The Ocklawaha River flows north from the Harris chain of lakes for 74 miles to the St. Johns River. They say returning the river to its historic level would  also allow 7,500 flooded acres that used to be forested floodplains to become forest again and provide a wildlife corridor, and that 8,000 acres would become valuable wetlands again. Today the Rodman Reservoir is famous for providing what amounts to a large scale fish farm for premier largemouth bass. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, and Tom Wright, R-Port Orange – and county commissioners from Alachua and Lake counties praising proposals to restore the river’s historic condition. February 13, 2020 Currently, the only access manatees have to go upriver to Silver Springs is though the series of locks along the canal that connects to the St Johns River. A couple of people jumped in with snorkels, and remarked that the spring was surprisingly deep. Coalition members have begun conversations with politicians and groups that feel a stake in the areas around the Ocklawaha, which in April was named one of America's most endangered rivers by the national American Rivers organization. The Rodman Dam cuts off the free flow of the Ocklawaha about nine miles from the St. Johns River. Tree trunks and branches continually pile against the dam's upstream side. Waters close to Duval on ‘most endangered’ list for country, Breaching Rodman dam will reveal 20 lost springs of the Ocklawaha River, Your California Privacy Rights/Privacy Policy. The Ocklawaha is the largest tributary of the St. Johns. About Rodman Reservoir. Dozens of environmental groups have launched an online campaign to build support for undamming the Ocklawaha River, a waterway most Floridians have never seen. It is located south of Palatka off of Hwy 19. Continuing on, the beautiful light blue color of the spring came into view. On foot (Read about our hike here) or on the water. A four-gate spillway (Kirkpatrick Dam) controls the water levels of the reservoir. Their quote also doesn’t say anything about the harm it is having on resident animals. A short film called Lost Springs documented explorations of the last draw-down. The project ceased on January 19, 1971 when President Richard Nixon signed an executive order. It is widely known as being a top tier and premier bass fishing destination in North Florida. We recently joined the Florida Springs Council on a short expedition on the river. Strange had to abandon the property when it fell into the right-of-way of the Barge Canal project. Required fields are marked *. The dam and reservoir were the first of a set of two that the Army Corps of Engineers planned on building. “I formerly supported retaining Rodman,” Bill Rossi, a bass tournament competitor, says in the hour-and-four-minute program. Before construction on the dam began, groups were fighting against it. It is a sunken floodplain forest which was created and partially cleared to … “It is a slow process,” said Margaret Hankinson Spontak, a Marion County resident who chairs the Ocklawaha coalition. There are plenty of other resources online as well and I encourage you to seek as many out as possible. Removal of the Kirkpatrick Dam (formerly known as Rodman Dam) and freeing the Ocklawaha River will represent a tremendous victory for the environment, and will provide a lasting legacy for future generations of Floridians. At one time the Ocklawaha was slated to be part of the Cross Florida Barge Canal and was channelized and developed, the dam was part of that project. Unfortunately, the debris from years of unnatural flooding was easily kicked up which quickly reduced visibility. Water rushes from the downstream side of Rodman Dam along the Ocklawaha River. As we ventured out to the main river, we passed many large structures. Only two sections of the canal were constructed before the project was canceled. Dec 23, 2020 at 6:00 AM Seen here is Rodman Dam along the Ocklawaha River. 4. Restore 3 Rivers & 50 Springs with 1 Solution Explore the Fish of the Ocklawaha, Silver & St. Johns River Learn how restoring the Ocklawaha will uncover 20 springs drowned by the dam and help restore Silver Springs. Restoration backers such as Defenders of Wildlife  and American Rivers are hoping the video will be shared and generate talk that will reach politicians before Gov. The estimates from Florida Defender of the Environment (FDE) is 200+ manatees and 18+ species of fish would be able to migrate to the Ocklawaha from the St Johns River. The dam turns the Ocklawaha River in Lake Rodman into a 9,200-acre reservoir. 3. They include the St Johns Riverkeeper, Florida Springs Institue, and the Florida Springs Council. While waiting for the rest of the group, we chatted with other like-minded folks in the parking lot. But the video tries to undermine that resistance, arguing that Rodman’s importance as a fishery is declining and quoting an economist projecting better financial returns from restoring the river and promoting outdoor recreation like boating, birding and nature photography. Wildlife, such as black bears and the endangered manatee, would benefit by restoring land and water connectivity. Once every three to five years, it becomes necessary to have a draw-down of the lake. “The restoration of the Ocklawaha is the most important step to restoring and making the St. Johns River resilient to sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion,” said St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman, whose organization is one of about 40 groups in the coalition. If the water levels returned to normal, the river would likely expose many more springs. The Rodman dam, built for a 50-year life, was finished 52 years ago. Still, the bass like it just fine. It is consistently ranked in popular fishing magazines as one of the top ten best bass lakes in the country. This springs wasn’t as visible, and a dock that used to be anchored here had evidently washed away. From the ruins, we took a short hike over an adjacent hill and down to Tobacco Patch Landing Spring. Manatees occasionally become stuck in these locks. Within the campground, there is boat ramp access to Rodman Reservoir. In the heart of peninsular Florida, a slow-moving waterway meanders northward, enveloped by thick swamp of cypress trees. Get out there! They describe the Rodman Reservoir as home to many species of wildlife. Are you or anyone you know is in a civic or environmental group? The house was really neat, especially the custom mosaic of tiles on the floor. Historically, Blue Spring emptied to the Ocklawaha River via Indian Creek, a five-mile clear spring run, just upstream of the current location of the Rodman Dam. The groups are trying to raise their cause’s profile before the Florida Legislature meets in March, although they're not pushing any legislation about the Ocklawaha. Our first stop was at a spectacularly large cypress that is hollowed out at the bottom. The word natural. Some manatees make it into the Ocklawaha through the Rodman Lock and make it home to Silver Springs. Our boats stopped at a shallow beach near ruins known as the Dr Strange house. … Dozens of organizations would like to Free the Ocklawaha, with the main goal of partial restoration. That's a legacy of the hasty construction of the dam and reservoir in the 1960s that left many trees in the reservoir's boundary. In addition to the FDE, There are now additional proponents of restoration. The reservoir from its headwaters at Eureka Dam to … We set out to explore the lost springs of the Ocklawaha. The flooded reservoir drowned over 7,500 acres of floodplain forest and 20 freshwater springs. You can arrange a speaker to come talk about restoring the Ocklawaha: https://www.freetheocklawaha.com/schedule-a-speaker/. A little further downstream, we spotted a narrow channel, and turned right towards Cannon Spring. Though we traveled by boat, we saw several people on kayaks, floating downstream and past the springs. The Silver feeds into the Ocklawaha, which is also fed by headwaters in Central Florida's Green Swamp and by water originating in Lake Apopka, producing the St. Johns’ largest tributary. Follow the Free the Ocklawaha coalition’s page https://www.facebook.com/freetheocklawaha/ and share it with others. This would also providing additional habitat. Ron DeSantis and state lawmakers work out plans for next year’s budget. Only observed stages are available for this point. I think what baffles me is what a recent project this was. Experience the Great Florida Riverway! These were originally intended to be part of the lock system on the canal. Due to the efforts of environmentalist Marjorie Harris Carr and Florida Defenders of the Environment (FDE) who successfully campaigned against the canal. A year later President Lyndon Johnson started construction with aims to provide a quicker and safer route across Florida. Backers say reconnecting the three rivers will allow easy movement of fish including striped bass, American shad, mullet and channel and white catfish, and could draw manatees to inland areas they can only reach now by traveling through man-made locks. Spread the message about the need to finally bring down the dam. This one was smaller but a bit deeper. Seen here is Rodman Dam along the Ocklawaha River. A group called Save the Rodman Reservoir, Inc supports keeping the reservoir in its artificial state. Seen here is Rodman Dam along the Ocklawaha River. Fifty-two years after the Ocklawaha was dammed to construct the later-canceled Cross-Florida Barge Canal, they’re circulating a video that argues it’s smarter to remove much of the aging dam than pay for needed maintenance and upkeep. Other than a couple of misspellings, there is one other issue with this quote. We donned our masks and snorkels before jumping in to get a closer look. The waterway, dammed and dredged, remains in this state today. Some, like Cannon Springs, were visible again and drew visitors when reservoir levels were temporarily drawn down early this year for plant control that's done every few years. Earlier proposals to breach the dam, some dating back 25 years, were derailed by key members of the Legislature committed to protecting a popular sportfishing industry at the Rodman Reservoir. That added flow of fresh water reaching the St. Johns is something Rinaman and other activists have argued would be critical in downstream areas like Jacksonville to offset rising salinity as higher sea levels push into river’s mouth at Mayport. It is about 15 miles long almost 2 miles wide near the dam. For July 4th, 2016: Remember that the Ocklawaha River is also the northern and western boundary of the Ocala National Forest making it a USA and State of Florida river also. Having built the house alongside the river; Dr. Tree trunks and branches continually pile against the dam's upstream side. A very popular route for steamboats in the 1800’s; Many notable folks took the trip from Jacksonville to Silver Springs. It was first proposed by Philip II of Spain in 1567. American Rivers says the Rodman Dam is imperiling the waterway. When the water is low, a handful of springs re-emerge from the dark waters. That's a … It is in fact home to eagles, black bears, turkeys, turtles, alligators, and a healthy, diverse fish population. The Cross Florida Barge Canal, Forever changed these calm, primordial waters. The video, posted at greatfloridariverway.com, includes state lawmakers – Sens. Her group has fought 51 years for its dismantling to restore a free-flowing Ocklawaha from … We could see a slight blueness to the water and the shadow of an occasional fish passing over. For more than 50 years, the river and its fish and wildlife have suffered. The video is meant to encourage interest in a plan that has been called “partial restoration:” removing about 2,000 feet of the earthen dam, filling a man-made cut and letting the river return to a winding natural channel. Your email address will not be published. If a seedling manages to take root, it is quickly drowned when the water comes back up. What a great write-up, y’all! Contact Governor DeSantis and urge him to follow through with the partial restoration. We arrived early in the morning at the Eureka West Recreation Area; a section of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. The dam and reservoir were the first of a set of two that the Army Corps of Engineers planned on building. The Ocklawaha—a unique river of natural springs, abundant fish and manatees—was unnecessarily devastated in 1968, when Rodman Dam was built for a canal that was never completed. Repeatedly considered over the years; the project never moved forward as it was economically impracticable. We were now official members of the “Cannon Springs Foot Club”. Rodman Reservoir is currently in a drawdown, where the water level goes from an average of 18′ – 20′ down to approximately 11′. Tree trunks and branches continually pile against the dam's upstream side. This is where we unloaded and headed up a hill. Rodman Reservoir, a 9,500-acre lake about 15 miles southwest of Palatka, was formed in 1968 when the Corps built the first of two planned dams on the Ocklawaha River. Notify me of follow-up comments by email. A four-gate spillway (Kirkpatrick Dam) controls the water levels of the reservoir. The reservoir was created in 1968 when an earthen dam was built across the Ocklawaha River. The Cypress Bayou boat ramp is located about seven miles downriver. “Not everybody is going to get on board. Historically, the Ocklawaha river flowed from Lake Griffin to its confluence with the Silver river; then around the eastern, northern borders of the Ocala National Forest and into the St. Johns River. Florida River, Florida Springs, Florida Springs Council, Free The Ocklawaha, Kayak, Ocklawaha, river, Rodman Dam, Waterway. Rodman Reservoir, or Lake Ocklawaha, is an artificial reservoir located on the Ocklawaha River in Putnam County and Marion County in north central Florida. Supporters tout removing the dam as a step that would help three waterways – the Silver River in Marion County, the Ocklawaha and the St. Johns – by reestablishing connections that marine life depended on before the dam was created in 1968. In 1963 the project obtained support from President John F. Kennedy, who set aside one million dollars to the project. admin "Springs of the Ocklawaha River from Rodman Dam (River Mile 12) to Eureka Dam (River Mile 33): A Slide Show by Paul Nosca" 32 slide-show views that portray most of … It also features fishermen saying their views have changed. Your email address will not be published. Swimming back over to the main spring for a minute, the whole group posed, doing a handstand in the water. We were asked to join a boat tour of the river by the Florida Springs Council. They also state that draining the Rodman Reservoir would (sic)“displace many endangered or threatened species of wildlife in Florida. Entering the spring run, the water became increasingly clear. When the artificial lake returns, they will be shrouded in darkness until the next draw-down. These trees are clearly in poor condition, and many have died from the unnaturally high waters in the reservoir. Rodmans waters, located southwest of Palatka, cover approximately 9600 acres. The largest of several large lakes in the Ocklawaha's watershed is the badly polluted Lake Apopka near Orlando. It’s a shame that there are people in this world that can’t leave well enough alone! The Rodman dam, built for a 50-year life, was finished 52 years ago. The Rodman Reservoir or Lake Ocklawaha is an artificial reservoir located on the Ocklawaha River in Putnam and Marion County. This is because the lack of dry land around the trees other than when the draw-down occurs. 2. The outreach this month by the Free the Ocklawaha River Coalition aims to raise new followers by rebranding the Ocklawaha as “the heart of the Great Florida Riverway,” a marketer's name for a 217-mile system of waterways — including the St. Johns River’s lower basin — that shape North Florida the way the Everglades define South Florida. This can be done through this form: https://www.flgov.com/email-the-governor/ Let him know why this is important to you and our environment. Flooded waters behind the dam suffocate a forest of established cypress trees and cover azure-blue springs in silt and muck. The Ocklawaha flows approximately 9 miles downstream from the dam into the St. Johns River. This is due to the accumulation of invasive plants and muck. Restroom: At Kirkpatrick Dam: Information Center: Four major public boat ramps on the eastern shore of the river provide river access for boaters: Eureka Dam; Kirkpatrick Dam (Rodman) ON BOTH SIDES OF THE DAM The Ocklawaha River was dammed in 1968. During the most recent draw-down starting in late 2019, we received a special invite. The Florida Trail Association hiking trail and an atv trail is located one mile west of the campground. It is now part of the State Park System. 15 miles of water that covers 9,500 acres makes this destination one of the best bass fishing locations in the state of Florida. They went as far to draft a map to show the recreational opportunities that would arise from such a restoration. Coalition members “want to get the governor’s attention,” Rinaman said. A national river advocacy group on Tuesday named the Ocklawaha River as … It would be devasting to the unique ecosystem and a trajedy to deny future generations a natural paradise such as Rodman.”. Since the late 1960s, a trickle of the natural flow makes it to the longest river … Show your Support for a Free-flowing Ocklawaha. Natural: existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind. Hopping out of the boat, we took a few minutes to check out the tree and take a few pictures. Guest column: Breaching Rodman dam will reveal 20 lost springs of the Ocklawaha River. Before embarking on our voyage downstream, we went over the main issues, complete with a very informative map. In 1997, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection presented a plan to remove the dam. And interesting history about the area. It's weedy, mucky and filled with submerged stumps. The video’s backers say Jacksonville has a lot at stake in the decision. But we need to listen.”, More: Waters close to Duval on ‘most endangered’ list for country. Her group has fought 51 years for its dismantling to restore a free-flowing Ocklawaha from Silver Springs to the St. Johns River and Atlantic Ocean. We believe the citizens of our beautiful state can convince lawmakers. The US Forest Service has mentioned it for inclusion as a "Wild and Scenic River." Traveling north towards the next spring, we took note of the cypress lining the main river. Springs vent water from aquifers underground, but the video quotes a geologist saying the flow would increase by up to 150 million gallons a day without the reservoir covering them. Show Your Support! A year after she died in 1997, the right-of-way surrounding the canal was named in her honor. Created in 1968, the Rodman Reservoir built the earthen dam across the Ocklawaha River, leading to the St Johns River. It was the most beautiful sight, until the Florida Barge Canal came through and destroyed it all! Marjorie Harris Carr fought along with the FDE, to bring the river back to its natural condition. Location: This section of the Ocklawaha River is located between the Rodman ( Kirkpatrick ) Dam, on Rodman Dam Road, Palatka, Fl and Hwy 19 in the Caravelle Ranch Wildlife Management Area. The Rodman Reservoir, also known as Lake Ocklawaha, is a fabricated lake located on the Ocklawaha River. They're also circulating requests for people to email DeSantis to show their support for restoration. Back at the boats, we ventured downriver for a few hundred feet, before turning back upstream to Eureka. Several different sized fish watched us curiously as we descended into the shallow waters; debris swirled around a couple of rocky vents at bottom. The idea of a canal to connect the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean across Florida had been around for centuries. Seen here is Rodman Dam along the Ocklawaha River. The largest of these Lost Springs in terms of flow and surface area was Marion Blue Spring, privately owned but open to all for recreational pursuits, including fishing and swimming. Saturday 6/24/17 was the 1-Year Anniversary of the creation of this "FREE THE OCKLAWAHA RIVER BY THE BREACHING OF RODMAN DAM" online petition. “[B]ut then I became not just a supporter, but a strong supporter of restoring the Ocklawaha. People also launch canoes and kayaks here or watch the numerous bird species that frequent the dam and spillway area. The waters of the Ocklawaha are especially dark, which allows for spectacular reflections with the right lighting. SOME also perish at the Rodman Dam trying to get back to the St Johns. Breaching the dam would lower water levels along miles of waterway between the dam and Eureka in Marion County, and backers say doing that would allow people to experience about 20 natural springs that are now hidden under the reservoir. That's a legacy of … The Rodman Reservoir, also known as Lake Ocklawaha, is a fabricated lake located on the Ocklawaha River. The drawdown exposes the original Ocklawaha River channel along with the remains of hundreds of Cypress tree stumps that once lined the banks of the river. After a short safety briefing, we loaded onto a couple of pontoon boats, and cruised downstream. Kirkpatrick Dam is less than a mile west of the campground and offers a boat ramp to the Ocklawaha River, fishing piers, picnic areas and restrooms. The Ocklawaha River is the principal tributary of the St. Johns River. The Ocklawaha River watershed includes parts of the Green Swamp, most of Lake County, and portions of Marion, Alachua and Putnam counties. Extending over seventy miles, the Ocklawaha River and its dark waters are home to a multitude of wildlife. The FDE sued the corps of engineers, which granted a temporary injunction. An all-around eco-mess. The forest is also unable to reproduce. We sure miss the way the Ocklawaha River looked when we were growing up in the Ocala National Forest. View this classic circa-1945 video from the USDA Forest Service about the Ocala National Forest and bass fishing the Ocklawaha River! Along the river, Silver Springs is the closest town to the Ocklawaha River at the south end of the Ocala National Forest, and Eureka and Salt springs to the north. The springs will only be visible until March 1st 2020, when the reservoir is planned to begin filling up. Several springs known as ‘hidden’ or ‘lost’ springs’ are also now revealed with the lower water level and today’s paddle takes Florida Paddle Notes to a few of these springs. Tree trunks and branches continually pile against the dam's upstream side. This SIGN-FOR-FREE $$$ petition had 2,112 supporters and more than 550 favorable comments as of that date. Florida State Parks, Hiking, Kayaking, National Forests, Ocala National Forest, Spring, Sunshine State, Waterways It seems to me that the cost of retaining Rodman is very much too high.”. One may ask “what is the Rodman Reservoir?” To explain, it starts with the history of the never completed, Cross Florida Barge Canal. (The DEP is the same government agency responsible for the Florida State Parks System.) The section of the reservoir from its headwaters at Eureka Dam to Paynes Landing consists of flooded woodlands. About Lake Ocklawaha: Lake Ocklawaha was formed by Rodman Dam (now renamed the Kirkpatrick Dam). 1. Based in north-central Florida, it was built along the Ocklawaha River to aid navigation along the Cross Florida Barge Canal. According to our guide, Dr Strange was a friend of Marjorie Rawlings, the author of The Yearling and Cross Creek. They wait for a boat to come, in hopes that humans will allow them passage through their manufactured gate. Alligators drift past wading birds and raptors, a variety of fish species, and the occasional manatee. NOTE: Forecasts are not available for the Ocklawaha River at Rodman Dam. This can be all be changed, by removing the dam, and restoring the river to its natural state. Launch point: The launch is located at Kirkpatrick Dam Canoe/Kayak Launch on the west side of the dam spillway. A trip can be arranged using Eureka West as a launch point. https://www.instagram.com/swampandspring/, https://www.flgov.com/email-the-governor/, https://www.facebook.com/freetheocklawaha/, https://www.freetheocklawaha.com/schedule-a-speaker/. However, the project officially canceled in 1991. Based in north-central Florida, it was built along the Ocklawaha River to aid navigation along the Cross Florida Barge Canal. Restoring this river needs to become a state-wide issue, known to those outside of just the local community. Rodman Reservoir is legendary for the number of trophy Florida bass it has produced over the years ever since it was created. Share your adventure to encourage others as well. From the main spring, we swam about a hundred feet north to another small spring. Though the structure serves no functional purpose, local proponents “Save the Rodman Reservoir” fight for the dam. So shameful! Restoring the function of the Ocklawaha River and its associated floodplain forest that are now submerged beneath Rodman Reservoir is a relatively straightforward process and can be accomplished at a cost far less than most restoration projects. 2 Other organizations hope to educate the public about the environmental stress the artificial lake causes on a daily basis. Cypress trees bordered the river on both sides, trunks stained for the first few feet from the typically higher waterline. 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