Lake Griffin is one of nine lakes that make up the Harris Chain of Lakes — Apopka, Beauclair, Carlton, Dora, Eustis, Yale, Little Lake Harris and Harris. These lakes all drain into the 9,400-acre Lake Griffin, then water flows into the Ocklawaha River and into the St. Johns River. Lake Griffin, in Lake County, is fed by rainfall and water flowing from the upstream lakes through a dam on Haynes Creek. A dam on the Ocklawaha River downstream of Lake Griffin controls water levels in Lake Griffin.
Lake Griffin was plagued for decades by discharges of phosphorus from farms along its northeastern shore and discharges of wastewater and industrial outfalls. Farming and sewage discharges into upstream lakes, particularly Lake Apopka, also contributed to Lake Griffin’s deterioration. The nutrients fueled algal blooms and water clarity deteriorated, which also affected underwater vegetation critical to fish and wildlife habitat.
The St. Johns River Water Management District is moving forward to restore the entire Harris Chain of Lakes. The restoration of Lake Griffin has focused both on the lake itself and on upstream Lake Apopka. The district is now developing a plan to establish minimum flows and levels and to return more natural flows and levels to the lakes. Three dams built within the Harris Chain of Lakes and on the Ocklawaha River to prevent flooding have slowed water flows and stabilized lake levels since the 1960s. More continuous flows and more natural fluctuations in levels are critical to healthy waterbodies and marshes in Florida.
Work in the basin has included eliminating sewage discharges, taking steps to control stormwater discharges, bring former farmland into public ownership for restoration, adopting interim lake level fluctuations, and reconnecting Lake Harris and Lake Griffin through a wetland area called the Harris Bayou to improve flood management.