Lakes and Tributaries
In addition to flow from springs, the Withlacoochee River also receives water from several tributaries. The most notable are the Little Withlacoochee River, Gum Slough, Jumper Creek and the Outlet River from Lake Panasoffkee.
Several lakes, including Lake Panasoffkee, Tsala Apopka and Lake Rousseau, are also key features that affect river flows. Along with the Withlacoochee and Rainbow rivers, these lakes are all designated Outstanding Florida Waters by the State of Florida. That means they are worthy of special protection because of their natural attributes.
Located in Sumter County, Lake Panasoffkee is the third largest lake in west-central Florida. This lake is unique because unlike most lakes in the state, the Floridan aquifer is directly exposed at the lake’s bottom. Lake Panasoffkee is a popular location for freshwater fishing, which plays an important role in the region’s economy. In 2008, the District completed a restoration of Lake Panasoffkee to improve its water quality, navigation and fisheries habitat.
Lake Tsala Apopka is a series of vast marshes and open water pools covering nearly 22,000 acres. It’s through these marshes and several man-made canals that the lake system connects to the Withlacoochee River. The name “Tsala Apopka” derives from the Seminole Indians and signifies “the lake where bass are eaten,” which holds true because the lake system is one of the most significant freshwater fisheries in the state. Several water control structures assist in the management of the lake levels for water conservation and flood protection.
Now a popular sport-fishing lake, Lake Rousseau spans parts of Citrus, Levy and Marion counties. It was formed in 1909 when the original Inglis Dam structure was completed to support the booming phosphate industry. The Florida Power Corporation used the dam to generate hydropower until 1965 when the US Army Corps of Engineers began building the Cross Florida Barge Canal. These man-made alterations are one of many factors that have changed the original flow of the Withlacoochee River.