Northwest Florida Water Management District

Northwest Florida Water Management District

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Apalachicola River

The Apalachicola River bluffs and ravines hold unrivaled steephead streams that harbor the only native Torreya taxifolia, as well as uniquely adapted dusky salamanders and Florida yew.The Apalachicola River, Florida’s first in flow, starts high above Atlanta in the Appalachian Mountains.   Part of a three-river system, the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) interstate basin drains 21,794 square miles within Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.  The Chattahoochee River meets sixteen dams, the last at Lake Seminole where it joins the Flint River and, from there, flows unimpeded through Florida to the Apalachicola Bay.

The ACF basin is one of the most biodiverse, productive and economically important aquatic regions of the United States. The basin’s varied habitats, from rare steephead ravines with the only native Torreya taxifolia found anywhere to bottomland hardwood forests, give it the highest species density of amphibians and reptiles on the continent, north of Mexico.  It is home to 135 listed species tracked by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, including the protected Florida black bear.  For decades the District has also been involved in tri-state negotiations to restore historic flows to preserve biological health, a response to Atlanta’s proposal to increase withdrawals for urban growth. 

The District-demonstrated model for restoring Tates Hell to the dwarf cypress swamp and longleaf pine/wiregrass wilderness that once tormented Cebe Tate was recently accepted as management practice by the Division of Forestry.  The vast swamp was named for Tate who was lost in it for a week and snake-bitten.  He stumbled out near Carrabelle where he told passersby, “My name’s Tate and I’ve just been through hell.”

Large portions of the river’s forested floodplain, also Florida’s largest, are protected by state and federal goverApalachicola Rivernments and private entities.  The river is bordered by the Apalachicola National Forest, Torreya State Park, The Nature Conservancy Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve, Tates Hell State Forest and Apalachicola Wildlife and Environmental Area, as well as the District-owned Apalachicola River Water Management Area.  There, the District has purchased 36,315 acres for preservation, bordering about 19 miles of riverfront in Gulf and Liberty counties.

The river and bay support a substantial seafood harvest, including oysters, shrimp and numerous finfish. Thirty-eight species of fish require inundated floodplains to spawn and survive.  The District has partnered with Gulf County to restore many acres of sterile dredge spoil sites to native hardwood floodplain forest. 

The Apalachicola River and Bay is a priority of the Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) program, legislated in 1987 to reduce watershed degradation, as well as protect and preserve natural resources.  Basin localities have also received District-awarded Florida Forever funds to reduce stormwater pollution at popular boat landings, on Lands Store Road and Ocheesee Landing.  Franklin County received funds to protect habitat and provide stormwater treatment along Apalachicola Bay on St. George Island.  Also, funds were awarded in the Choctawhatchee and Apalachicola river basins to stabilize dirt roads and control sediment pollution at stream crossings within Holmes, Jackson and Washington counties. 

Hunting, fishing, boating, canoeing, hiking, camping, picnicking and bird-watching are popular in this basin.  Swallow-tail and Mississippi kites, as well as various hawks can be found here.  The District-owned Florida River Island, in Liberty County, offers a 2.6-mile interpretive trail and the Florida National Scenic Trail crosses here.  Call the District Lands Division for available recreational brochures, (850)539-5999.

Suggested links:

  1. Read our draft water supply plan for Gulf and Franklin counties
  2. Read stories of vanishing Apalachicola livelihoods in our oral history
  3. Read the FWC Hunting Brochure for Apalachicola
  4. Read the FWC Hunting Brochure for the Apalachicola River
  5. View the Apalachicola River "Big Picture" brochure: Inside, Outside