Sunset, clouds, water and marsh.
Image courtesy of Will Dickey

Our Mission

The Great Florida Riverway Trust was established to support America’s next great restoration project – reuniting the Great Florida Riverway, a 217-mile system joining historic Silver Springs and the Ocklawaha and St. Johns Rivers. Reconnecting this 217-mile system by breaching a portion of the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam, would reconnect and restore four ecosystems: the Ocklawaha River, Silver Springs, the lower St. Johns River and the coastal Atlantic Ocean of the southeastern United States. 

This nationally significant project, beginning at Lake Apopka near Orlando and ending at the Atlantic Ocean at Jacksonville, helps restore 50 springs and three rivers, directly or indirectly benefitting 12 Florida Counties. It is essential to maintain Florida as a leading state in the nation for tourism, to provide long-term water resources for millions of central and northeast Florida residents, and to strengthen the Florida Wildlife Corridor and its $30 billion-dollar outdoor economy.

Breaching the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam to restore this riverway avoids a dam failure with potential loss of life, provides upstream and downstream resiliency, enhances water quality, and reconnects a critical migratory path for fish and manatees and a historic blueway for people. It helps revitalize vital fisheries in the lower St. Johns and Ocklawaha Rivers. It can provide much-needed warm water winter manatee habitat for 10+ percent of Florida’s suffering manatee population.

As a 501(c)4 organization, the Trust is unique in its ability to urge elected leaders – at every level of government – to breach this more than fifty year log jam and free a vital 217-mile riverway. To accomplish this mission, we will provide the history, science, economics and facts to key local, regional, state and federal leaders for informed decision making on this critical restoration project. We will continue to work hand-in-hand with conservation, outdoor recreation, business and tourism organizations.

It is also our goal to support leaders in developing a vision and strategy for complementary recreation and community infrastructure to ensure this project provides strong economic benefits to local communities for years to come

The History

In the 1900s, a national push for expansion and progress in Florida resulted in the damming, diking and destruction of two of America’s national treasures – America’s Everglades and the Great Florida Riverway. This valuable 217-mile system reaches from its headwaters at the Green Swamp and Lake Apopka in Central Florida along the Ocklawaha River to historic Silver Springs and finally to the St. Johns River ending at the Atlantic Ocean near Jacksonville. The Great Florida Riverway was severed in 1968 by the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam, part of the unfinished and ill-conceived Cross Florida Barge Canal.

The dam flooded more than 7,500 acres of forested wetlands, 20 springs and 16 miles of the Ocklawaha River. The continued decline of water quality, spring flow, wetland forests, fish, wildlife, and recreation led American Rivers to designate the Ocklawaha River as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2020.

The more than 50-year-old, high-hazard dam also poses a significant threat, specifically to 539 properties located downstream. A dam failure could cause catastrophic flooding resulting in potential loss of life and millions in damages. On the other hand, breaching the dam and partially restoring the free-flowing river would eliminate the risks of a dam failure and provide thousands of acres of natural flood storage.

Today, most Americans agree that the building of the dam was a tragic mistake, significantly impacting the water, wildlife and natural beauty of the Sunshine State.