Rivers Along the Byway

There are four stand-out rivers that crisscross the Byway providing the area with distinct ecological and ecotourism destinations. 

The St. Johns River is Florida’s longest river and has been a primary thoroughfare for centuries for Native Americans, explorers, settlers, residents, boaters, sportsmen, tourists, loggers, and merchants.  The Ocklawaha River at one time was a favorite route for early tourists in Florida as they made their way to Silver Springs and other points south.  Today it is an ecotourism wonderland.  The Silver River is a crystal clear river fed by Silver Springs and is a popular canoeing and kayaking destination. And the Tomoka River on the east side flows into Florida’s inland waterway system on its way to the Atlantic Ocean.  Whatever your blue water interest is, you’ll find a river destination to satisfy for needs.

River Facts:

  • St. Johns River is one of 14 American Heritage Rivers.
  • St. Johns River was explored by the Spanish in the 1500s
  • In the Steamboat Era in the 1800s, the Ocklawaha River was a popular cruise
  • The Silver River is fed by the largest artesian spring on U.S. land
  • The Silver River is a protected ecosystem and no fishing is permitted
  • Rhesus Monkeys can be spotted in the trees along the Silver River
  • Guided Pontoon Boat trips are available on the St. Johns and Ocklawaha Rivers

Canoeing & Kayaking Florida
Florida Kayak & Canoe Meetup Group

Ocklawaha River


The Ocklawaha River was at one time a major tourist river in the 1800s. During the heyday of the Steamboat Era, tourists traveled up and down the Ocklawaha from Palatka to Silver Springs and from Palatka along the St. Johns River, through Lake George and continued on the St. Johns to Astor and Deland.

Today the Ocklawaha River is one of the great ecotourism rivers of the area, providing sportsmen, sightseers, bird and nature watchers a unique habitat and beautiful setting.


Florida Barge Canal and the Cross Florida Greenway


The original plan was to build a canal across the state of Florida from Jacksonville to the Gulf of Mexico. Portions of the St. Johns River and Ocklawaha River would be part of the Florida Barge Canal. The project was stopped by environmentalists, but not before a portion of the canal was built. Today it’s a calm stretch of “river” that is used by boaters, fishermen and ecotourists and is part of the Cross Florida Greenway. The canal can be seen from the Rodman Campgrounds west of SR 19.


St Johns River


The St. Johns River is one of 14 American Heritage Rivers and Florida’s longest river. The St. Johns River has a long and storied history dating back to the early Native American tribal people who lived and harvested food from the river, to the Spanish Explorers who traveled its currents, and the steamboats and logging barges that used the river to build the local economies. Today the river is a great source of recreational activity. People come to the St. Johns to vacation on houseboats, to fish, to sail, to sight, or to just get away for an afternoon on the water. This river has the distinction of being the one only a few rivers that flows north in the United States. In 2008 the St Johns River was listed as one of America’s Ten Most Endangered Rivers. Much of the water from the river is supplied by Florida’s aquifers. The river is managed by the St. Johns River Water Management District.

Links: St. Johns Riverkeeper


Silver River


The Silver River is formed by the numerous springs that make up Silver Springs. The river is on the west side of the byway in the town named for the springs on SR 40. The Silver River is a primary ecotourism area which draws canoeists, kayakers, and boaters to its rich and diverse underwater life and its dense forest areas. This area has revealed prehistoric life and yielded the bones of saber-tooth tigers and woolly mammoths. These can be seen the Silver River State Park’s Museum, accessible from SR 35 in Silver Springs. Silver River is a highly protected area and fishing is prohibited.


Tomoka River


The Tomoka River crosses under the Byway near its eastern end on SR 40. The river is designated as a Manatee Sanctuary. The Tomoka River empties into the Halifax River, which is part of Florida’s inland waterway that leads out to the Atlantic Ocean. It is a favorite river for ecotourism and can be accessed through the Tomoka State Park in Ormond Beach.