Lake Trafford, Florida, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Florida - South - West Central -

Lake Trafford, a 1500-acre lake in Florida’s southwest region, is an example of ecological revitalization; its demise was arrested and reversed in just a few years. Lake Trafford was dying, much to the dismay of local residents and visitors who had enjoyed its fishery and diverse wildlife. The lake had been the fishing grounds of the Calusa Native Americans; their dug-out canoes have been spotted lying on the bottom during periods of drought. The shallow, sandy-bottomed lake is a vital part of the Everglades system, contributes water to the Corkscrew Marsh, and is surrounded by wetlands supporting a huge variety of birds, reptiles and amphibians. When the water is high, the overflow drains south through Fakahatchee strand to Southern Golden Gate Estates Critical Project Area, ultimately arriving in the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. When residents of the city of Immokalee set out to restore their lake, they likely had no idea just how important to the entire South Florida ecosystem Lake Trafford was.

Lake Trafford provides excellent alligator breeding grounds, so it was never a swimming lake. Almost entirely surrounded by wetlands, the margins of the lake host an amazing variety of wildlife and birds. For many years visitors looking for adventure came here to take air boat tours of the natural habitat. Fishermen enjoyed excellent angling for crappie, black bass, bluegill and shellcracker. Residents and visitors enjoy pontooning, canoeing and small-craft boating on the lake. Only two public access sites along the shore allow for boat access, both on the northwest shore. One, the Ann Olesky County Park, is named for the person most instrumental in effecting the restoration of Lake Trafford. Ann Olesky and her husband owned the marina next door – the other public access point to the water. Together, they watched the lake begin to die and observed several massive fish kills due to oxygen depletion, so they mounted the battle to restore the lake. It was a massive effort, requiring millions of dollars and a huge silt removal project to dredge the lake.

Lake Trafford’s problems actually began soon after the Tamiami Trail was constructed, disrupting natural water flows. Increasing agriculture in the region allowed more agricultural run-off to reach the lake, overloading it with nutrients. And then, disaster struck in the form of an invasive species, an aquatic weed named hydrilla. Originating in Asia, hydrilla grows very quickly and soon crowds out other native vegetation. It has an amazing ability to root from cuttings or root bulbs, meaning it spreads easily if cut or dislodged. It spread quickly throughout the lake, making boating nearly impossible. Efforts to kill off the hydrilla involved treating the lake with a copper-based herbicide. Unfortunately, up to three groups were attempting eradication at the same time and severely over-treated the lake. The hydrilla was killed, and for several years after, so was any other vegetation attempting to take root in the lake.

The massive hydrilla die-off caused the dying plants to sink to the bottom in a mass of gooey sludge several feet deep. The decaying action removed most of the oxygen from the water, causing massive fish die-offs. The lake, already shallow, was reduced to only a couple of feet of water and several feet to decaying sludge. The Oleskys worked tirelessly to rouse Immokalee and surrounding residents to raise money for sludge removal. For a while it looked like they would never be able to afford the dredging project, but then the Army Corps of Engineers took an interest in the project, and grant funds were secured to remove the muck from the lake bottom.

The huge project took several years. A containment pond and sludge pipeline had to be constructed to contain the mountain of silt being removed. The work was completed over time, eventually restoring the lake to an average depth of seven feet. Environmental scientists are now involved in restoring filtering vegetation such as bull rushes to the lake margins. Florida Fish and Wildlife has begun restocking the lake and the fishing is good again, although the average specimen is still small. Best of all, the natural water flow has been restored to feed the vital ecosystems of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary to the southwest, the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed to the west, and the Fakahatchee Strand System to the south, which includes the Florida Panther National Refuge. These wetlands drain into important estuaries such as Estero Bay, Wiggins Pass at Estero Bay, and Cape Romano. Ann Olesky didn’t live to see the project completed, but the city of Immokalee named their small county park in her honor. And her husband still runs the marina next door, selling bait, renting boats, guiding air boat tours and generally looking out for the lake.

Lake Trafford is an excellent place to begin to explore the wetlands and wildlife that make south Florida unique. Immokalee is a modern small city, with plenty of lodgings and amenities to please visitors. Immokalee is only 40 miles from Fort Myers, and less than a half hour from Big Cypress Swamp and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. Collier County holds a number of nature destinations with trails, boardwalks and observation points. Birding groups plan regular excursions to local marshes and forests to observe the huge number of both local and migratory birds. Collier County also supports a number of small museums dedicated to the history and natural environment of the area. The Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium is only about 50 miles away in Naples and offers many exhibits centered around the Calusa tribe who once inhabited the region, the natural environment, and opportunities for astronomy explorations. If visitors want to swim, there are plenty of public beaches along the Gulf Coast, from 40 miles away and up.

Lake Trafford area holds a number of choices for lodgings. Many conventional hotels are located in the large cities. Fishing camps still exist at many local lakes, and campgrounds, RV courts and bed-and-breakfasts can all be found nearby. Real estate is often found locally, although there is little along the lakeshore itself. And, as south Florida has a great deal of experience in entertaining those with leisure hours to fill, golf courses, small parks and sporting events can be found within a few miles in any direction. So, if you’re visiting southwestern Florida, make sure to stop in to visit Lake Trafford. Take the air boat ride to view alligators and their young, the many waterfowl and native animals. Try for some of those black bass and crappies, and marvel at what a determined local population can do to bring their lake back from the brink of death. Lake Trafford is a natural wonder once more.

Things to do at Lake Trafford

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Wildlife Refuge
  • Museum

Fish species found at Lake Trafford

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Crappie
  • Redear Sunfish (Shellcracker)
  • Sunfish

Lake Trafford Photo Gallery

Lake Trafford Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 1,515 acres

Shoreline Length: 6 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 18 feet

Average Depth: 7 feet

Trophic State: Eutrophic

At LakeLubbers.com, we strive to keep our information as accurate and up-to-date as possible, but if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you!
Please let us know about it on our Content Correction form.

Spread the word! Share our Lake Trafford article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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."


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.