The Withlacoochee River flows in a northwesterly direction for 157 miles from the Green Swamp in Central Florida to the Gulf of Mexico near Yankeetown Florida. The River, its tributaries and its hydrologically connected lakes and wetlands are sometimes referred to as the Withlacoochee Riverine and Lakes System.
The Withlacoochee River’s surficial watershed drains approximately 2,100 square miles. In addition, Rainbow Springs, the watershed’s only first order spring, and other smaller springs, contribute significant quantities of groundwater to the River. The Withlacoochee River empties into the Withlacoochee Bay Estuary, a large, shallow estuary that begins downstream of Yankeetown. Prevailing inshore currents in the Gulf flow counter-clockwise and as a result the discharge of the Withlacoochee River provides a primary source of fresh water to Waccasassa Bay to the north and to the southern reaches of the Big Bend Sea Grasses Preserve.
There are numerous lakes and impoundments throughout the Withlacoochee Watershed, but the three main ones are Lake Rousseau, Lake Tsala Apopka, and Lake Panasoffkee. Each of these has a hydrologic connection to the Withlacoochee River. The Cross Florida Barge Canal intersects the Withlacoochee River 9 miles upstream from the estuary and 2 miles downstream from the Inglis spillway, diverting some of the River’s historic flow.
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