Peace River Florida

Just wondering if anyone on here knows if there is enough water in Peace River around Zolfo Springs to paddle it? Thanks KK


– Last Updated: May-26-08 11:01 PM EST –

Hey there! I don't know about water levels but I was looking around (as I didn't really know about this river) and found a pretty decent trip report with nice info:!OpenDocument&Click=
Have fun if you do go! Back to the books for now- Toddy

Edit- at the bottom of the page are all the appropriate gauge links...

Hi KK and Toddy,
Peace River is low, according to this link:

but the fossil hunting sounds like fun.

If you enjoy paddling around cows
that are standing in the river go to the Peace river.

I was there once and it is on my list of places never to go back to.



We will be fossil hunting
so it looks like the water level is perfect for that. As for paddling around the cows I guess we could make a game of that. lol

Hey Jack, There are a lot of places I have paddled that I’m glad I did them once but will never go back to, and some I wish I’d never gone to in the first place. So I know what you’re saying. If you ever paddle the Ocala area again give me a shout. I’d enjoy paddling with you two.

Hi sissy
Thanks for the link. You can come and paddle with us. It is going to be a QUITE paddle if you know what I mean! We’ll be camping at Pioneer Park. Arriving Friday morning.

I would rather paddle around cows
than gators. :wink:


Give me gators any day. The
French Broad has so many cows along it that the water is brown with particulate. I call it the Cowflop River.

Peace River praise…

I personally love peace river, you just have to go when the water levels are up.

We camped overnight on the river and canoed 2 full days on it.

I want to go back, just don’t have the time to

get there when the levels are up!


Article in todays Tribune about the upper end of the Peace River.

Ambitious Project Aims To Get Peace River Flowing Again

Tribune photo by JAY NOLAN

The Peace River in Polk County is “ponding” and not flowing just south of Bartow.


The Tampa Tribune

Published: May 30, 2008

Updated: 12:11 am

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BARTOW - Bright white rocks. Dead trees. Parched grass.

“This is the Peace River,” said Bill Lewelling, a sandy 3-foot ribbon underneath his feet.

The scene was shocking because of what wasn’t visible: water. Lewelling, a hydrologist, should have been standing neck-deep in it.

Decades of pumping the ground for nearby farms, phosphate mines and home faucets, coupled with two years of unusually dry weather, have turned a 20-mile stretch of the Peace River into a cracked, sandy bed. For almost a third of the year, little or no water flows.

When there’s no water, fish die. Grass and trees along the riverbank wither. Nesting habitat for birds and other critters disappears. Economies suffer as well when developers can’t get permits because there’s not enough water.

It’s not just the Peace River that’s hurting. In an eight-county, 5,100-square-mile area, water levels are such a concern that state and local officials are embarking on the region’s largest water restoration project yet. The price is expected to reach at least $1.8 billion by the time work is completed in 2025.

The effort includes building dams and reservoirs, working with farmers to recycle rainwater for irrigation, and using technology to raise lake and river levels. Restoring the upper Peace River is a major component of the project, but it’s not the only part.

“It’s not a problem that’s developed overnight. It’s something that’s been occurring over an entire century,” said David Moore, executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. “It’s not going to be fixed overnight.”

This spring, the Legislature approved $15 million for the endeavor, which is known as the West-Central Florida Water Restoration Action Plan. The federal government and local cities and counties are expected to kick in money, as will the water management district.

The project targets a region referred to as the Southern Water Use Caution Area. It starts in Hillsborough County, south of State Road 60, and includes DeSoto, Hardee, Manatee and Sarasota counties as well as sections of Polk, Highlands and Charlotte counties.

A Lush Past

Water was once plentiful in the upper Peace River, gushing out of the aquifer in the form of a cool, crystal-clear spring. Children frolicked in the spring, which also was a tourist draw for small-town Polk County.

But by the 1950s, as groundwater pumping intensified, the spring dried up, and the natural attraction was lost forever.

The disappearance of the spring is perhaps the starkest reminder of the effect of unregulated groundwater pumping over the decades. The state didn’t start managing water until the early 1970s.

It’s also a symbol of how some man-made problems can’t be corrected. Bringing the spring back would require Polk County users to cut groundwater pumping by 80 percent, according to Mark Hammond, the water management district’s director of resource management.

The restoration project isn’t aiming for anything that dramatic but would bring at least a few inches of water to the river almost year-round, a big improvement over the bleached white moonscape that greets hydrologists and nature enthusiasts these days.

The project starts with Lake Hancock, a 4,500-acre lake near Bartow whose water resembles pea soup. The lake, which for years has been a dumping ground for polluted irrigation runoff, flows into the upper Peace River.

Officials hope to corral more water into the lake during the wet season and raise the water level by a few feet. A structure similar to a dam would hold in the water.

During the dry season, the water would be slowly released, ensuring at least a trickle would make its way through the river. In the process, the river would act as a filter, at least partially cleaning the polluted water.

In addition to directing more water to the river, raising the level of Lake Hancock would restore about 1,000 acres of wetlands, fragile nurseries that provide habitat to birds and other animals. The area around the lake is mostly farmland and open space, with moss-draped oak trees and chirping frogs.

The district plans to buy the homes of at least 30 families who live near the lake to move the project forward.

Working With Farmers

In the eight-county region, farms and other agricultural businesses use more than 40 percent of the water, the district’s executive director said. So it makes sense that farmers are brought onboard for the major water restoration effort.

In Hillsborough County, at least half a dozen farms have teamed up with the water management district to change farming practices.

Ruskin strawberry farmer Mike Council is one of them. Through a special grant program, he was able to build a $250,000 pond and pump system that stores runoff and rainfall and then pumps that water back over his berries during the growing season. The district grant offset the cost by $111,000.

“It cuts way back on the water usage,” he said recently, his 50-acre farm stretched out before him. Strawberry season has come and gone, but to keep the land fertile, he plants a transition crop, a legume, and it, too, needs to be watered.

Since he built the pond and installed the pump last year, his water use has dropped 40 percent, saving about 83,000 gallons per day on average.

By the time 2025 rolls around, officials hope to have worked with enough farms to offset the pumping of 40 million gallons of groundwater per day. So far, officials are a quarter of the way there.

All told, between working with farmers and using technology to reduce groundwater pumping, project managers hope to offset the use of 50 million gallons of water per day in the 5,000-square-mile area. That’s enough water to fill 50, 10-foot-deep swimming pools the length of football fields.

Reporter Nicola M. White can be reached at (813) 259-7616 or

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Don’t care much for the Peace River.
I remember as a young boy there was a nice spring just south of Bartow (Farmington Spr?). It quit flowing back in the late 50’s. It did have a brief period of flow when most of the phosphate plants’ workers went on strike in the late 60’s. Less than a week after the strike was over the spring was no more and will never flow again unless 3/4 of the human population leaves the area or gets wipe out from some catastrophe. I’ve paddled it from Ft. Meade to Garner’s landing 40 yrs. ago and again from Zolfo Springs with my daughter (7 y.o. at the time), and I won’t go again. The only good that came of those trips was an education in population control and how badly a price needs to be put on developers’ heads.

One positive note: My daughter found an intact meglodon tooth 5.25" long while she was flipping over rocks in the shallows looking for crawdads. She still has it (encased in clear plastic) and proudly displays it some 24 years later.

We didn’t see any
cows! The water was really low, which was good for fossil hunting. I found about 50 sharks teeth. We all had a blast. There were several water cannon fights along the way to keep us cool.

Agree with JackL
Peace river was a beautiful river, but like many rivers in Florida it depends on the day you go. We went near Thanksgiving and said we would never go back. Lots of trash on the river and about a billion people from the canoe outfitters. Every open field or sandbar had someone camping on it for about 5 miles. We finally found a decent spot where another group wasn’t right on top of us. At 1 in the morning a cow walked right through camp. The local ranchers have been trying to shut down camping along the river for years, now I know why. I’m sure if you go during the week it will be great.