Free the Ocklawaha

by Capt. Karen Chadwick

During the recent drawdown meeting in September in Palatka, a local tournament director and Rodman advocate said, “A mistake was made 50 years ago.” 

Why not correct the mistake? Even the Save Rodman President told the St. Johns River Caucus in Tallahassee, the Cross Florida Barge Canal was a “boondoggle.” Why not right these wrongs? If this process had been started in the 1990s like it was supposed to have been, the historic tourism travel path that made Palatka a major tourism destination would be open, the 20 submerged springs would be flourishing and the surface evaporation rate would be much lower. 

Manatees could travel freely and access warm water during the winter to the springs of the Ocklawaha and Silver Springs. There would be more fish diversity upstream from where the dam is now and striped bass could spawn in the Ocklawaha again. Floating aquatic vegetation blockages would be less of a problem and the floodplain forest would be well on its way to recovery. 

There are a lot of lakes, but there is only one Ocklawaha River.  The beautiful spring is more of an asset to surrounding counties than the dark, stagnant, flooded conditions caused by the dam. People flock to the location during the drawdowns every three to four years when the water is clear. 

I am a Putnam County, Florida, resident and tour boat operator, and I support the FDEP plan to restore the hydrology of the Ocklawaha River and start the partial restoration plan that is explained in the current (and past) 10-year Greenway plan starting on page 149. 

The document, by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Division of Recreation and Parks, and titled the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway State Recreation and Conservation Area Unit Management Plan (2017-2017) can be found at

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