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 and 16 miles of the Ocklawaha River 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 River and to Silver Springs, while expanding recreational and economic opportunities


Over 50 ago, 7,500 acres of pristine cypress forest were destroyed by the Rodman Dam creating this drowned cypress graveyard. A free-flowing Ocklawaha River, breaching the dam, would restore these valuable forest and would provide water quality filtering, natural flood protection, and wildlife habitat. #FreeTheOcklawaha

Did you know: 20 lost springs have been covered up by the weight of the Rodman Dam pool?  Pictured here: Beautiful Cannon Springs of the Ocklawaha River in all its glory. #FreeTheOcklawaha and help us restore the lost springs – forever.

Silver Springs and the Silver River could provide warm, wintering habitat for hundreds of manatees if the Rodman Dam on the Ocklawaha River partially restored. With the phasing out of existing power plants with warm water discharges and overcrowding at Blue Spring State Park, the best hope for maintaining today’s increasingly healthy FL manatee population is to provide greater access to habitat and springs. 

More manatees in Silver Springs would also help boost Silver Springs State Park attendance and bring back the eco-tourism economy in East Marion County. #FreetheOcklawaha

A free-flowing Ocklawaha reconnecting Silver Springs to the St. Johns River will revitalize the Northeast Florida economy by bringing back diverse fishing, reducing herbicide use, increasing manatees in Silver Springs, expanding recreational resources and improving wildlife viewing. #FreeTheOcklawaha

A free-flowing Ocklawaha river, connecting Silver Springs and the St. Johns River, will increase the volume and diversity of fish and shellfish all along the river system. By breaching the Dam, migratory species that once used the Ocklawaha River and Silver Springs would regain their essential habitat. #FreeTheOcklawaha

The Real Ocklawaha: What Does Restoration Look 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.


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.