We invite you to come observe and enjoy the unique ecosystem of this spring-fed river. Springs, and their corresponding rivers, have been widely used as important recreational and educational locations throughout Florida history. The spring leads to the underground waterways, flowing through limestone caverns below the surface. The clear water flows directly from the Florida aquifer and the surrounding wetlands and uplands have adapted to host a diverse variety of plants and animals, including many protected species.
Birds & Animals
As you visit Wekiva Island and travel along the river, you have the opportunity to witness a variety of wildlife. Often spotted by kayakers, paddleboarders, canoers and boaters are turtles, alligator, otters, bears, deer and even the occasional monkey in addition to a large range of bird species.
Wekiva Island was historically located along a riparian floodplain wetland, that appeared similar to the adjacent banks of the Wekiva River and surrounding mixed hardwood and coniferous wetlands. Over the years, the previous landowners removed nearly all of the native vegetation and replaced it with a minimal degree of “traditional” landscaping that was not properly adapted to the soils and hydrological characteristics of the site.
The new owners of Wekiva Island have subsequently removed 95% of the traditional landscaping materials which primarily consisted of: non-native Viburnums, Ligustrum, Boston Fern, Crepe Myrtle, King Sago, and some Southern Magnolia that are not able to withstand the high water of the river during floods. These were replaced with sustainable Florida natives primarily found in the adjacent river bank and nearby buffer zone, designed to improve both the ecological and aesthetic value of the site and provide interest and educational opportunities throughout the property. These more desirable natives include:
Bald Cypress, Black Gum, Red Maple, American Elm , Sabal Palm, Wax Myrtle, Blue Beech, Loblolly Bay, Sweetgum, Red Bay, Saw Palmetto, Live Oak, Pop Ash, Cordgrass, Yellow Anise, Coontie, Cinnamon Fern , Walter’s Viburnum, Fackshattee Grass.
Restoring our River
In addition, exotic and nuisance vegetation was identified growing on the property that has an adverse impact on the Wekiva River and surrounding floodplains by spreading without constraint and displacing the more desirable Florida natives. That problematic vegetation was also removed to make room for the desirable natives listed above to grow and flourish. These plants identified and removed include: Brazilian Pepper (Schinus terebofolia), Torpedo Grass (Hemitomon repens), Primrose Willow (Ludwhigia peruvianna).
Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
This act began on October 2, 1968 and states: “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States that certain selected rivers of the Nation which, with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Congress declares that the established national policy of dams and other construction at appropriate sections of the rivers of the United States needs to be complemented by a policy that would preserve other selected rivers or sections thereof in their free-flowing condition to protect the water quality of such rivers and to fulfill other vital national conservation purposes.”
Protecting Our River
For almost four decades, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act has protected much of our historical river heritage. In 1968, Congress recognized that many of our rivers were imperiled and the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was born.
The National System protects more than 11,000 miles of 166 rivers in 38 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico – a little more than one-quarter of one percent of the nation’s rivers. By comparison, more than 75,000 large dams across the country have modified at least 600,000 miles, or about 17%, of American rivers. The Wekiva River was added to the system (Public Law 104-311) on October 13, 2000. It is one of twelve rivers with such designation in the Southeastern United States; one of two in the State of Florida.