Activate the St. Johns River

Activate the St. Johns River

From March 18 to April 2, 2017, paddling trips, eco-tours, and other opportunities to experience and explore the St. Johns River and its tributaries will be available throughout the river’s watershed.

Join one of the scheduled events or plan your own outing with your friends, family, or organization.

By getting out on the water, we will:

  • Raise awareness of the wonders of the St. Johns and the pollution problems that threaten our river’s future.
  • Provide opportunities for the public to experience the wildlife, beauty, and special places of the river.
  • Showcase the tremendous recreational and economic opportunities provided by the St. Johns.
  • Highlight businesses that depend on the St. Johns and the economic benefits of a clean and healthy river.
  • Demonstrate strong public support for protecting and restoring our river.
  • Send a powerful message to our elected leaders that we must Save the St. Johns.
  • Have fun exploring one of our state’s most important waterways!

 By activating the St. Johns, we can make a powerful statement about the river’s importance, while introducing new audiences to the wonders of this magical waterway.

Click here for a flyer that you share with your friends, family, and colleagues.   Read this letter to our partners, if you are interested in organizing or hosting an event as part of the Save the St. Johns - Activate the River campaign. 

Visit www.savethestjohns.org for more information about scheduled outings and trips throughout the watershed. 

Petition Filed to Challenge Sleepy Creek Lands Permit

JANUARY 9, 2017




Palatka, FL – St. Johns Riverkeeper, Florida Defenders of the Environment, Silver Springs Alliance, and Ocala resident Alice Gardiner jointly filed a petition today for a formal administrative hearing to contest the issuance of the Sleepy Creek Ranch Consumptive Use Permit (CUP) for an 84% increase in its water allocation.  Click here to read the petition. 

Two years ago, the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) staff recommended denial of the permit request based on anticipated adverse effects on spring flows and a determination that an "increase in allocation of 1.12 mgd of groundwater is not consistent with the public interest...."

On December 12, 2016, the SJRWMD reversed its decision and now recommends issuing the permit based on a new version of the Northern District Model, a large-scale scientific model used to establish minimum flows and levels for waterways. A recent peer-review of the new version of the model indicated that the model is proprietary and uses non-peer reviewed code, preventing members of the public from being able to verify the results and validate its use.

The petitioners are seeking an administrative hearing to challenge the appropriateness of the model, along with the assertion that Sleepy Creek Lands provided reasonable assurances that the proposed withdrawals would not cause harmful impacts to Silver Springs and the Silver River and that the project is in the public interest.

A rally to demonstrate opposition to proposed permit will still take place at the St. Johns River Water Management headquarters in Palatka on Tuesday, January 10. While the SJRWMD Governing Board will not take a vote on this harmful permit on Tuesday due to the petition, citizens are encouraged to attend to voice support for our springs and rivers at the rally and during the public comment period at the meeting.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017 10:00 AM
SJRWMD Headquarters
4049 Reid Street, Palatka 32177

Sleepy Creek Lands Back For More

Sleepy Creek Lands Back For More Save Silver!

Sleepy Creek Lands (formerly known as Adena Springs Ranch) and its the Canadian billionaire owner, Frank Stronach, continue to seek consumptive use permits (CUPs) from the St. Johns River Water Management District for a massive 3-phase cattle operation located in the springshed to Silver Springs.

Despite widespread public opposition, Sleepy Creek Lands received approval in 2015 for 1.46 million gallons of water a day (MGD) for Phase I of the project. Now, the applicant is seeking an 84% increase. They want an annual average of 2.68 MGD of water and daily maximum of 9.57 MGD.

In response, St. Johns Riverkeeper, Florida Defenders of the Environment, Silver Springs Alliance, and Ocala resident Alice Gardiner jointly filed a petition on Monday, January 9 for a formal administrative hearing to contest the issuance of the Sleepy Creek Ranch CUP.   Click here to read the press release and learn more about this legal action. 

The SJRWMD Governing Board was scheduled to vote on the CUP request at its upcoming meeting on Tuesday, January 10.  Due to the petition, the permit has been removed from the agenda.  

However, a demonstration and press event is still being organized by St. Johns RIVERKEEPER, Florida Springs Council, Silver Springs Alliance, Sierra Club Suwannee-St. Johns Group, Putnam County Environmental Council, and Florida Defenders of the Environment at the SJRWMD offices in Palatka to show support for Silver Springs and opposition to the Sleepy Creek Lands permit request. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017 10:00 AM
SJRWMD Headquarters
4049 Reid Street, Palatka 32177


  • Average flows at Silver Springs over the past decade are already reduced more than 35% compared to historic levels.
  • • The SJRWMD previously determined that groundwater pumping has been over-allocated in this area. Models predicted that existing permit uses combined with the Sleepy Creek Lands allocation would reduce the flow of Silver Springs by approximately 80 cfs or 50 million gallons of water a day.
  • Silver Springs currently suffers from nitrate-nitrogen concentrations more than 25 times higher than historic levels.
  • The state developed a pollution reduction goal (TMDL) that calls for a 79% reduction of nutrients going into Silver Springs and the Silver River from existing sources. 


  • The requested groundwater withdrawals of 978 million gallons per year will further reduce the flow of Marion County’s springs, according to the SJRWMD Technical Staff Report (TSR).
  • The 9,500 head of cattle planned for Phase I would produce an estimated 158 million gallons of manure and 11 million gallons of urine per year. The irrigated grass would require about 700,000 pounds of nitrogen from fertilizer annually.
  • Nutrient-rich waste created from the cattle manure and fertilizers is likely to reach nearby surface waters and the groundwater that ultimately discharges from Silver Springs. This would only exacerbate existing nutrient pollution problems in Silver Springs and the Silver River.
  • While this CUP for an additional 1.22 MGD will be for a shorter duration (2017-2023), it is the camel’s nose under the tent and elevates the applicant’s rights to water as an existing user. This will make it easier for Sleepy Creek to renew groundwater withdrawal permits in the future and opens the door to potential surface water withdrawals from the Ocklawaha River.


  • The Technical Staff Report (TSR) for the permit originally recommended a Substantive Denial due to a projected reduction in the flow of Silver Springs by approximately 80 cubic feet per second, adverse impacts to riparian floodplains and the in-stream channel, potential for land collapse, and reduction in aquatic fauna and habitat.
  • On December 12, 2016, the District staff revised the TSR and now recommends issuing the permit. 

 Contact the St. Johns River Water Management District Governing Board members and Executive Director and ask them to deny the Sleepy Creek CUP request (Application #91926-4).   The Board will vote on Tuesday, January 10 on the permit. 

John Miklos, Chairman                    jmiklos@sjrwmd.com
Fred Roberts Jr., Vice Chairman      froberts@sjrwmd.com
Chuck Drake, Secretary                   cdrake@sjrwmd.com
Ron Howse, Treasurer                      rhowse@sjrwmd.com
Doug Bournique                               dbournique@sjrwmd.com
John P. Browning Jr.                         John.Browning@sjrwmd.com
Douglas Burnett                               dburnett@sjrwmd.com
Maryam Ghyabi                               mghyabi@sjrwmd.com
Carla Yetter                                      cyetter@sjrwmd.com

Anne Shortelle, Executive Director ashortelle@sjrwmd.com

Click here for the factsheet. 

Check out more coverage, St. Johns staff urges approval of Sleepy Creek water request, Gainesville Sun, December 29, 2016.

Annual Volunteer Awards Announced

Annual Volunteer Awards Announced Volunteer of the Year, Robert Field with Community Engagement Coordinator, Justina Dacey

2016 Volunteer of the Year
Robert Field

A “Rising Tide” member since 2013, Robert Field join the Rising Tides Steering Committee in 2016 in order to help build, plan and execute the outreach objectives of the Young Professionals of St. Johns Riverkeeper. Robert devoted numerous Sundays to lead McCoys Creek cleanups and organized innovative events for the group. In addition, Robert has been instrumental in the implementation of our new volunteer initiative, “the Waterway Clean Up Team”, volunteering his time to scout for areas on the river in desperate need of community service cleanups. He eagerly volunteered to be the Site Captain for various community partner cleanups and has been a leader in ensuring the event was a success. At River Ruckus this year, Robert organized and led the “Poke Crawl Cleanup”, helping to bring new participants into the event from the Poke fad, encouraging children and families to “catch them all” while also protecting the river from litter and debris. In the workplace, Robert promotes sustainable practices for restaurants starting at Hawkers with plans to influence more local businesses to follow suit. As a local advocate, Robert was able influence the City to educate their workers on ways to reduce litter from entering the St. Johns River along the Northbank Riverwalk. Robert is an ideal example of how one person can transform citizens to make change in our community. It’s been a pleasure to work with him over the course of the year and we’re excited to see what he will accomplish in 2017!

2016 Educator of the Year
Diane Krug, Greenwood School 

Dianne Krug is our 2016 Educator of the Year for her dedication to environmental education. She and her students have been assessing the heath of Jones Creek, which flows across the campus of the Greenwood School, for over 5 years. Though her leadership, students are monitoring water quality, surrounding vegetation, mollusk populations, and aquatic invertebrates that live in the creek. Under her guidance, students have asked the school to make changes to landscaping practices that will benefit the creek such as: leaving a dense watershed buffer, reducing irrigation, and reducing fertilizer use on campus. We are truly grateful for Diane's commitment to cultivating environmentally conscious students by providing hands on experience and tools to make a difference.

2016 Advocate
Karen Chadwick

As a Florida native, Karen Chadwick spent a great deal of her childhood exploring and enjoying the woods and waterways of her home state. Following a decision to pursue the arts, she received a BFA for sculpture and painting from the Ringling School of Art and Design in 1988. Since that time, Karen has worked with many environmental education centers and museums to fabricate exhibits, which provide interpretation, illustration and display structures for various fields of study. The subject fields include paleontology, archaeology, geology, and hydrogeology and historical events. Project dimensions range from an articulated Mammoth skeleton and a life size section of a sinkhole to small-scale dioramas including a hunting scene depicting an event concluded to occur in Silver River during the Paleo-Indian Period. 

Karen works with experts in the field to convey accurate information provided by state agencies. For example: Three dimensional, interactive aquifer exhibits which depict regionally specific dynamics require input from the Florida Geological Survey, Water Management Districts and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. A cross section of a particular regions geologic structure is sculpted in detail. These exhibits convey to the public the hydrologic cycle and the relationships of the effects of rain, stormwater runoff, withdrawals via wells, sinkholes, karst conduits, springs and the salt water interface. The public can interact with the exhibit by pushing buttons to illuminate the various features highlighted in the display. The goal of these exhibits is to help the public gain an understanding of how the hydrologic cycle functions above and below ground.

Expanding on her enjoyment as an avid boater, Karen obtained her OUPV license and started her North Star Charter service. Heritage tours are her specialty. While plying the rivers and lakes of north central Florida, Karen describes many of the paleontological, archaeological and historical events that took place along the shorelines to her interested passengers.  www.northstarcharters.net


Special thank you to Will Dickey for the fantastic images used in this years' volunteer awards, and Ryan Buckley at Gallery Framery for framing. 


#adayinthelife for #GivingTuesday 2016

#adayinthelife for #GivingTuesday 2016 Black Friday, Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is about more than donations. This holiday season, consider giving a gift with meaning by helping to sustain the work that we do at St. Johns Riverkeeper. Whether you give the gift of membership to a loved one or a friend, or you yourself decide to give on behalf of someone you care about, we want you to know where your dollars are going. 

#adayinthelife is a way for us to share with you the work that we do, every day, on behalf of the #StJohnsRiver. Help us share our story through A Day In The Life at St. Johns Riverkeeper. The #adayinthelife campaign is a fun way for you to learn more about us, and even share our work with your friends and family through social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. When you share, add a personal message from yourself about why you support St. Johns Riverkeeper, and use #GivingTuesday and #adayinthelife. We appreciate you! 

#adayinthelife, Outreach Director Shannon Blankinship pores through morning news affecting the #stjohnsriver to stay abreast of incoming concerns and to share with over 19,000 followers via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Follow us this #GivingTuesday to stay informed!

#adayinthelife, Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman discusses legal strategies to protect Hallowes Cove with attorney Jane West and Al Abbatiello of the Bartram Scenic and Historic Highway Group. This St. Johns County cove is covered in high quality eel grass and is a haven for fish and manatees. The proposed 250-slip drydock from the developers of Rivertown is a violation of their permit and legal action may be needed. Consider a donation this holiday season for #GivingTuesday via www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org

#adayinthelife, Office Manager Carol Bailey-White receives a hotline call with a report of a derelict boat on Black Creek in Clay County and works to contact the Coast Guard. Put us in your phone today, 904-256-7591 #GivingTuesday

#adayinthelife, Education Director Emily Floore works with students during a visiting field trip. Kids learn how a food web works. If you remove one thing, the entire system must adjust to survive. Consider donating this #GivingTuesday to help continue our education work. www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org

#adayinthelife, Executive Director Jimmy Orth works with our Board of Directors to cultivate fund development strategies for 2017 in line with our strategic plan. Consider becoming a member this #GivingTuesday to help us reach our vision. 

#adayinthelife, Education Assistant Romy Sidelsky works with students on the water to explain that no matter where you live, water ends up reaching the #stjohnsriver. From October to April we will take nearly 6,000 kids on the water from Duval County Public Schools. Help us continue providing low cost and subsidized educational programs through an additional gift for #GivingTuesday at www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org

#adayinthelife, SJRK River Patrol members Lowell and Dee Stephens are on the water in Volusia County. They submit patrol logs that serve as our eyes and ears on the water. Learn more about our community engagement programs and become a volunteer with us this season. #GivingTuesday www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org/how-to-help/volunteer

#adayinthelife, Community Engagement Coordinator Justina Dacey helps train an interested student how to find microplastics from a nearby water sample. Plastic never degrades, it only becomes smaller and it is everywhere! #Microplastic workshops, Algae Bloom Sampling and Cleanup leaders are just a few trainings we host to enhance volunteer engagement. Consider becoming a member with us to learn more. #GivingTuesday.

#adayinthelife, Rising Tides, young professionals of #StJohnsRiverkeeper, meet up at a local bar to plan their next paddle down the Ocklawaha and the monthly McCoys Creek Cleanup. Mellow Mushroom has helped raise more than $10,000 over the last 4 years through the SweetWater Brewing Co. #saveourwater campaign by selling $1 and $5 paper fish. If you have a small business and would like to partner for a cause, contact shannon@stjohnsriverkeeper.org this #GivingTuesday.

Folks, this is just one day. We are working for the St. Johns River every day, and we can't do it without you! Consider becoming a member, giving the gift of membership, or donating today at www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org. 

#GivingTuesday was founded in 2012 by the 92nd street Y and the United Nations Foundation, inspired by the shopping traditions of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday was created as a day to celebrate and encourage charitable activities.

View All Blog Posts

Join the Riverkeeper

Latest Blog Posts

Activate the St. Johns River
Activate the St. Johns River
Petition Filed to Challenge Sleepy Creek Lands Permit
Sleepy Creek Lands Back For More
Sleepy Creek Lands Back For More
Annual Volunteer Awards Announced
Annual Volunteer Awards Announced

All blog posts

explore your river

Take an interactive journey through river sights & sounds!

Get the Guidebook

Learn about the ecology and rich history of the St. Johns River.

Boat Tours

Come aboard the Water Taxi for an incredible guided tour along the St. Johns River.