More Than a River

By Kathalyn Gaither

Wekiva RiverDid you know that when you step into the cool waters at Wekiwa Springs State Park, or when you paddle your canoe across the water’s surface along the Wekiva River, you’re moving through an aquatic preserve? Nearly half a century ago, when it became apparent that the beautiful and natural ecosystems that attracted so many people to Florida could not support rapid growth without science-based resource protection, the Florida Legislature designated 41 aquatic preserves, encompassing nearly 2 million acres of submerged lands.

The Wekiva River-Middle St. Johns Aquatic Preserve is one of these preserves. Wekiwa Spring, at the southern end of the aquatic preserve, is famous for its clear, cool water, enjoyed by swimmers, snorkelers, canoeists and kayakers, who explore the spring run as it flows to the Wekiva River. The river begins at the confluence of Wekiwa Spring Run and Rock Springs Run. Its 15-mile northerly course alternates between wide, sunny stretches of slow-moving water and narrow, shady passages of swift-moving current. The Little Wekiva River, Blackwater Creek and more than 30 springs contribute their waters to the Wekiva as it winds its way north and joins the St Johns River.

The people who work at the aquatic preserve are involved in a wide range of activities dedicated to improving all parts of this riverine system. These activities include education programs, habitat restoration, wetland bird monitoring and exotic plant and animal control. They also train river stewards, who promote cleanups, stormwater projects and other activities that benefit the watershed. During the past year, Wekiva Aquatic Preserve staff partnered with The Rotary Club of Seminole County South to increase public awareness of the ecological value of the Wekiva River Basin and encourage personal stewardship through individual actions such as properly maintaining septic systems, using native plants in landscaping and following best management practices for fertilizer application.

Learn more about the wildlife that live within and around the 41 preserves, the recreational opportunities and the cultural heritage that they hold.

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