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The Water Channel

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Protecting Florida's Groundwater Supply

Florida's aquifer - the source of drinking water and water flowing from its springs - is vulnerable to overuse, pollution and drought. Protecting the aquifer is one of DEP's highest priorities. Learn about efforts in the Tampa Bay region to diversify water resources.

Protecting Florida's Water Supply

Discover Florida's Freshwater Springs

Image of Ichetucknee Spring near Ft. White is one of many springs that contribute to the Suwannee River's flow.

Florida is blessed with one of the largest concentrations of freshwater springs in the world. These amazing ecosystems provide habitat for manatees and many other unique species as well as recreational opportunities for residents and visitors. They also provide a unique glimpse into the health of our aquifer.

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Learn About Your Watershed

Ochlockonee River Watershed

Image of The Ochlockonee River originates in Georgia and flows 206 miles to Ochlockonee Bay.
The Ochlockonee River originates in Georgia and flows 206 miles to Ochlockonee Bay. © DEP

Watershed Stats

Size of Basin: The two watersheds cover approximately 3,600 square miles of north Florida and south Georgia. The Ochlockonee watershed's total area is 2,416 square miles, with approximately 1,080 square miles in Florida. The Apalachee-St. Marks watershed drains 1,204 square miles.

Major Cities and Towns: Tallahassee, Woodville, Quincy, Bradfordville, Havana, Greensboro, Gretna, Monticello, Crawfordville, Sopchoppy, St. Marks, and Panacea

Counties: Leon and Wakulla Counties, significant parts of Gadsden and Jefferson Counties, and smaller parts of Liberty and Franklin Counties

Major Water Features:
Ochlockonee River , Ocklawaha Creek, Bradwell Bay, Sopchoppy River, Ochlockonee Bay, St. Marks River, Wakulla River, St. Marks Spring, Wakulla Springs, Apalachee Bay, Munson Slough, Ames Sink, Spring Creek, Spring Creek Springs System, Lake Munson, Lake Jackson, Fred George Sink, Meginniss Arm Branch, Jackson Heights Branch, Lake Lafayette Chain of Lakes, and Lafayette Creek

Overview

Image of Lake Talquin Reservoir is the watershed's largest lake. It is an impoundment of the Ochlockonee River built in 1929 for power generation. In fact, the lake hosts one of only two hydroelectric power plants in Florida. Today, Lake Talquin is a very popular fishing and recreation area.
Lake Talquin Reservoir is the watershed's largest lake. It is an impoundment of the Ochlockonee River built in 1929 for power generation. In fact, the lake hosts one of only two hydroelectric power plants in Florida. Today, Lake Talquin is a very popular fishing and recreation area. © DEP

The Ochlockonee River originates in Worth County, Georgia, and receives flow from innumerable tributaries along its 206-mile course southward to Ochlockonee Bay. Forty-five percent of the total watershed lies within Florida.

The main tributaries of the Ochlockonee River in Florida are Telogia Creek, Little River, and Sopchoppy River. Most of these rivers and streams are alluvial. River and stream flow is a combination of runoff from rainfall, ground water seepage, and springs.

Image of Sopchoppy River is a blackwater stream that intersects with Ochlocknee River near the bay.
Sopchoppy River is a blackwater stream that intersects with Ochlocknee River near the bay. Alan Cressler

There are more than 300 lakes in the Ochlockonee watershed, totaling 24,261 acres. Karst features are more evident east of the Ochlockonee River, and many lakes in this area are formed in solution basins and swampy depressions. Lake Iamonia, one of the larger lakes in the region, is grass filled and contains only small, open water areas. It drains through sinkholes or empties during periods of drought. The lake has an intermittent connection to the Ochlockonee River and receives flows from the river during high water.

From the Florida-Georgia state line, the Ochlockonee River flows across northwestern Leon County and eastern Gadsden County before it reaches the Lake Talquin Reservoir, the area's largest lake. It is an impoundment of the Ochlockonee River built in 1929 for power generation; however, the lake has become more important for recreational purposes. Numerous fish camps and homes are located on the lake.

Image of Sun sets on Ochlockonee Bay.
Sun sets on Ochlockonee Bay. Russell Sparkman

Flows are tidally influenced in the Ochlockonee River near the coast, the Sopchoppy River, and Crooked River. The coastal area also contains coastal dune lakes, flatwood lakes, and river floodplain or oxbow lakes along the Ochlockonee River. Coastal dune lakes form from sand dunes that were once part of relict shorelines along coastal and near-coastal areas. An example is Tucker Lake, in the southern part of the Ochlockonee watershed in Franklin County. The region's flatwood areas contain numerous shallow ponds that form in poorly drained areas. Oxbow lakes form where river channel meanders become isolated over time. There are several notable oxbow lakes along the Ochlockonee River, such as Bone Bluff Lake, Silver Lake, and Red Lake.


Human Impacts

Image of Pollutants in stormwater are major threats to lakes in the watershed including Lake Jackson. FDEP's Richard Drew explains the function of one such pond that intercepts and holds stormwater runoff just north of Tallahassee Mall before it flows to Lake Jackson.
Pollutants in stormwater are major threats to lakes in the watershed including Lake Jackson. FDEP's Richard Drew explains the function of one such pond that intercepts and holds stormwater runoff just north of Tallahassee Mall before it flows to Lake Jackson. Russell Sparkman

Lake Jackson, the area's most heavily used recreational lake, is threatened by the stormwater runoff it receives from roads, commercial areas, and residential subdivisions, including the interstate highway corridor (Interstate 10) and the city of Tallahassee. Algal blooms were common in portions of the lake by the late 1980s. Meginniss Arm, which receives the heaviest load of urban stormwater, contained sediments with detectable levels of petroleum hydrocarbons and heavy metals. Hydrilla, an invasive aquatic plant, dominates the eastern portion of the lake. Fish in Lake Jackson have shown a high incidence of disease. Benthic macroinvertebrate populations, which provide an indicator of the lake's biological health, are low in both number and species richness.

Stormwater pollution from development also threatens several smaller lakes in the area, most notably Lake Hall and Carr Lake. Blue-green algal blooms and aquatic weed problems persist.

Aquatic plant growth is a concern in Lake Iamonia. Accumulations of organic muck from decomposing aquatic vegetation have choked the lake, prompting the Fish and Wildlife Commission to initiate a project to remove muck and tussocks, which form mounds that choke open water areas.

In recognition of these impacts, FDEP, the Northwest Florida Water Management District (NWFWMD), and local governmental, scientific, educational, and citizen organizations are working to develop strategies for protecting and restoring water quality and quantity in the Ochlockonee Basin.

Interesting Facts:

  • Lakes Jackson and Iamonia periodically drain through sinkholes.
  • The baseflow of most of the streams in the Ochlockonee watershed is low compared with streams in other areas of northwestern Florida.
  • Lake Talquin, created for power generation in 1929 by the construction of the Jackson Bluff Dam on the Ochlockonee River, is among the oldest of the large reservoirs in the state.
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