The St. Johns is the longest river in Florida – 310 miles long. It is one of the few rivers in the United States that flows north. The source of the river, or headwaters, is a large marshy area in Indian River County that flows north and turns eastward at Jacksonville to its mouth in the Atlantic Ocean. Florida waters are often a natural brown-tea color caused by tannins from decaying native vegetation. The drop in elevation from the headwaters to the mouth is less than 30 feet (9.1 m); like most Florida waterways, the St. Johns has a very slow flow rate at a third of a mile an hour (0.5 km/h), and is often described as “lazy”.
The St. Johns was named one of 14 American Heritage Rivers in 1998 but was included on a list of America’s Ten Most Endangered Rivers in 2008. Restoration efforts are underway for the basins around the St. Johns as Florida continues to deal with population increases in the river’s vicinity.
The Wisherman’s Fishing Grounds
The river turns north as it rolls through a 46,000-acre (190 km2) basin spreading across Putnam, Lake, and Marion Counties, and the western part of Volusia County. Slightly north of the Wekiva River is Blue Spring, the largest spring on the St. Johns, producing over 64,000,000 US gallons (240,000,000 L) a day. Bordering to the north of Blue Spring State Park is Hontoon Island State Park, accessible only by boat. In 1955 an extremely rare Timucua totem representing an owl was found buried and preserved in the St. Johns muck off of Hontoon Island. From there the St. Johns creeps past Deland and Highway 44 bridge onward to Astor and then into the southern tip of Lake George, the second largest lake in Florida at 72 square miles , 6 miles wide and 12 miles long. The watershed surrounding Lake George expands through 3,590 square miles, lying within Ocala National Forest and Lake George State Forest, that protect an ecosystem dominated by pine and scrub more than 380,000 acres and 21,000 acres in size, respectively.