Lake Okeechobee, Florida, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Florida - South -

With over 451,000 blue, watery acres, Lake Okeechobee is a lake with many titles. It is, by surface acreage, the largest lake in Florida. It also holds the distinction of being the fourth-largest lake wholly contained within the USA. (Lake Michigan, Alaska’s Lake Iliamna, and Great Salt Lake are larger.)

Nicknamed Florida’s Inland Sea, Lake O, and The Big Lake, Lake Okeechobee also surprises by having an average depth of just 9 feet. Lake Okeechobee’s name is derived from the Hitchiti words for water (oki) and big (chubi), so the lake’s original name was simply “Big Water.”

Lake Okeechobee is part of the 154-mile Okeechobee Waterway that extends from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. The waterway follows the Caloosahatchee River from Fort Myers to Lake Okeechobee, then continues east to Stuart along the St. Lucie Canal. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates five navigation locks and dams along the Waterway:

*St. Lucie Lock and Dam at Stuart
*Port Mayaca Lock and Dam near Canal Point
*Moore Haven Lock and Dam at Moore Haven
*Ortona Lock and Dam near LaBelle
*W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam near Fort Myers

The Okeechobee Waterway serves many uses, including navigation, year-round recreational facilities, drinking water, agricultural irrigation, and flood control. The Waterway is part of the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project.

Lake Okeechobee is a natural lake, believed to have formed about 6000 years ago from the receding ocean. Due to catastrophic storm surges from seasonal hurricanes in the 1920’s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed levees along the north and south shores of the lake from 1932 to 1938. A major hurricane in 1947 prompted additional flood control efforts. The resulting Herbert Hoover Dike was completed by the Corps in the late 1960’s.

Fishing is very good at Lake Okeechobee, especially when you factor in the surrounding canals and rivers. Best known for its catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, and speckled perch, anglers flock to the lake with visions of monster catches dancing in their heads. Several major fishing tournaments are held throughout the year, but you can look forward to year-round angling enjoyment. Rent a boat and go out on your own, or hire a guide to take you around; it’s your choice. But bring your gear and your angling dreams, and prepare to make them all come true.

Clewiston, Florida, located on the lake’s southern shore is known as “America’s Sweetest Town.” Clewiston is the most popular destination for area visitors because of its ideal location near fishing locales and tourist attractions. The Sugarland Express tour takes you through a local farm and mill, letting you gnaw some sugarcane and learn some local history. Afterwards, take a three-hour boat cruise to learn about Lake Okeechobee’s natural history. In the spring, Clewiston hosts the annual Sugar Festival and throws a grand party with a traditional southern feast. Of course, you’ll be treated to a good dose of southern hospitality all year round.

From Clewiston, you can head on over to the incredible 110-mile Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail, a hiking trail with the uncomfortable acronym LOST. As you climb upwards, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the lake below, rare glimpses of area wildlife, and a front row seat to beautiful and diverse Florida flora.

Water activities abound, and you’ll love wiling away the hours speeding over the waves on your jet ski or powerboat, or simply cruising along enjoying the breeze and sun. Lake Okeechobee is large and filled with natural beauty, so pack your bags and plan your trip as soon as possible.

Things to do at Lake Okeechobee

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Boating
  • Jet Skiing
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing

Fish species found at Lake Okeechobee

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch

Lake Okeechobee Photo Gallery

Lake Okeechobee Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Not Known

Water Level Control: South Florida Water Management District

Surface Area: 451,000 acres

Shoreline Length: 135 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 14 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 9 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 19 feet

Average Depth: 9 feet

Maximum Depth: 12 feet

Water Volume: 1,100,000 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 3.5 years

Drainage Area: 4,785 sq. miles

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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