Lake Istokpoga, Florida, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Florida - South -

Lake Istokpoga, located in Highlands County, is Florida’s fifth largest lake and stretches out over 27,692 Florida acres. With a maximum length of 10 miles and a maximum width of 5 miles, the lake provides many nooks and crannies for exploration. The lake’s name, Istokpoga, derives from the Seminole Indians, translated as “our people died there”, after a group of Seminoles lost their lives crossing the lake.

Historically, water levels on Lake Istokpoga fluctuated seven feet with periodic flooding. Construction of two canals by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has regulated water levels for flood control and water storage since 1961. The Lake Istokpoga canal flows to the Kissimmee River. The S-68 canal flows to the Kissimmee River and to Lake Okeechobee through a series of locks. The South Florida Water Management District schedules water releases and withdrawals from the lake and canals.

Water levels on Lake Istokpoga now fluctuate only about two feet. Agricultural, commercial, and residential development followed after flooding along the lake’s shoreline was controlled by the canals. However, stabilized water levels and nutrient enrichment from agricultural runoff led to a proliferation of non-native aquatic plants. The Lake Istokpoga Restoration project in 2000 drew down the lake’s water to clear its shoreline of excessive sediment and floating vegetation (tussocks) to reestablish fish habitat.

Though Lake Istokpoga is large, its average depth is only four feet with a maximum depth of 10 feet. Boaters must be cautious, therefore, usually electing bass, pontoon, or air boats as their pleasure vehicle of choice. But don’t think that the shallow depths make for less boating; indeed, boating is one of the most popular activities on Lake Istokpoga. Several public boat ramps are scattered around the lake.

Lake Istokpoga is teeming with black crappie, sunfish, bluegill and largemouth bass. It boasts one of the highest catch rates for largemouth bass in the entire state. The shallowness of the lake lends itself nicely to creating ideal environments for fish: spadderdock, bulrush, cattail, and pondweed grow prolifically, creating the perfect hiding places and homes for the lake’s many fish. So stop by a local bait shop and ask local anglers for some advice before heading out to catch your next meal. Fish camps around the lake offer camp sites with hookups, cabin rentals, and fishing trips.

Sightseeing is a must at Lake Istokpoga, as the Florida vegetation and wildlife are unique to non-residents. Osprey swoop gracefully across the lake, searching for food before returning home to their large nests, where they dutifully stand guard protecting their young. Snowy egrets paint the lake’s shores, a pure white so clean that you have to see it to believe it. Bald eagles glide through the sky, magnificent and grandiose in their beauty. And one of the lake’s signature animals, the wild alligators, lie along the shores and in the water, lazily eyeing their surroundings. Nature photographers go wild here, but even if your hobby doesn’t include a camera, Lake Istokpoga is sure to wow your eyes as you drink in the beauty of nature around you.

Lake Istokpoga Park is a 38-acre county park on the north shore that provides a boat launch, boardwalk, and beautiful views of the lake. Yellow flowers of the native American lotus wildflower float on the lake’s surface. Live oaks and cypress trees provide habitat for migrant and wintering birds.

After a day of sightseeing, relax with a delicious dinner and a glass of wine, enjoying one of the signature pink and purple sunsets that define Lake Istokpoga.

Things to do at Lake Istokpoga

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Camping
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding

Fish species found at Lake Istokpoga

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

Lake Istokpoga Photo Gallery

Lake Istokpoga Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Water Level Control: South Florida Water Management District

Surface Area: 27,692 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 39 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 35 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 42 feet

Average Depth: 4 feet

Maximum Depth: 10 feet

Completion Year: 1961

Drainage Area: 607 sq. miles

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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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