Lake Apopka, Florida, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Florida - East Central -

Sixty years ago Lake Apopka was a world class bass fishery. Fishing camps dotted the shore of the spring-fed central Florida lake in Orange and Lake Counties, and anglers came from all over to fish the clean clear water. The water was so clear it was said a fisherman could look down and pick out the fish he wanted to catch. Significant man-made interventions, however, caused the degradation of Lake Apopka’s water, and the fishing camps closed. Today, thanks to the efforts of the St. Johns River Water District Management and several citizen groups including the Friends of Lake Apopka (FOLA), Lake Apopka is a conservation success story in the making.

Lake Apopka is the fourth largest lake in Florida, but it used to be the second largest. The original settlers around the lake were the Timucuans. There is evidence that they inhabited the area on the northern shore as early as 10,000 BC, but diseases brought by European settlers and the Seminole Wars decimated the native people. By the mid 1800’s the southern shore of Lake Apopka was being farmed by European settlers. The area grew following the Civil War, and the land around Lake Apopka was good for raising produce.

Although the lake was very large, it didn’t have a navigable outlet so it couldn’t be used for transportation. The Apopka-Beauclair Canal was completed in 1888, providing a navigable waterway to move goods and connecting Lake Apopka to Lake Beauclair and Lake Dora. From Lake Dora water flows through Lake Eustis and Lake Griffin and onto the Ocklawaha River ending at the St. Johns River. As a result, Lake Apopka is considered the headwaters of the Harris Chain of Lakes and the Ocklawaha River.

Although the Apopka-Beauclair Canal lowered the water level on Lake Apopka by over three feet, it didn’t adversely affect the lake’s water quality. By 1940 anglers were traveling from all over to catch the lake’s trophy sized bass, and there were 29 fishing camps around the lake. In 1941, however, everything changed with the construction of a levee along the north shore of the lake. The levee drained 20,000 acres of Lake Apopka for agriculture and to aid the war effort. The resulting farms produced up to three crops a year, but they also inundated the lake with phosphorus and pesticides. Added municipal waste from nearby Winter Garden and pulp from the citrus processing plants further degraded the lake. By 1962 massive fish kills occurred regularly, and Lake Apopka’s clear water was turning pea green.

The downward spiral continued until the late 1980’s. By then Lake Apopka was hypereutrophic (excessive nutrients with low transparency) and called a “dead lake” by some. The Friends of Lake Apopka mounted a campaign to improve the lake’s water quality, and in 1985 the Lake Apopka Restoration Act started the slow turnaround. The St. Johns River Water Management District and the USDA bought back almost all the drained farmland. The land was flooded and the birds returned by the thousands. Unfortunately, pesticide residue in the fish they ate killed almost a thousand white pelicans, wood storks and great blue herons, and the land was drained again.

The St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) built a “marsh flow-way” system to filter Lake Apopka’s water. The SJRWMD also harvested more than 15 million pounds of gizzard shad, removing even more phosphorus from the lake. As a result, water clarity in Lake Apopka has risen significantly as phosphorus levels have dropped. The submerged native plant beds are coming back and so are the fish. Anglers might not pull trophy bass out of Lake Apopka, but there are growing populations of black crappie, speckled perch, bluegill, and sunshine bass. There is also public boat access to the lake.

As the water quality in Lake Apopka improves so do the recreation opportunities, and residential development is slowly on the rise. Lake Apopka is primarily in Orange County, but part of the lake is also in Lake County. There is a wildlife preserve in each county. Ferndale Preserve in Lake County is on the western shore of the lake. There are three trails including a 2.9 mile long equestrian trail, a 1.6 mile long unpaved multi-use trail, and a 2.5 mile long nature trail. The preserve is on land that was once one of the many orange groves that surrounded Lake Apopka. As many as 174 species of birds have been documented in the preserve. Visitors may see American alligators, bobcats, river otters, and even gopher tortoise. There are ranger-led nature hikes and bird and butterfly surveys.

The Oakland Nature Preserve is in the town of Oakland on the southern shore of Lake Apopka. The 120-acre Orange County preserve has trails with a 3,000 foot boardwalk through the native wetlands. Friends of Lake Apopka (FOLA) is instrumental in maintaining the preserve, and along with lake communities, FOLA is working to develop a 57 mile long paved trail around the lake. In addition to the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, there are almost six miles of multi-use and equestrian trails in the Lake Apopka Restoration Area. For automobiles and motorcycles, the Green Mountain Scenic Byway runs through beautiful oak groves. The Byway is also popular with runners and cyclists.

The city of Apopka is known as the “Indoor Foliage Capital of the World” or “Fern City”. The city was named for a Seminole village called Ahapopka on the shore of Lake Apopka. Apopka was incorporated in 1882, and by 1912 ferns were the main industry. Communities around Lake Apopka offer vacation rentals and a wide range of amenities. Orlando with Disney and its other attractions is just 20 minutes from the lake.

Lake Apopka’s water quality and popularity are both on the rise. Its proximity to Orlando and all attractions are sure to make it a popular vacation destination. With careful stewardship and conservation efforts over time, Lake Apopka should be restored to its former glory.

Things to do at Lake Apopka

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding

Fish species found at Lake Apopka

  • Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Crappie
  • Gizzard Shad
  • Perch
  • Shad
  • Sunfish
  • Sunshine Bass

Lake Apopka Photo Gallery

Lake Apopka Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: St. Johns River Water Management District

Surface Area: 30,671 acres

Shoreline Length: 40 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 66 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 64 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 69 feet

Average Depth: 5 feet

Maximum Depth: 18 feet

Water Volume: 161,176 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1941

Water Residence Time: 1 – 3 years

Drainage Area: 187 sq. miles

Trophic State: Hypereutrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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