The Saint Johns River, measuring 459 km (285 mi), is Florida’s longest river. It rises near the Atlantic Coast at about the middle of the peninsula and then flows northward to the Atlantic Ocean, east of Jacksonville. In the 19th century the Saint Johns was a busy waterway for the greater part of its course. Now, however, dense mats of water hyacinth render navigation almost impossible on the river’s upper course. The water hyacinth, a beautiful aquatic plant with purple flowers, was accidentally introduced into the region in the 1880s, and it spread with alarming rapidity throughout the upper reaches of the river. The plant is very difficult to eradicate, and it has also clogged the channels of other Florida rivers. To increase drainage of the Everglades, which drain naturally to Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, a number of drainage channels and canals have been built across southern Florida.
Among the rivers flowing from the peninsula to the Gulf of Mexico are the Suwannee, Caloosahatchee, Peace, Hillsborough, and Withlacoochee. The Suwannee, famous as the Swanee River of Old Folks at Home by Stephen Foster, rises in Georgia and is navigable in its lower course. The Caloosahatchee River is also navigable and is connected with Lake Okeechobee by a dredged channel that forms part of the Okeechobee Waterway, also known as the Cross-State Canal.
In northwestern Florida several major rivers flow across the panhandle from neighboring Alabama and Georgia. Among them are the Perdido, the Escambia (Conecuh in Georgia), the Yellow, the Choctawhatchee, the Blackwater, and the Ochlockonee. The northwest is also crossed by the Apalachicola River, which is formed near the Georgia-Florida state line by the junction of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers.
The Apalachicola River forms the lower part of an extensive waterway for barges.
Florida has more than 7,000 lakes greater than 4 hectares (10 acres) in size, most of which are in the lake district of the Florida peninsula. The largest one in the state is Lake Okeechobee, which also is the fourth largest natural lake wholly within the United States. It covers an area of 1,717 sq km (663 sq mi). It is a shallow lake, with a maximum depth of 6 m (20 ft).
Florida is noted for its springs, many of which bubble up from large underground reservoirs. Their waters are usually warm, 21°C (70°F) or more, and are very clear. Some of the springs are inhabited by alligators and a variety of fish.
Many are fringed with mosses and ferns and are overhung by hardwood trees. A number give rise to swift streams called runs. Springs are also a source of water for major rivers, such as the Saint Johns. The best-known springs are Rainbow Springs, near Dunnellon, and Silver Springs, near Ocala. Each of these springs pours out more than 1.9 billion liters (500 million gallons) a day. Wakulla Spring, near Tallahassee, which is 56 m (185 ft) deep, is Florida’s deepest spring. "Florida" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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