Current condition: Variable by size. Large Softwater Streams were considered good and declining, but small Softwater Streams were judged poor and declining. According to the best available GIS information at the time, 19,401 miles (31,223 km) of Softwater Stream habitat exists.

Habitat Description

Typical Softwater Streams originate from sandy flats containing broad wetlands which collect rainfall and slowly release water into the stream. This habitat category has water with low pH, low carbonate, that may be stained by tannins and humic acids filtered from the drainage of swamps and marshes. The flow rate is usually gentle in smaller streams to moderate in larger, but is altogether influenced by seasonal local rainfall. 

These streams typically have sand or silt bottoms with varying amounts of aquatic vegetation. Plants include golden club, smartweed, sedges, and grasses. Softwater Streams differ from Alluvial Streams by having high, steep banks, and by lacking extensive floodplains and natural levees. This habitat is well distributed throughout Florida, except in the regions of north and central Florida dominated by Calcareous Streams, and in the Everglades/Big Cypress region of south Florida, where wetlands and coastal streams dominate the aquatic landscape. Most of the streams in this category are small natural streams originating in pinelands or swamps or small natural segments of otherwise channelized streams in south central Florida. Smaller Softwater Streams examples include Big Coldwater Creek, Pine Barren Creek, Big Escambia Creek, and Big Sweetwater Creek. Large Softwater Stream examples include the Blackwater, Wacasassa, Yellow, Perdido, Econfina, Aucilla, Sopchoppy, St. Mary's, or Ochlockonee rivers.

Download the Softwater Stream chapter from the Action Plan.

Visit the Internet Mapping Service (IMS) website to explore detailed, interactive maps of all FWLI habitat categories.

What is being done to conserve Softwater Streams?

The rivers of the southeastern U.S. support the highest aquatic biodiversity in North America. Many of them have been impacted by habitat degradation, alteration, conversion and loss.

The Yellow River is a softwater stream that is noted for high fish and mollusk biodiversity, including five candidate mussel species and the federally threatened Gulf sturgeon. Historically considered a relatively undisturbed system, its watershed is now being impacted by nonpoint sources of pollution, sedimentation resulting from bank instability and road crossings, and drainage from domestic and industrial wastewater reuse facilities in the basin. To begin conserving and restoring natural function and biodiversity of the Yellow River, The Nature Conservancy is working to identify those areas contributing to habitat degradation throughout the system. This will enable conservationists to prioritize restoration areas within the watershed and coordinate on-the-ground habitat restoration among conservation partners and local landowners. Through an increased understanding of the relationship between the location of impacts with the distribution of at-risk aquatic species, this project will also lead to species protection, conservation and recovery within the Yellow River watershed.

The Peace River is one of the few remaining unchannelized rivers in Florida, and supports a wide diversity of species. Over the past 15 years it has been impacted by extensive phosphate mining which has altered its natural hydrology, and growing water-use demands leading to increased withdrawals. Additionally, the active hurricane season of 2004 created extensive defoliation of the watershed and a severe low dissolved oxygen event, decimating the fish communities. In response, the Fish and Wildlife Commission undertook a 3-year study to inventory the fish community in comparison to data collected before 1992. This study will also determine habitat requirements of fish species under various water level conditions. Southwest Florida Water Management District will use this information to help determine minimum flows and levels for the Peace River and other streams, marking a significant partnership with SWFWMD which is funding 50% of the project.

Florida's Wildlife Legacy Initiative is proud to support both of these projects.

For more information, please contact Kevin Kemp or Thomas Kuhn.

View Softwater Stream Project Posters

Additional current and recent projects being done by a variety of conservation partners to restore and maintain softwater streams include:

What wildlife species will benefit?


Softwater Streams Species of Greatest Conservation Need

Mammals Birds Fish
Reptiles Invertebrates Amphibians

FWC Facts:
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