By James | Last updated August 23, 2023
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At over 48 square miles (125 km2), today Lake Apopka is the fourth largest lake in Florida and is spring fed from the Gourd Neck Spring. It is considered the headwater of the Harris Chain of Lakes and water from the lake flows northwards through the Apopka-Beauclair canal into Lake Beauclair and Lake Dora, eventually feeding into the St Johns River.
Sixty years ago the water was crystal clear with nearly 30 bass fishing camps dotted around the shoreline. Unfortunately, from the 1940s up until the 1980s, the lake suffered from chronic pesticide pollution and fertiliser/sewage runoff particularly along its northern boundary.
A scheme was introduced in the 1990s to attempt to remove phosphorus and clean up the lake by buying up the offending farmland and restoring the wetlands. This process is ongoing and the bird and fish populations are starting to recover but the water is still very murky.
Fishing stocks are recovering and today the lake holds some very large bass as well as crappie, perch and catfish. The lake is also home to a large number of alligators and juveniles can be found in the reed beds by the fishing pier at Newton Park.
At one time, Lake Apopka was the second largest lake, but the reclamation work has reduced its size.
Like several of Florida’s largest lakes it is very shallow with an average depth of only 5 feet.
A short drive away from the Winter Garden Downtown Historic District, along quiet residential streets lined with live oaks dripping with Spanish moss is Newton Park (free parking and boat ramp) on the shores of Lake Apopka. Here you can see stunning views across Lake Apopka from the boardwalk and fishing pier. Also known as Lakeview Park.
As well as Newton Park there are also natures trails at the Ferndale Preserve on the western shore in Lake County and a boardwalk at the Oakland Nature Preserve at Oakland on the southern shore, west of Winter Garden.
The Friends of Lake Apopka are developing a 57 mile long paved trail around the lake and there are also equestrian trails and the Green Mountain Scenic Byway for cars, cyclists and runners.