Skip to content
FOWR Banner Image

Watch a Video

Welcome

Since 1982 the Friends of the Wekiva River have worked to protect, preserve, and restore the natural functions and beauty of the Wekiva River system. As a result of our leadership and the cooperation of our river partners, the Wekiva is designated a Florida Outstanding Water, a Florida Canoe Trail, an Aquatic Preserve, and a National Wild and Scenic River with over 70,000 acres of state-protected lands in the basin.
Despite this ample recognition, the Wekiva River and its fragile ecosystem face numerous threats. These include the fragmentation and loss of habitat, declines in spring flow, degradation in water quality, and wildlife mortality on the roads. Our members work on issues that affect the Wekiva, ranging from pollution to smart growth to the welfare of wildlife, including bears. Learn more about what we are doing. Read more on our issues page.
Need to reach us?
E- mail: FriendsWekivaRiver@gmail.com
Mail: P.O.Box 916196
Longwood FL 32791- 6196

Download a PDF

The River

The Wekiva River is one of the few remaining near-pristine river systems in central Florida. Over 110 square miles of its basin are protected as parks, preserves, and state forests. Its headwaters begin at the confluence of Wekiwa Spring Run and Rock Spring Run. Waters creating the Wekiva arise from the Floridan aquifer as clear, freshwater springs and from drainage of its watershed, including adjacent hardwood swamps. Climatic zones of warm temperate and subtropical meet here, and biological diversity of plants and animals is very high as a result.

Blog

In memory of Bill Belleville

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Bill Belleville, renowned Florida environmental activist and true Friend of the Wekiva and St. Johns Rivers died in Sanford in August. Bill served on the board of the Friends of the Wekiva River for several decades. He held the position of vice president and was actively involved in dozens of activities. He was particularly good at leading field trips and articulating the importance of conservation through references to native American culture, biology, literature, and his own spiritual connection to the river system.

Bill was a noted author of books and short stories about the beauty and vulnerability of central Florida’s waterways. He produced inspiring films documenting the splendor of Florida’s springs and rivers and their susceptibility to pollution and groundwater withdrawal. He was an influential speaker with an ability to move audiences with beautiful prose in speeches that blended art and science. As much as anything, he was a passionate outdoorsman who believed that to genuinely love and appreciate nature you had to deeply experience it.

A few years ago, Bill and Steve Phelan spearheaded an effort to identify what they called the “Hidden Springs of Black Water Creek” in the Wekiva basin. They used topo maps to estimate the locations of previously un-mapped springheads deep in the woods of Seminole State Forest. They then traipsed through the woods to see if these candidate sites included small springs that fed the Creek – several sites did. Afterwards, Bill and Steve led Friends of the Wekiva River field trips where Bill described the ancient ecology of Shark-tooth Springs, discussed the importance of the isolated spring runs to the evolution of unique species of snails, and cited poetry that unveiled the emotions he felt while immersed in those unique landscapes. Those kinds of trips were great experiences for novice and knowledgeable adventurers, and Bill led many of them.

Bill was a stalwart advocate, motivating communicator and an enduring Friend of the Wekiva River. He is already missed.

 

Sentiments

 

Bill Belleville was an extraordinary mentor, colleague, teacher, and friend. Although I was already a fan of his writing we didn’t meet until the founding of Equinox Documentaries. There we combined our hopes of helping Floridians find a sense of place and, therefore, love of the state’s natural wonders. Bill often spoke to my classes at Rollins College and led field trips into the wilds of Central Florida where students pondered why there were ancient shark teeth in freshwater streams. Together we slogged through many palmetto stands to find native mounds and remnants of old settlements and we kayaked through area waters, stopping to admire beautiful flowers or massive alligators. He helped me better understand the beauty of Florida, so beautifully expressed in his writing. He was Florida’s Thoreau and my friend. He will be greatly missed.

—-Leslie Poole, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Rollins College

 

I first met Bill when Seminole Audubon Society (SAS) along with Friends of the Wekiva River (FOWR), Sierra Club, and numerous Sanford residents were opposing the Astor Farms development in Sanford. Bill wrote an article about urban sprawl using the specifics of the then-proposed development as a prime example of sprawl and leap-frog development. The article was picked up by the national Sierra Club magazine.

At that time Bill was working on his first book, River of Lakes: A Journey on Florida’s St. Johns River. In my mind, this was Bill’s masterpiece in which he describes his journey down the 310-mile length of the St. Johns River. He shares his experiences and insights gained while kayaking, boating, hiking its banks, diving its springs, and exploring its underwater caves. I rarely reread books, but this one I have read three times, and I still pick it up now and then to read a chapter.

Bill described himself as a nonfiction writer specializing in nature and conservation. He authored six books, contributed to eight national anthologies, wrote over 1000 articles, scripted and co-produced seven films. All his work has the thread of the importance of establishing connections between people and places. As I write this I can hear Bill at one of the FOWR Board meetings we attended together over the last twenty years saying we need to facilitate people making a connection with natural Florida whether it be on the Wekiva River, in Seminole State Forest, or another of Florida’s special places. Once that connection is made they will then care about it and help us to preserve it. This is a thread in all his works.

Bill gave willingly of his time and talents to various non-profits, his favorites being FOWR and St Johns Riverkeeper. On numerous occasions, Bill was a guest speaker for SAS meetings. He loved and cared for Florida in ways few others have done, and he will be missed by all of us in the environmental community.

—-Faith Jones, Board member, FOWR

 

We first met Bill in the very early days of the FOWR and he quickly became a friend and a very active member of the board. Bill was a frequent contributor to the monthly FOWR newsletter and he was a fervent and involved board member. He was an excellent writer, explorer and adventurer and he knew his ”home”, the Wekiva lands and waters better than anyone; he loved to share that knowledge.

We always enjoyed his company, the thoughtful conversations we had with him and the sharing of a good laugh.  He was an avid and enthusiastic advocate for the Wekiva River and Wekiwa Springs; it is hard to believe he is gone.

—–Pat & Fred Harden, founding members of the FOWR

 

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”- The Peace of Blue- Bill Belleville

Bill served on the board of the Friends of the Wekiva and served as vice president. He valued and shared his expertise and communicated the importance of conservation. He used references to American culture, biology, literature, and his own spiritual connection to the river system to inform audiences and hikers.

Bill was a noted author of books, articles, and short stories about the beauty and vulnerability of central Florida’s waterways. He partnered and produced inspiring films documenting the splendor of Florida’s springs and rivers and their susceptibility to pollution and groundwater deprevation. He was an influential speaker with an ability to move audiences with beautiful prose in speeches that blended art and science. As much as anything, he was a passionate outdoorsman who believed that to genuinely love and appreciate nature you had to deeply experience it.

A few years ago, Bill and Steve Phelan spearheaded an effort to identify what they called the “Hidden Springs of Black Water Creek” in the Wekiva basin. They used topo maps to estimate the locations of previously un-mapped springheads deep in the woods of Seminole State Forest. They then traipsed through the woods to see if these candidate sites included small springs that fed the Creek – several sites did. Afterwards, Bill and Steve led Friends of the Wekiva River field trips where Bill described the ancient ecology of Shark-tooth Springs, discussed the importance of the isolated spring runs to the evolution of unique species of snails, and cited poetry that unveiled the emotions he felt while immersed in those unique landscapes. Those kinds of trips were great experiences for novice and knowledgeable adventurers, and Bill led many of them.

Bill was a stalwart advocate, motivating communicator, and an enduring friend of the Wekiva River. All who knew him will miss his kindness and wealth of knowledge.

Enjoy and remember Bill while reading this selected list of books. You will find a “peace of blue.”

• “The Peace of Blue: Water Journeys”

• “Salvaging the Real Florida: Lost & Found in the State of Dreams”.

• “Deep Cuba: The Inside Story of an American Oceanographic Expedition

• “Sunken Cities, Sacred Cenotes and Golden Sharks: Travels of a Water-Bound Adventurer”.

• “Losing it All to Sprawl: How Progress Ate my Cracker Landscape”

• “River of Lakes: A Journey on Florida’s St. Johns River”

   —– Carole Hinshaw, board member, Friends of the Wekiva River

Announcements

 

State hearing on Wekiva's Future 

 
Note: We're awaiting ruling from the state hearing in November
 
Wekiva Springs and Rock Springs are facing their biggest challenge in decades. A state plan that is supposed to protect the health of these springs plus Rock Springs Run and the Wekiva River instead leaves these treasures vulnerable to pollution and the resulting algae that is choking these waterways and threatening plants and wildlife. We need help challenging this plan in a legal hearing and are asking for donations to help fund this vital effort.
 
The 2016 Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act requires a Basin Management Action Plan, known as a BMAP, for 30 Florida outstanding springs. These plans are meant to restore ailing springs and reduce pollutants. But many of the plans, including the one for Wekiva and Rock Springs, fall far short. The Friends of the Wekiva River and other conservation organizations are gearing up for a fight to force the state Department of Environmental Protection to include strong measures to reduce pollution.
We are asking for your help in this battle for the future of our springs and quality of life. Any amount will help. Just  make your tax-deductible donation via the PayPal button on this website with the notation “Legal Fund.” Thank you so much.
 
You can read more about the Wekiva and Rock Springs BMAP on our website and also in the media, such as this recent op-ed in The Orlando Sentinel https://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-op-florida-plan-to-save-springs-lacking-20181226-story.html  Conservationists around the state are similarly standing up for their springs. Together, we can ensure these jewels are protected now and for future generations.
 

PLEASE JOIN OR RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP

FOWR membership is invaluable because you help keep us strong. Your support helps us defend the Wekiva and educate future generations who will need to take up the work of ensuring this remains one of Central Florida's environmental jewels.

Please click on the following link and renew your membership for 2020. The Wekiva River and the wildlife who live within the basin are depending on you!!!

www.friendsofwekiva.org/membership/