Tsala Apopka Chain of Lakes
The Tsala Apopka chain of lakes is the largest freshwater system in Citrus County and covers approximately 22,000 acres and includes 15 lakes. Situated in the Withlacoochee River Basin, the Tsala Apopka chain has experienced extensive alterations since the 1880s due to flood control, road construction, and farming. Once a free-flowing series of lakes, the Tsala Apopka chain is now comprised of three segregated pools with limited water level fluctuations. The Floral City Pool, the Inverness Pool, and the Hernando Pool are now considered the main bodies of the Tsala Apopka chain, all comprised of numerous lakes and marshes.
How the Lakes Fill
Many citizens often ask how the lakes are operated and how they fill. The Tsala Apopka Chain-of-Lakes relies on water from groundwater, rainfall, and surface water movement from the Withlacoochee River. Tsala Apopka encompasses approximately 23,300 acres with three distinct Pools: Floral City Pool (9100 acres), Inverness Pool (8000 acres), and the Hernando Pool (6200 acres). Water moves through the Chain-of-Lakes in a Northerly manner with water entering the Floral City Pool, then through the Inverness Pool, and eventually to the Hernando Pool. There are currently 13 water conservation structures on the Lake Chain that serve as inflows, interconnects and outflows. For example, in the Floral City Pool, the Orange State Structure at East Trails End Road serves at the interconnect, whereas in the Inverness Pool, the Moccasin Slough Structure at Flying Eagle is an inflow structure and in the Hernando Pool, the VanNess Structure on East Shorewood Lane is an outflow structure.
Surface water from the Withlacoochee River first enters the Lake Chain through the Floral City Pool primarily through the Leslie Heifner Canal (Leslie Heifner Structure) and also the Orange State Canal (Floral City Structure). During certain conditions, water may enter through the newly installed culverts within the Flying Eagle Preserve North/South berm. Surface water moves from the Floral City Pool into the Inverness Pool through the Golf Course & Moccasin Slough Structures. Unlike other structures, the Golf Course Structure, is similar to a “spillway” whereas water levels in the Floral City Pool must reach 38 feet or higher before water is able to move over the structure into the Inverness Pool.
Then from the Inverness Pool, surface water enters into the Hernando Pool primarily through the Brogden Bridge Structure and culverts. Surface water in the Inverness Pool can also be discharged back into the Withlacoochee River through the Bryant Slough Structure. Surface water from the Hernando Pool can be discharged either back to the Withlacoochee River through Tsala Apopka Outfall Canal Structure or into the two-mile prairie through the VanNess Structure.
Each individual Pool has adopted a lake level with a low and high standard. The Floral City Pool low level is 40.25 feet with a high level of 42.5 feet. The Inverness Pool low level is 38.25 feet with a high level at 40.5 feet and the Hernando Pool has a low level of 36.75 feet and a high level of 39 feet.