton Chiles on 16 June 1995 issued the following: "After a careful review of the Ocklawaha River/Rodman Reservoir issue, I am hereby directing the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in cooperation with the St Johns River Water Management District, to proceed immediately in applying for permits to restore the Ocklawaha River and in moving forward with a plan to begin an orderly and phased drawdown of the Rodman Reservoir."
Rodman Reservoir "stump-field" during draw-down
OCKLAWAHA RIVER SEGMENTS FROM ST. JOHNS RIVER TO LAKE GRIFFIN:
Proceeding upstream from its mouth at the St. Johns River, this report divides the 78 stream miles of the named Ocklawaha River into the following five segments:
"Lower Ocklawaha River" is from mile 00 St. Johns River upstream to mile 12 Rodman Dam;
"Rodman Reservoir" is from mile 12 Rodman Dam upstream to mile 33 Eureka Dam;
"Middle Ocklawaha River" is from mile 33 Eureka Dam upstream to mile 51 Silver River;
"Upper Ocklawaha River" is from mile 51 Silver River upstream to mile 64 Moss Bluff Dam;
"J.D. Young Canal" is from mile 64 Moss Bluff Dam upstream to mile 78 Lake Griffin.
Burrell Lock & Dam (Spillway)
Apopka Lock & Dam
MY OCKLAWAHA RIVER BASIN INTERESTS:
Canoeing, fishing, fish & wildlife (data collection, observation, research), tree (& other plant) identification, artesian springs, Ocklawaha history & ecology (including hydrology, geology, physiography), photography, hiking, exploring, camping, hunting, plus searching for 2 elusive, legendary (& native historically to the Ocklawaha) wilderness species: ivory-billed woodpecker ("ivorybill") & Florida panther.
A limit catch of Ocklawaha River keeper Largemouth Bass
Ocklawaha River Black Crappie ("Speckled Perch")
MY OCKLAWAHA RIVER BASIN EXPERIENCE SINCE 1973:
From the "top" Sugarloaf Mountain (elevation 312 feet, highest summit of the Florida peninsula) & The Green Swamp (elevation 120 feet) to the largest spring Silver Springs (elevation 40 feet)--to the "bottom" the Ocklawaha's mouth at the St. Johns River (elevation less than 1 foot). Ocklawahaman has paddled the entire Silver-Ocklawaha River system, by canoe, from Silver Springs to the St. Johns River.
Middle Ocklawaha River
MY FAVORITE OCKLAWAHA SECTION IS THE MIDDLE OCKLAWAHA RIVER (EUREKA REACH):
The 19,000 acre Eureka Reach that President Richard Nixon* rescued in 1971 from becoming Eureka Pool (Reservoir), when he ordered a HALT to further construction of the CFBC project. This mostly natural ecosystem (with only minor CFBC damage) features the 50 to 100-foot wide Middle Ocklawaha flowing swiftly about 18 crooked river miles through magnificent swamp & hammock forests of mature, tall, mixed-species trees including isolated living-giant, "old-growth" bald cypress (baldcypress) & live oak "survivors" that range from perhaps 200 up to 1000 years old. An adventurous & determined "swamp-stomper", equipped with the proper gear, can explore the Ocklawaha's "Lost World" island here--if he can find it! Some 12 artesian springs exist in this reach. Water temperature in this section of the river usually ranges between 60 & 80 degrees F all year long, influenced very strongly by the 73 degree F inflow from Silver Springs. Almost all of the Middle Ocklawaha River & Eureka Reach can be seen (scale 1:24000) using these two USGS Florida 7.5 minute topo quad maps: "Fort McCoy" & "Lynne."
Old-growth Bald Cypress of the Middle Ocklawaha River Swamp
near the "Lost World" hardwood-hammock island
Old-growth Bald Cypress of the Middle Ocklawaha River Swamp
near the "Lost World" hardwood-hammock island
Old-growth Live Oak of the Ocklawaha's "Lost World"
OCKLAWAHA RIVER RESTORATION & THE BREACHING OF RODMAN DAM:
I support the breaching of Rodman Dam & the partial restoration of the more than 10,000 acres of the Ocklawaha River & floodplain swamp forest (plus some 20 artesian springs) that remain abnormally inundated by Rodman Reservoir--as part of the defunct CFBC. Analysis of USGS hydrological data since 1931 appears to show a huge loss of the Ocklawaha River Basin's historic water contribution to the St. Johns River--a result of evapo-transpiration caused by Rodman Dam. Also, only about 2.5% of the Ocklawaha's pre-Rodman flow is available for migration of fish between the St. Johns River & the Ocklawaha. The pre-Rodman Dam Silver-Ocklawaha system was the only striped bass natural spawning area (needs about 50 miles of swift-flowing stream) in the St. Johns River Basin. The Silver-Ocklawaha should be free-flowing again for the 56 river miles from Silver Springs to the St. Johns.
CATCHMENT AREA OR GROUND-WATER BASIN OF SILVER SPRINGS:
According to my copy of Bulletin No. 31 (Revised) SPRINGS OF FLORIDA published 1977 by Florida Bureau of Geology: "The flow of Silver Springs is derived from recharge by rainfall within the bounds of the catchment area." An illustration of the Silver Springs catchment area shows its size to be about 54 miles north to south (from near Keystone Heights in Clay County to near Lady Lake in Lake County) but only about 15 miles east to west at its widest point (in Marion County from the west side of the Ocklawaha River to just west of the city of Ocala).
In my copy of the updated Bulletin No. 66 SPRINGS OF FLORIDA by the Florida Geological Survey in 2004, it appears that the term "springshed" is now being used: "A spring recharge basin, or springshed, consists of those areas within ground & surface-water basins that contribute to the discharge of the spring."
A view from Sugarloaf Mountain
OCKLAWAHA BASIN'S SUGARLOAF MOUNTAIN IS FLORIDA'S MOST PROMINENT HILLTOP:
312-foot elevation Sugarloaf Mountain in southern Lake County is the highest natural land point of the Lake Wales Ridge (physiographic division), the Ocklawaha River Basin, the St. Johns River Basin, & in fact all of Peninsular Florida. It towers some 246 feet above adjacent Lake Apopka (elevation 66 feet) making it the most prominent hilltop (with the greatest topographical relief) in the entire state of Florida. There are some higher elevations (to 345 feet) in the Panhandle west of the Apalachicola River--they are called hills & rise less than 246 feet above their surrounding valleys.
OCKLAWAHA RIVER BLUFFS ARE PENINSULAR FLORIDA'S HIGHEST:
The highest natural river bluffs (of most topographical relief) in Peninsular Florida--east of the Apalachicola River--occur where the east side of the Ocklawaha River Valley cuts into the Mount Dora Ridge (physiographic division). Sunday Bluff, the most famous, is at the western edge of an elevation 143-foot hilltop whose base is being eroded-into by the Ocklawaha River (elevation 20-26 feet).
Middle Ocklawaha River
Middle Ocklawaha River
OCKLAWAHA RIVER GRADIENT & CURRENT:
The swiftest segment of the Ocklawaha (in the 18 river miles between Silver River & the Eureka Bridge) descends downstream at an average gradient of about 1 foot per mile with an average current speed of about 1 mile per hour. Paddling a canoe upriver against this current is possible--but it slows the actual forward motion of the canoe by 1 mph. It is sort of like trying to walk south at a 4-mph pace while being on a 1 mph north-bound conveyor belt or escalator--the result is that you actually travel south-bound at only 3 mph! I can paddle my canoe on a still-water canal or lake without current or wind pushing against me at about 4 mph maximum.
OCKLAWAHA RIVER ELEVATION ABOVE SEA LEVEL:
The River's elevation above sea level at different sites in the Ocklawaha Basin can be determined by exploring online the USGS Florida "Real-time Streamflow" gages. The 6 gages (& their Datum) that I normally monitor for river level data:
USGS 02238500 Ocklawaha River at Moss Bluff, FL (Datum = 0.0 feet);
USGS 02239500 Silver Springs near Ocala, FL (Datum = 38.6 feet);
USGS 02240000 Ocklawaha River near Conner, FL (Datum = 31.79 feet);
USGS 02240500 Ocklawaha River at Eureka, FL (Datum = 0.0 feet);
USGS 02243959 Ocklawaha R above Rodman Dam near Orange Springs, FL (Datum = 0.0 feet);
USGS 02243960 Ocklawaha R at Rodman Dam near Orange Springs, FL (Datum = 0.0 feet).
The simple formula is Gage Height + Datum = Elevation in feet above mean sea level.
"BANK FULL" STAGE AT CONNER GAGE:
At the Conner gage, an elevation of 35.5 feet above sea level is considered bank full. This means that the Ocklawaha River, between the Conner gage (at the SR-40 Bridge) & the Eureka gage 17.9 miles downstream (at the CR-316 Bridge), should be almost completely within its 50 to 100-foot wide main channel banks & not out into its floodplain swamps.
"There ain't nothing that'll stop a 'feller' from shining, if he has a mind to!" - Author unknown.
Ocklawaha River Swamp "Moonshiner" remnants?
OCKLAWAHA RIVER BASIN RAINFALL GAGE AT EUREKA LOCK & DAM:
St. Johns River Water Management District webpage
OCKLAWAHA RIVER BASIN WEATHER FROM MAY TO OCTOBER:
Ocklawahaman & friendly gator at 2007 "Ocali Country Days"
OCKLAWAHA RIVER BASIN ALLIGATOR (Alligator mississippiensis):
Alligators, some of them huge, are very abundant in the Ocklawaha/St. Johns basins. The Silver River Museum has a 14-foot long stuffed alligator on display--awesome to examine up-close! Canoeing over the years, I have encountered perhaps half a dozen behemoth gators while on the Ocklawaha/St. Johns that were every bit as big as the Silver River Museum's 14-foot specimen. One that I'll always remember lived in the Ocklawaha's Bear Creek (a bit downriver from the SR-19 Bridge) during the early 1980's. I called him "DINO-GATOR" because I estimated his length at 15 to 16 feet as he sunned stretched-out on his usual giant cypress blow-down. During those years I had a two canoe fleet. My larger 15-foot canoe always seemed SMALL (my smaller 12-foot canoe TINY) whenever I happened-up on DINO-GATOR (maybe a dozen heart-pounding times all-together)--the biggest gator that I've ever seen, anywhere!
NOTE: Reportedly, the all-time record-length American alligator was a 19-ft 2-in long specimen from Louisiana in 1890!
OCKLAWAHA RIVER BASIN ALLIGATOR SNAPPING TURTLE (Macroclemys temminckii):
OCKLAWAHA RIVER BASIN VENOMOUS SNAKES:
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, pigmy rattlesnake, cottonmouth, coral snake.
IVORY-BILLED WOODPECKER a.k.a. "IVORY-BILL" (Campephilus principalis):
The last credible ivory-billed woodpecker sightings in the Ocklawaha Basin were 1951 & 1949. I keep searching here for an "ivory-bill" but so far have only seen pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus).
OCKLAWAHA/ST. JOHNS RIVER BASIN FLORIDA PANTHER (Felis concolor coryi):
I last actually saw a Florida panther in 1980 about 1 mile east of the SR-19 Ocklawaha River boat ramp. The Florida Game & Fresh Water Fish Commission & U.S. Forest Service reported a confirmed panther in this same part of the Ocala National Forest in the late 1970's.
OCKLAWAHA RIVER BASIN BLACK BEAR (Ursus americanus floridanus):
Florida's most numerous black bear population lives along & between the Ocklawaha River corridor & the St. Johns River corridor (Ocala National Forest & adjacent lands). My last black bear sighting (a medium-sized adult) was on 10/2/13--with Captain Erika.
OCKLAWAHA RIVER WEST INDIAN MANATEE (Trichechus manatus latirostris):
Florida Manatee (group of five)
OCKLAWAHA RIVER "JUNGLE" or "RAIN FOREST" MONKEYS:
The most northern wild population of monkeys in the U.S. occurs in the Ocklawaha River Basin, parts of which have sometimes been described as being Florida's "jungle" or "rain forest." After all, several of the "Tarzan" movies were filmed at Silver Springs & along the Silver River! Two species of exotic monkeys, rhesus & squirrel, live & breed here in scattered tribes (usually, but not always, along Silver River). Asian rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) have been around possibly since the 1930's while Central/South American squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) may date back to the 1960's.
Rhesus Monkey of the Ocklawaha Swamp
OCKLAWAHA RIVER BASIN'S OTHER MEDIUM TO LARGE GAME/FUR-BEARING SPECIES INCLUDE:
Wild turkey, wild hog ("razorback"), white-tailed deer, bobcat, coyote, gray fox, red fox, river otter.
Wild Turkey (gobbler)
Wild Hog ("Razorback")
White-tailed Deer (buck)
BIG CLAW RIVER SHRIMP a.k.a. GIANT RIVER PRAWN (Macrobrachium carcinus):
Another of the almost mythical but historically native species of the Silver-Ocklawaha system upriver of the present Rodman Reservoir is the almost lobster-sized big claw river shrimp a.k.a. giant river prawn. Specimens were observed at Silver Springs at least into the 1960's. They would reside in the river's deep holes & spring crevasses. These large crustaceans need access to brackish water for reproduction, which would require migration between the Ocklawaha & the St. Johns--Rodman Dam makes this extremely difficult. I have not been able to verify any recent existence of big claw river shrimp a.k.a. giant river prawn in the Ocklawaha upriver from Rodman Reservoir.
Captain Erika bass fishing from her kayak
DEFINITIONS OF SOME "FISHY" ADJECTIVES:
ENDEMIC describes a species which is only found in a given area & nowhere else in the world.
LENTIC describes freshwater LACUSTRINE (lake/pond) still-water environment & its fish species. Florida lentic species such as largemouth bass & bluegill commonly will also naturally exist in flowing streams.
LOTIC describes freshwater RIVERINE (stream/river) flowing-current environment & its fish species. Florida lotic species such as redbreast sunfish & channel catfish only rarely exist naturally in still-water lakes that are not connected to river systems.
ANADROMOUS describes any saltwater (marine) fish species that naturally lives in saltwater or brackish water (much of the time) but spawns only in freshwater (after migration).
CATADROMOUS describes a saltwater (marine) fish species that naturally lives in freshwater or brackish water (much of its life) but spawns only in saltwater (after migration).
NATIVE FISH SPECIES OF THE ENTIRE OCKLAWAHA RIVER BASIN:
Captain Erika bass fishing from kayak
FISH SPECIES OF THE MIDDLE OCKLAWAHA RIVER:
Approximately 50 different fish species exist in the free-flowing Middle Ocklawaha River between Silver River & Rodman Reservoir. About 1/2 of them are small minnow-sized varieties. Grass carp, longnose gar, & channel catfish are the 3 longest (& heaviest) fish. Only about 2.5% of the Ocklawaha's pre-Rodman flow is available (through Buckman Lock) for migration of fish between the St. Johns River & the Ocklawaha, which has had a negative impact on the abundance here of these five native highly migratory fish species: channel catfish, white catfish, American eel, striped mullet, & striped bass (discussed later).
The following is a list of the 25 verified larger fishes (that are more likely to be caught while fishing or observed in the river during clear-water periods) that live in the Ocklawaha upriver from Rodman Reservoir.
NATIVE FRESHWATER WARM-WATER GAME FISH:
Largemouth bass, black crappie ("speckled perch"), bluegill, redbreast sunfish, redear sunfish ("shellcracker"), spotted sunfish ("stumpknocker"), warmouth.
NATIVE FRESHWATER WARM-WATER NONGAME FISH:
Bowfin, brown bullhead, yellow bullhead, channel catfish, white catfish, chain pickerel, Florida gar, longnose gar, gizzard shad, threadfin shad, golden shiner, lake chubsucker. Channel & white catfish schools migrate many miles in river systems.
White ("Blue") Catfish
EXOTIC FRESHWATER NONGAME FISH:
Grass carp, sailfin catfish ("pleco"), blue tilapia ("Nile perch").
NATIVE SALTWATER (MARINE) NONGAME CATADROMOUS FISH:
American eel, striped mullet, Atlantic needlefish (may be able to spawn in fresh or brackish water).
STRIPED BASS OR "STRIPER" (Morone saxatilis):
Striped Bass in Silver Glen Springs
AMERICAN SHAD BEFORE RODMAN DAM:
OCKLAWAHA RIVER FISHING REPORT USING 24 YEARS+ (1990-2014) OF MY COMPUTERIZED CREEL DATA:
89% = caught using ARTIFICIAL LURES;
11% = caught using BAIT or other methods;
100% = total of my Ocklawaha catch using artificial lures, bait, or other.
Black Crappie ("Speckled Perch")
44% = BASS (largemouth);
33% = BREAM (bluegill, redbreast, redear, spotted sunfish, warmouth);
14% = BLACK CRAPPIE ("speckled perch");
03% = CHAIN PICKEREL;
02% = BOWFIN;
04% = ALL OTHER SPECIES (catfish, gar, mullet, pleco, sucker, etc.);
100% = total of my Ocklawaha catch by species.
Captain Erika with "Speckled Perch"
57% of total days = BASS FISHING;
19% of total days = BREAM FISHING;
13% of total days = "SPECKLED PERCH" FISHING;
11% of total days = OTHER TYPES OF FISHING;
100% = total of my Ocklawaha fishing days by type of fishing.
HOW TO FILLET A CHAIN PICKEREL INTO 5 BONELESS PIECES OF "GOOD EATS":
A day of fishing on the Ocklawaha River will occasionally produce a chain pickerel (a.k.a. jack-fish) or two (sometimes even more). Chain pickerel caught while bass fishing will usually range from about 16 inches up to a maximum length of about 26 inches. Many anglers do not consider eating them because of the pickerel’s numerous Y-bones. However, the bigger (20-inch & longer) pickerel can be filleted (with a good knife & a little patience) into 5 pieces of boneless "good eats" by following the detailed instructions at the following link. http://www.ehow.com/how_8317632_fillet-chain-pickerel.html
Middle Ocklawaha River
OCKLAWAHA RIVER LARGEMOUTH BASS FLOAT-FISHING:
This is river float-fishing using "artificials" from a canoe drifting downstream in swift-flowing current. River bass must be enticed into striking the fast-moving lure from their stream-current-watching ambush lairs among the blow-downs, logjams, stobs & undercut banks. This isn't live shiner or even plastic worm fishing. It is more like floating for smallmouth bass on cool-water, boulder-strewn, hill-country rivers in Arkansas or Virginia; than our usual warm, weed-choked, still-water Florida lake bass fishing. Largemouth river bass seem to behave like a different species when compared to their lake-dwelling cousins!
"There are lake fishermen, and there are river fishermen, and seldom do the twain agree!" - Author unknown.
OCKLAWAHA RIVER LARGEMOUTH BASS LEGAL AGE:
A 14-inch long female legal keeper-size river bass will probably be from 3 to 4 years old (males may take 2 more years to reach 14 inches). 20-inch long females likely are 6 to 7 years old & males almost never reach 20 inches in length.
OCKLAWAHA RIVER LARGEMOUTH BASS CREEL SURVEY DATA:
My 1990-2014 (24 years+) computerized creel records of largemouth bass caught (measured & most then released) while using artificial lures (e.g., buzz-baits & spinner-baits) in the flowing Ocklawaha River, between Silver River & Rodman Reservoir, show these cumulative results (updated through 2/16/14):
Success Rate = 0.75 total bass caught (kept & released) per hour of bass fishing;
43% = less than 12 inches in total length;
57% = 12 inches or longer in total length;
26% = 14 inches (legal "keeper" size) or longer in total length;
6% = 17 inches or longer in total length;
1% = 20 inches or longer in total length.
SHIMANO 200Q AX QUICKFIRE II Open-Face Spinning Reels:
In the middle 1980's, Ocklawahaman reluctantly needed to replace his worn-out 1960's-era Garcia-Mitchell 308 (push-button spool-change) ultra-light spinning reels with a different make &/or model. After field-testing a couple of disappointing replacement choices, I then tried the Shimano Custom X-1000 Quickfire (push-button spool-change) UL reel--its rugged quality soon impressed me & I bought a second one. They were so good, in fact, that most of my bass fishing 1986-1990 was done using them (or the even newer Shimano 100-series Quickfire II ultralights)--with 1/8th-oz spinner-baits or buzz-baits on 8 or 10-lb monofilament line!
Grudgingly, however, by the end of 1990--after several encounters with heftier largemouth bass in cover &/or current--Ocklawahaman finally decided to "muscle-up" his usual bass-fishing tackle. That meant replacing his trustworthy but worn-out inventory of "plastic-worm-fishing-in-lakes" 1960's-era Garcia-Mitchell 300 (push-button spool-change) open-faced, mid-sized spinning reels. The new (at the time) Shimano 200Q AX Quickfire II (push-button spool-change) open-faced spinning reels soon became the dependable mainstay for all my bass-fishing trips (riverine or lacustrine)--with 1/4-oz spinner-baits or buzz-baits on 15-lb line. Although production of the moderately-priced Shimano 200Q has been discontinued for almost 20 years now, Ocklawahaman still has 4 of these excellent reels in working condition--plus a "bone yard" of spare parts for them. These early-1990's Shimano 200Q spinning reels remain my trusted bass-fishing tool to this day--they are simply the best medium-sized open-faced "spinners" that I have ever owned & used. I really dread ever having to replace my Shimano 200Q AX Quickfire II reels with any other make &/or model--Shimano ought to consider making them again!
Exploring the ruins of the "Strange House"
Almost to Mud (originally "Scrub") Lake by canoe from the Middle Ocklawaha River
EXPLORING THE OCKLAWAHA BASIN WITH "HONOR":
Ocklawahaman reckons that there are probably only two honorable ways for the able-bodied "healthy" among us to explore & appreciate the "Real Florida" magnificence--of that which remains of the almost unspoiled Ocklawaha River corridor:
(1) PADDLE (paddling a canoe/kayak) or;
(2) PACK (hiking or humping the boonies with "ALICE" on your back).
Expedition members prepare for "Swamp-stomp" to the "Lost World" of the Middle Ocklawaha River
--the most remote hardwood-hammock island of the Ocklawaha Basin--with its centuries-old trees!
"Lost World" of the Middle Ocklawaha River
Ocklawahaman (with ALICE on his back) stands in front of an
extremely rare old-growth Southern Red Cedar tree (this is NOT a Bald Cypress!)
at the "Lost World" of the Middle Ocklawaha River
Modern motorized conveyances are left at the canoeing or hiking trailhead. No loud music, engine noise, or smell of gasoline! The damaging & dangerous tomfoolery of noisy wave-runner jet skis, Gulf of Mexico-class mega-horsepower motorboats, Everglades-style airboats, & ATVs/ORVs belongs somewhere else--not in the remaining natural areas of the narrow, crooked Ocklawaha River & its superbly forested but fragile ecosystem! The entire Middle Ocklawaha River at bank full or lower stage becomes an 18-mile clear-water extension of the 5-mile long Silver River & deserves the same "no wake" designation--for safety, bank stability & water clarity/quality purposes. Besides, a little strenuous paddling or walking manpower exercise which induces profuse sweating is good for your health. Uncle Sam needs your help, big strong men, don't be "fuelish"--help reduce our Country's gasoline consumption & price per gallon. "Whether I'm hunting in swamps, or fishing for bass, my canoe never uses foreign gas!"
Canoeing expedition to Mud (originally "Scrub") Lake
Canoeing expedition to Mud (originally "Scrub") Lake
"Ocklawahaman's Last Stand" by Paul Nosca
*Statement by U.S. President Richard M. Nixon on 19 January 1971 ordering a halt to construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal project:
"I am today ordering a halt to further construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal to prevent potentially serious environmental damages.
"The purpose of the canal was to reduce transportation costs for barge shipping. It was conceived and designed at a time when the focus of Federal concern in such matters was still almost completely on maximizing economic return.
"In calculating that return, the destruction of natural, ecological values was not counted as a cost, nor was a credit allowed for actions preserving the environment.
"A natural treasure is involved in the case of the Barge Canal--the Oklawaha River--a uniquely beautiful semi-tropical stream, one of a very few of its kind in the United States, which would be destroyed by construction of the Canal.
"The Council on Environmental Quality has recommended to me that the project be halted, and I have accepted its advice. The Council has pointed out to me that the project could endanger the unique wildlife of the area and destroy this region of unusual and unique natural beauty.
"The total cost of the project if it were completed would be about $180 million. About $50 million has already been committed to construction. I am asking the Secretary of the Army to work with the Council on Environmental Quality in developing recommendations for the future of the area.
"The step that I have taken today will prevent a past mistake from causing permanent damage. But more important we must assure that in the future we take not only full but also timely account of the environmental impact of such projects--so that instead of halting the damage, we prevent it."