Free the Ocklawaha

For over 50 years

The Ocklawaha River (the largest tributary of the St. Johns River) and its springs and wetlands have been impacted by a dam that was built in Putnam County in the late 1960’s as part of the failed Cross Florida Barge Canal. The Rodman Dam (now known as the Kirkpatrick Dam) resulted in the clearing and flooding of approximately 7,500 acres of floodplain forests, while submerging over 20 springs beneath a massive pool of water.

The time has come to finally free the Ocklawaha River.  Restoration of the Ocklawaha’s historic flow, forested floodplain and natural connectivity will provide significant ecological benefits to the St. Johns and to Silver Springs, while expanding recreational and economic opportunities


The Drawdown – dates announced!

This reservoir behind the dam is drawn down by the State every 3 to 5 years to remove invasive plants that flourish and choke the waterways. During the drawdown, the “lost springs” and many more ecological and historical fascinations reemerge.

The drawdown began in early October.   Water levels will reach the lowest point in mid-November and will be maintained at that level until March 1, 2020.  Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the Ocklawaha’s hidden wonders during the drawdown. 

Benefits of Freeing the Ocklawaha:

Restoration of Critical Freshwater Forested Wetlands

  • 8,000 acres of forested wetlands are currently stressed in the lower Ocklawaha River due to restricted flow.
  • 7,500 acres of forested wetlands are currently submerged in the Rodman Pool.

Water Quality Improvement

  • Restoration of over 15,000 acres of forested wetlands will greatly enhance bio-filtration and improve the ecological function of the St. Johns River Ecosystem.

Dilution of Increased Salinity

  • Restoring the natural flow of the Ocklawaha River to the St. Johns River will offset a portion of the increased tidal force from the dredging that will push the saltwater wedge further upstream.

Habitat Restoration for Fisheries and Endangered Species

  • Restoration would restore natural migration patterns by allowing eel and migratory fish, like shad, striped bass, channel catfish and mullet, to access the upper parts of the river and Silver Springs.
  • Wildlife, such as black bears and the endangered manatee, would benefit by restoring land and water connectivity and providing additional habitat.

Expansion of Recreation Opportunities

  • In addition to providing greater unique outdoor experiences including, kayaking and nature photography, the Ocklawaha River Restoration will benefit Silver Springs (the largest spring in the St. Johns River Watershed and a major recreational haven) which is currently impaired from nutrient pollution and a severe reduction in flow.

What “Freeing” and Restoration Looks Like

Restoring the function of the Ocklawaha River and its associated floodplain forest that are now submerged beneath the Rodman Pool is a relatively straightforward process and can be successfully completed at a cost significantly less than most restoration projects. The recommended restoration option would involve breaching the dam 2,000 feet to restore the natural channel of the Ocklawaha, while retaining the popular park and recreation facilities.


River Be Dammed

An examination of the Rodman (Kirkpatrick) Dam and its impacts on the Ocklawaha River in Florida. A multimedia project investigating the Ocklawaha River and its relationship with the Kirkpatrick Dam.

The Lost Springs 

A film about loss and hope, Lost Springs follows artist Margaret Tolbert as she experiences the magic and beauty of a series of freshwater Florida springs forgotten by the state and left to decay behind failure of big government spending.