In this section
Urban areas and natural lands surround the Wekiva River.
The Wekiva River system includes many unique attributes and is located within the Middle St. Johns River Basin. The flow of the Wekiva River originates from a combination of springs and surface drainage from the region. The Wekiva River system in Orange, Seminole and Lake counties includes the main stem of the Wekiva River, three main tributaries (Rock Springs Run, Blackwater Creek and the Little Wekiva River), and 30 contributing groundwater springs.
The Wekiva River begins in Wekiwa Springs State Park, and shortly downstream connects with the mouth of Rock Springs Run. Further downstream, two other major tributaries, the Little Wekiva River and Black Water Creek, flow into the Wekiva River prior to its connection to the St. Johns River. Rock Springs Run and Black Water Creek flow predominantly through state-owned land and remain relatively undisturbed, whereas the Little Wekiva River is located primarily within urbanized central Florida. The Wekiva River continues for about 14 miles and downstream (just north) of Lake Monroe it enters the St. Johns River.
The southern-most tributary to the Wekiva River is the Little Wekiva River, which is the only main tributary to the Wekiva River that is influenced by the highly developed Orlando area. The Wekiva River is located within an area of Karst (limestone) geology, where the surface water and groundwater are closely connected. Spring flow from springs in the basin is supplied mostly by the Floridan aquifer, and encompasses approximately 60 percent or more of the total flow within the Wekiva River. Because of this, the river’ water quality and flow expand beyond the surface water drainage basin, or watershed, to also include the larger groundwater basin (springshed).
The beauty and ecologic value provided by this spring system are numerous, as are the challenges in management and improvement of these complex systems. The key concern in the Wekiva River is the high nutrient levels, particularly nitrate, that can result in excessive algal growth within the spring runs. The St. Johns River Water Management District recognizes that additional research is necessary to fully understand the complexity of the unique spring systems, and is working with other experts and stakeholders to address these issues.
Sunlight breaks through tree cover along the shore of the Wekiva River.
The District has been working for more than a decade to address issues that plague the Wekiva and its tributaries, and work continues today. Accomplishments include:
- Development of pollutant load reduction goals (PRLGs) to determine the amount of pollutants that need to stop flowing into the river in order to restore the waterway.
- Adoption by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) of total maximum daily loads (TMDLs).
- Development of Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) allocations in cooperation with DEP, local governments and stakeholders to meet TMDLs.
A tricolored heron tiptoes through a marsh.
Other accomplishments in the area include:
- Designation of the river as an Outstanding Florida Water, an Aquatic Preserve, and a National Wild and Scenic River.
- Passage by the Florida Legislature (in 1988) of the Wekiva River Protection Act, which established the Wekiva River Protection Area and required the river’s surrounding counties to amend their comprehensive plans and land development rules to deter wetlands losses and protect wildlife and its habitats.
- Establishment of special rules (through the District) for development in the basin that require additional stormwater treatment and established protection zones along the waterways to preserve wetlands, uplands and water quality, and reduce erosion and groundwater drawdown.
- Passage of the Wekiva Parkway and Protection Act in 2004 to establish the Wekiva Study Area and provide guiding principles for the development of the Wekiva Parkway, thus completing the Orlando Beltway, while also ensuring greater protection of the surface and groundwater resources of the Wekiva River system. The legislation states “…the Wekiva River System and its associated springshed areas are of irreplaceable value to the quality of life and well-being of the people of the state of Florida…”
Updated on 1-2-2013