The Oklawaha and Silver rivers offer us a unique glimpse into our past that must be protected for future generations to cherish." - Jeff Sowards, Aquatic Preserve Manager
Because of its location in the central highlands and its protection from geological fluctuations in sea level, the Oklawaha River is one of the oldest rivers in Florida.
The dark-water Oklawaha, spring-run Silver River and their floodplain swamp support a diverse natural system of flora and fauna.
The 72 degree F water is home to 41 species of fish representing 12 families of fishes.
This area is rich in cultural resources; human habitation dates back to 7500 B.C.
Forty-three percent of federally listed threatened or endangered species rely directly or indirectly on wetlands for their survival.
The aquatic preserve focuses heavily on nonnative invasive species management. This includes removal of invasive fish species Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus, or the vermiculated sailfin catfish, as well as chemical treatment and manual removal of nonnative invasive plants.
Education and Outreach
Programs to educate Marion and Citrus county students in aquatic ecology are conducted by the aquatic preserve throughout the year. Over 500 students from area schools are given educational programs annually on wildlife ecology during field trips by aquatic preserve staff.
ORAP has been a featured exhibitor at the annual Florida SpringsFest event held at Silver Springs State Park since the origin of the festival. ORAP hosts an interactive exhibit where festival attendants can gain hands on experience with freshwater turtle species and can learn about native and nonnative species of plants and animals within the preserve. Approximately 5,000 people attend the festival annually.
Water quality is one of the primary issues of importance for Oklawaha River Aquatic Preserve. Without adequate safeguards, historical land use or changes in current land uses often lead to degradation of water quality through increased nutrient loads. The aquatic preserve monitors the quality of the water through monthly water chemistry sampling and quarterly nutrient sampling.
The Ocklawaha and Silver rivers can be enjoyed by canoeists and kayakers; surrounding areas provide opportunities for hiking and primitive camping. The Ocala National Forest borders the river before it turns and flows to the St. Johns River.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.