Orange Lake, Florida, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Florida - North -

Both wading birds and airboats are at home amongst the mats of floating aquatic plants on beautiful Orange Lake in Alachua County, Florida. With its abundant vegetation, Orange Lake is a great destination for anglers, paddlers, and bird watchers.

Orange Lake is a 12,550-acre natural lake in Florida’s North tourism region. Historically the primary inflow into the lake has been from Lochloosa Lake through Cross Creek. Just under two miles, Cross Creek is a popular route for canoes and kayaks. The natural, slow-moving creek is bordered with oak, maple and cypress trees that drip with Spanish moss. Cross Creek was made famous by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Her novels, “Cross Creek” and “The Yearling”, are set in the area where she spent the last 25 years of her life. Rawlings’ cracker farm house and orange grove are preserved and open to the public at the M. K. Rawlings Historic State Park. The park gives visitors a glimpse into life around Orange Lake in the 1930’s.

In 1927, the construction of Camps Canal redirected a significant portion of the outflow from Newnans Lake through the River Styx and into Orange Lake. On the east end of the lake, 1,500 acres of Orange Lake were diked, drained, and farmed. In 1998, the land was bought back by the St. Johns River Water Management District, which manages Orange Lake. Orange Lake, the River Styx, Newnans Lake, and Lochloosa Lake are all designated Outstanding Florida Waters.

Water levels on Orange Lake fluctuate about two feet a year. A fixed-crested weir controls the outflow of Orange Lake through Orange Creek and on into the Ocklawaha River. The Orange Creek Conservation Area is on the southeast shore of Orange Lake. There are several public boat ramps on the eastern shore of the lake and a handicap accessible fishing pier on the southwest shore at the Heagy-Burry Park.

Orange Lake is known for the quality of its fish rather than the quantity. There are, however, healthy populations of bluegill, redear sunfish, and black crappie. Largemouth bass weighing over 10 pounds are not uncommon, and there was even one caught that weighed in at 14.8 pounds. There are some parts of the lake that are inaccessible to anglers because of the vegetation.

Orange Lake has an average depth of just six feet, and is rimmed with grass beds and submerged vegetation. The same floating vegetative islands and aquatic plants that limit motorboat travel on Orange Lake make it a very popular lake for canoes, kayaks, and airboats. Airboats started with Florida’s back water hunters and fishermen putting airplane propeller type fans on flat-bottom boats. The airboats can skim along the surface of the shallow water without getting hung up on the plants. Canoes and kayaks are also able to weave through the vegetation and explore the wildlife that uses the floating islands. Many amphibians make their homes on the islands and migratory birds also use them.

Sandhill cranes, great blue herons, and bald eagles live on and around Orange Lake. Just north of the lake, in a cypress swamp, there is a breeding colony of woodstorks. The opportunities for wildlife viewing are almost limitless. There is even the occasional black bear. Nearby Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park offers visitors 21,000 acres for wildlife viewing. The preserve is home to bison, alligators, wild horses, and over 270 species of birds. There are hiking, biking, and horse back riding trails along with site for camping and picnicking.

There is some residential development with vacation rentals in the Orange Lake area. The lake is just 20 miles southeast of Gainesville, and the city is large enough to have any amenity a visitor might want including various accommodations, shopping, museums and restaurants. Added to the rich history, abundant wildlife and beautiful waterways, they combine to make Orange Lake a fantastic Florida getaway.

Things to do at Orange Lake FL

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • Museum
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Orange Lake FL

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

Orange Lake FL Photo Gallery

Orange Lake FL Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: St. Johns River Water Management District

Surface Area: 12,550 acres

Shoreline Length: 25 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 58 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 50 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 61 feet

Average Depth: 6 feet

Maximum Depth: 12 feet

Water Volume: 68,000 acre-feet

Drainage Area: 110 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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