Kissimmee Chain of Lakes SOR Tract, 10811 ha
Kissimmee River floodplain, ? ha
Kissimmee River SOR Tracts, 17774 ha
Lake Kissimmee, ? ha
Lake Kissimmee State Park, 2356 ha

The entire length of the Kissimmee River, from Lake Hatchineha to Lake Okeechobee in southeastern Polk County, southwestern Osceola County, extreme eastern Highlands County, extreme western Okeechobee County, and extreme northeastern Glades County. Lake Kissimmee State Park is along the northwestern shoreline of Lake Kissimmee, and extends west to Lake Rosalie and south to Tiger Lake. Contiguous with the Avon Park?Bombing Range Ridge IBA to the west, the Osceola Flatwoods and Prairies IBA and Kissimmee Prairie IBA to the east, and with the Lake Okeechobee IBA to the south. Across Lake Hatchineha from the Disney Wilderness Preserve IBA.

The Kissimmee River, which begins at Lake Hatchineha and flows south into Lake Okeechobee, originally was 107 miles (172 km) long. As part of flood control and land reclamation, it was converted to the C-38, a 30-foot (9-m) deep, 330-foot (100-m) wide, and 56-mile (90-km) long channel between 1962 and 1970. Channelization had profound negative consequences to the river and its former floodplain, which was mostly converted to pasture. In 1983, efforts to dechannelize the river began, and the state has purchased most privately-owned lands that historically were river floodplain. Restoration of the Kissimmee River represents the largest river restoration project in history. Lake Kissimmee is the third largest lake in Florida. Kissimmee River State Park receives 14,000 recreationists annually, while the Kissimmee River receives an estimated 3000 recreationists and 1000 hunters. Other than avian data, no information was provided for Lake Kissimmee.

The Kissimmee River historically served as a major commercial waterway between the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes and Lake Okeechobee. It was a culturally important area during the 1800s, and several historical points of interest remain. The Lockett Estate and an Indian mound on the property have been preserved as a historical site. Fort Basinger and Fort Kissimmee, built during the Seminole Indian Wars, are located on the river. Lake Kissimmee State Park: Several listed plants occur onsite, such as ?garberia (Garberia heterophylla), ?Catesby's lily (Lilium catesbaei), cutthroatgrass, ?yellow-flowered butterwort (Pinguicula lutea), ?giant orchid (Pteroglossapsis ecristata), ?common wild pine (Tillandsia fasciculata), and ?Atamasco lily (Zephyranthus atamasco). ? Part of this IBA has been designated by +Cox et al. (1994) as a Strategic Habitat Conservation Area.

Ornithological Summary

Kissimmee River: significant populations of Threatened, Special Concern, and FCREPA species; significant numbers of wading birds; long-term research. Lake Kissimmee State Park: significant populations of Endangered and Threatened species; and significant natural habitats.

Lake Kissimmee is one of the most important sites for Snail Kites, serving as an important refugium during droughts in the Everglades. The pre-channelized Kissimmee River formerly supported large numbers of wading birds and waterfowl, and restoration of portions of the river are expected to increase the currently low numbers of these groups of birds. Overall diversity is 188 native species.

Conservation Issues

Kissimmee River: *exotic plants, *altered hydrology (river channelization). Lake Kissimmee State Park: *feral hogs, human disturbance, exotic plants

Kissimmee River: The River and its floodplain represented a unique ecosystem because the floodplain was inundated for much of the year. Extensive floodplain marshes flanked by wet prairies and temperate hammocks supported a large and diverse bird community, including several listed species and large numbers of wading birds and waterfowl +(NAS 1936?1959, +Perrin et al. 1982). The entire length of the Kissimmee River was channelized into a canal for flood protection and land reclamation between 1962 and 1970. The biological impacts of channelization were severe: 35 miles (56 km) of river channel were destroyed; 30,000 acres (12,141 hectares) of floodplain were drained and converted mostly to pasture; waterfowl use declined 92%; and Bald Eagle territories along the river declined 74%. A comprehensive plan to restore the Kissimmee River has begun. Phase 1 of the restoration?backfilling 7.5 miles (12 km) of canal, restoring 15 miles (24 km) of river channel habitat, and reflooding 11,132 acres (4505 hectares) of floodplain wetlands?was completed in February 2001. The initial response by birds was phenomenal and is expected to increase as the prey base returns to reflooded wetlands. ? Total restoration is projected to recreate 40 square miles (104 square km) of river?floodplain habitats, restore 26,820 acres (10,854 hectares) of floodplain wetlands and 43 miles (69 km) of original river channel, and improve habitats for more than 320 species of wildlife. The restored river channel is expected to support >10,000 wading birds, with at least 2000 breeding pairs anticipated. Lake Kissimmee State Park: The park is managed by the Department of Recreation and Parks. An active prescribed burning program is in place. ? A recent acquisition of 850 acres (343 hectares) was added along the north shore of Lake Rosalie. The habitat is mostly cattle pasture that will continue to be grazed in the short-term, but will be restored to wetlands eventually by removing ditches and replanting with native vegetation.

Ownership

State of Florida (Lake Kissimmee and Kissimmee River), Florida Department of Environmental Protection (Lake Kissimmee State Park), South Florida Water Management District (Kissimmee Chain of Lakes SOR Tracts and Kissimmee River SOR Tracts), and private owners (remaining acreage of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes SOR Project and the Kissimmee River SOR Project).

Habitat

Kissimmee River: *fresh water marsh, *wet prairie, *riverine, temperate hammock. Lake Kissimmee: *lacustrine, *cattail marsh, freshwater marsh. Lake Kissimmee State Park: *longleaf pine flatwoods, *freshwater marsh, scrubby flatwoods, temperate hammock, non-native pasture, bayhead, riverine, lacustrine.

Land Use

Kissimmee River: *conservation, recreation, hunting. Lake Kissimmee: *recreation, *conservation, hunting. Lake Kissimmee State Park: *conservation, *recreation, cattle grazing.

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