Creating a Shared Vision Photo by John Moran

Imagine restoring the magic of the free-flowing rivers that once connected Ocala to Palatka. Through consensus and shared vision, we can bring back the magnificent blueway that author Sidney Lanier called “The Sweetest Water Lane in the World.”

In the early 19th century, the Ocklawaha and Silver Rivers between Putnam and Marion counties provided an unforgettable steamboat route, beginning and ending with fine hotels and the bustling communities of Ocala and Palatka. Palatka had 6,000 hotel rooms serving adventuresome travelers. Writers such as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings vividly described the lush flora, fauna, birds and wildlife along the way.

Today, this scenic blueway is still one of the state’s most significant natural treasures. Beginning at Silver Springs and ending at Welaka and the St. Johns River, this aquatic trail is one of the longest undeveloped river corridors in the state. It is flanked by public lands including the Ocala National Forest, Marjorie Carr Cross-Florida Greenway, and Silver River Park. The historic route is only encumbered by the 40-year-old Rodman Dam that blocks river and spring flows, the movement of aquatic species, and boat travel.

Reconnecting the Silver and Ocklawaha Rivers and restoring 9,200 acres of floodplain forest will return many species of native fish and wildlife to the Ocklawaha River and Silver Springs, enhancing the ecology and economy of the region. Expanded recreation users, nature tourists, new residents, and supporting businesses will create a thriving economy.

Imagine 20 small springs flowing freely once the weight of the reservoir waters is gone. Think about Silver Springs filled with Manatees and brimming with diverse fish. Envision an unencumbered boater’s paradise with strategically-placed camping platforms, hiking and mountain biking trails intersecting points along both rivers. Perhaps a wilderness camping area would serve scouts, explorers and stressed out grown-ups in the Little Lake George Wilderness area. A sportsman’s lodge might perch on the bluff connecting to the St. Johns River or another strategic overlook, serving as a gathering point for paddlers, hikers, birders, hunters and anglers. The new Palatka River Center off SR100 and a re-established US Forest Service Visitor’s Center on SR40 provide perfect starting points to help visitors plan their adventures.

Join in the movement to reconnect and restore the Ocklawaha and Silver Rivers, revitalizing the economies in Putnam and East Marion Counties and this wild and wonderful river system.

Tel: 352-229-2887