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.
The Little Wekiva River and Blackwater Creek are two major tributaries of the Wekiva. The Blackwater Creek flows south out of Lake Norris and confluxes with the run of the springs from of the privately owned Seminole Woods. Most of the Blackwater flows through a state forest and Florida DEP land. Much of the Wekiva, including its confluence with the St. Johns, is inside the state Wekiva River Aquatic Preserve.
The interconnected Wekiva system includes 42 miles of flowing river and over 34 named springs. An extensive floodplain of hardwood forest, approximately three miles wide in some areas, provides habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals including dozens that are endangered, threatened, or of special concern.
The wood stork, an endangered species, nests in cypress trees and is often seen feeding in certain shallow areas of the river. The little blue heron, tri-colored heron and limpkin, species of special concern, nest and forage along the banks of the Wekiva. Threatened plant species such as the needle palm, butterfly and water orchids, and Florida shield fern, are also found here.
Other protected animals include the gopher tortoise, the Florida Black Bear, the American Alligator and the Bald Eagle. Common aquatic animals include a number of turtle species, otters, bass and bream. Regularly scheduled hunting seasons in certain parcels target white-tailed deer, wild boar, and turkeys.
In addition to its status as a state Aquatic Preserve, the Wekiva is as an Outstanding Florida Water, a State Canoe Trail, and a "wild river" in the State Scenic and Wild Rivers program. It is also the only river system in Florida designated for its entire length as a federal Wild & Scenic River.
The Wekiva River watershed with its upland, wetland and riverine habitats provides a vital wildlife corridor connecting thousands of acres of publicly owned conservation lands to the Ocala National Forest. The most dense population of Florida Black Bears uses this corridor for migrational needs. Despite threats of habitat loss on private land, stormwater runoff, a decline in the magnitude of major springs and an increase in nutrients, the Wekiva remains one of the rare natural "gems" of this region. [Information courtesy Florida DEP, Seminole State Forest, and Friends of the Wekiva River, Inc.]
Designations & Protections
Only river in Florida protected for its entire length as a Federal Wild & Scenic River Designated as a State Wild & Scenic River Outstanding Florida Water, State Canoe Trail, and is a State Aquatic Preserve.
Protected special state law specifies how private land should be developed in the Basin to keep its character as "rural."
Public ownership of land as a State Parks Preserve, Reserve and a State Forrest account for protecting 110 square miles of the Wekiva River Basin.