Lake Dora, Florida, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Florida - East Central -

A perfect lake in a perfect area describes Lake Dora in Florida’s Eastern Central Region. The Lake Dora area has been a favorite destination of northern retiree ‘snowbirds’ for nearly 50 years. Part of the Harris Chain of Lakes, huge Lake Dora is rich in wildlife and fish, with many miles of waterways to cruise and plenty of activities to keep visitors and winter residents occupied and interested. Only a half hour north of busy Orlando and its bustling theme parks, Lake Dora presents a quieter, more relaxed face to the world.

Named in 1846 after Mrs. Dora Drawdy by government surveyors she befriended, the land around Lake Dora was originally planted in orange groves. A canning factory was built in the town of Mount Dora and shipping oranges became the main cash economy. Killing freezes in the late 1800s ended the industry for the most part, with many farmer going broke and abandoning their dying groves. Vegetable farming in the rich muck soil soon became equally lucrative, with lettuce, cucumber, cabbage, tomatoes, and watermelons favored crops. Much of the land was underwater most of the time until drainage ditches were dug to increase acreage during World War II for food production. At one time, Lake Dora was fished commercially, shipping out barrels of fish to northern eateries. Even during periods when the surrounding land was not economically productive, one business continued to boom: large resort hotels sprang up near Mount Dora, patronized by the well-to-do visitors from northern states. One large hotel has been in operation from the 1880s until today. Fish camps sheltered along the lakefront to provide lodging and guide service to anglers.

Lake Dora is part of the Ocklawaha River basin, which eventually empties into the St Johns River. Lake Apopka forms the headwaters of the system. The Apopka-Beauclair Canal was first excavated in the 1890s. As Lake Beauclair connects to Lake Dora via a short channel, the 1956 Apopka Lock and Dam controls the northerly flow of water from Lake Apopka into the rest of the chain. Burrell Lock and Dam on Haynes Creek between Lake Eustis and Lake Griffin further serves to control Lake Dora’s water levels. Originally, the Elfin River traveled the short less-than-two-mile distance from Lake Dora to Lake Eustis. In the late 1800s, a steamboat captain, tiring of the sometimes impassible river, hired a crew of laborers to dig a channel. The resulting Dora Canal has been called the ‘most beautiful mile of water in the world’, with towering 2000-year-old cypress draped with moss and a wealth of wildlife lining the shoreline. Sheltered here, nesting ospreys, herons and egrets raise their young as otters, alligators and wading birds enjoy the waters. Cruising the waterway, either via pontoon or guided cruise is a once-in-a-lifetime afternoon excursion. Retakes for the Humphrey Bogart classic “African Queen” were filmed along the Dora Canal.

Lake Dora, along with other lakes in the chain such as Lakes Griffin, Eustis, Yale, Harris, Beauclair, Carlton and Little Lake Harris have been famous for bass fishing for many years (note that Lake Yale is not directly connected but is considered part of the chain). Until the last twenty years, major bass tournaments were held on the lakes regularly. However, water quality degraded due to agricultural run-off, destroying the lakes for bass fishing. Through massive effort and at great expense, environmental agencies have purchased much of the former agricultural land and returned it to wetlands. Water quality has vastly improved and the bass fishery is returning to the Harris Chain of Lakes. Along with Largemouth bass, black crappie, bluegill and catfish are caught in Lake Dora.

The shore of Lake Dora supports the towns of Mount Dora and Tavares. Mount Dora, named for the 186-foot hill the town has encompassed, is a quaint Victorian-era town with many preserved older homes and buildings. Mount Dora has an old-fashioned feel and is a haven for antique connoisseurs. Ice cream parlors, boutiques and specialty shops dot the sloping streets leading down to the water’s edge. Mount Dora has maintained its New England-like persona by actively encouraging the arts, antique festivals and craft fairs. The largest inland regatta is held annually on Lake Dora. Crappie tournaments are held regularly, including one for children. Among the wealth of lakeside parks, the town provides one park with a 1,700 foot freshwater hiking trail and boardwalk and a rare inland freshwater lighthouse. A water taxi takes passengers back and forth to Tavares and marinas provide docking facilities for the many pleasure boats and sailboats enjoying Lake Dora.

Lake Dora supports all types of water sports, including jet skis, water skiing, wind surfing, canoes and kayaks. The northern shore of Lake Dora is designated as a Lake County Blueway; an easily accessible paddle sports water trail that follows the Dora Canal into Lake Eustis and beyond.

Although not the Victorian picture book that is Lake Dora, historic Tavares provides a multitude of water-focused activities around Wooton Park. One of the best attended is the annual Antique and Classic Boat Society Show. Wooton Park also supports an unofficial seaplane base and a marina. Tavares is the kind of town where residents are just as likely to take the golf cart to the grocery as their car, adding to the laid-back resort atmosphere. Or, just take the golf cart to the golf course – there are several in close proximity to Lake Dora.

If the visitor tires of the boating, shopping, airboat rides and canoeing the Dora Canal, a variety of other activities are available nearby. Less than 15 miles to the north of Lake Dora, the southernmost reaches of Ocala National Forest provide thousands of acres of hunting, hiking, mountain biking and camping facilities. Designated OHV trails provide plenty of area to enjoy Florida animal and plant life. Canaveral National Seashore is only 70 miles to the east. This national park, located on a barrier island offers fishing, surfing, boating, swimming, sunbathing, canoeing, camping, hiking, nature and historical trails. The lucky visitor may see Atlantic bottlenose dolphin and manatee in the lagoon or catch the summer return of sea turtles to the beach to lay their eggs. And Mosquito Lagoon provides excellent recreational fishing.

Vacation rentals are available at Lake Dora year round. Both Mount Dora and Tavares hold many commercial lodgings in the form of hotels and motels, with a few bed-and-breakfast establishments overlooking the water. Private cottages and homes are available by the night, week or month, many with lake frontage. Or, book a room in the 100-plus year old Inn as did the wealthy visitors years ago. And real estate is available in every price range for those that decide Lake Dora should be home. So, pack the fishing gear, binoculars and golf clubs and come to Lake Dora for your first visit. It very likely wont be your last!

Things to do at Lake Dora

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Wind Surfing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • National Forest
  • Antiquing
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Lake Dora

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Sunfish

Lake Dora Photo Gallery

Lake Dora Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Southwest Florida Water Management District

Surface Area: 4,502 acres

Shoreline Length: 17 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 62 feet

Average Depth: 9 feet

Maximum Depth: 12 feet

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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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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