© 2021 WFIT
Public Radio for the Space Coast
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
WFIT Features

Riverkeeper Visits St. John's Headwaters

Vince Lamb

The St. Johns River is the longest river in the U.S. state of Florida and its most significant for commercial and recreational use. At 310 miles (500 km) long, it winds through or borders twelve counties, three of which are the state's largest. The drop in elevation from the headwaters to the mouth is less than 30 feet (9.1 m); like most Florida waterways, the St. Johns has a very slow flow rate at a third of a mile an hour (0.5 km/h), and is often described as "lazy". It is one of a small number of rivers in the United States to run north. Numerous lakes are formed by the river or flow into it, but as a river its widest point is nearly 3 miles (4.8 km) across. The narrowest point is in the headwaters, an unnavigable marsh in Indian River County. In all, 3.5 million people live within the various watersheds that feed into the St. Johns River.

Nitrates and phosphorus used as lawn and crop fertilizers wash into the St. Johns. Broken septic systems and seepage from cattle grazing lands create pollution that also finds its way into the river. Storm water washes from street drains directly to the river and its tributaries: in the 1970s, the Econlockhatchee River received 8,000,000 US gallons (30,000,000 L) of treated wastewater every day. Wetlands were drained and paved, unable to filter pollutants from the water, made worse by the river's own slow discharge. Algal blooms, fish kills, and deformations and lesions on fish occur regularly in the river from Palatka to Jacksonville. Although most of the pollutants in the river are washed from the southern parts of the river, the Jacksonville area produces approximately 36 percent of them found in the lower basin.


The St. Johns Riverkeeper mission is to work on behalf of the community for clean and healthy waters in the St. Johns River, its tributaries and its wetlands, through citizen-based advocacy.

Credit Vince Lamb
Riverkeeper Group at Ft. Drum Marsh.

They are a privately-funded, independent and trusted voice for the St. Johns River and the public to whom it belongs.


Lisa Rinaman, the chief advocate of the St John’s Riverkeeper and public’s voice for the St John’s River, recently visited Brevard and Indian River Counties and the headwaters of the St John’s river to learn more about the river its issues and advocates at its source. Vince Lamb and a group of local environmentalists arranged and accompanied Lisa as she toured the area. Her visit included a boat trip on Blue Cypress Lake guided by Richard and Juanita Baker, professors emeriti, authors and environmental advocates.

Credit Vince Lamb
Lisa Rinaman at Ft. Drum Marsh.

She also met with Doug Voltolina, Land Manager for the Upper St John’s Water Management District at Fort Drum and hiked back through a pristine cypress head to the headwaters of the St John’s river.  The group also made a stop at the Legendary Marsh Landing in Fellsmere to discuss and recap the day’s activities.

The following day the group met at Camp Holly for a kayak paddle to Lake Hell & Blazes.  The six mile trip to the lake was an uneventful and serene experience and the group observed abundant wildlife and flora along the way.  On the return a severe afternoon thunderstorm drenched the group and there was a mad rush to avoid the lightening.  Luckily there were no mishaps and everyone returned to the restaurant at Camp Holly to share photos and experiences.

Credit Vince Lamb
WFIT's Terri Wright

When asked what she deemed the most memorable part of her visit, Lisa replied, “ I guess it would be a reaffirming of the beauty or the river and the passion of the people who love it.  So often we spend our time meeting with the opposition it was a refreshing change.”

Photographs by Vince Lamb.http://www.vincelamb.com/