Imagine being able to paddle or motorboat along the entire Ocklawaha River from the St. Johns to Silver Springs to the headwaters in Lake Apopka. Imagine a swifter flowing, cooler and less polluted river free of invasive aquatic weed blockages. Envision a multi-day Silver/Ocklawaha blueway experience that would be a magnet for Florida residents, as well as international and national guests.
A few manatees are finding their way through the metal gates of the Buckman Lock to Silver Springs, but have difficulty navigating out. Once the Rodman Dam is breached, scientists predict that anywhere from 200 to 300 manatees would migrate to Silver Springs creating a new tourist draw rivaling that of Blue Springs State Park in Volusia County. Manatees are already congregating at many nearby sites such as Welaka, Salt Springs and the Buckman Locks. With restoration, not only would they have winter refuge at Silver Springs but could find home in one of the 20 lost springs of the Ocklawaha that have been drowned from the Dam.
Remember the big catfish and striped bass that once were the stars of the show under the Silver Springs glass-bottomed boats? Have you seen the historic fishing photos and news stories from before the Rodman Dam blocked the fish migration from the Atlantic Ocean to the St. Johns to the Ocklawaha and Silver Springs? By reconnecting the St. Johns with the Ocklawaha River, we can restore the once abundant migratory fish like the sought-after striped bass, white and channel catfish, sturgeons and American shad.