Highlands County
26,500 acres (10,724 hectares)

East of the town of Lake Placid in central Highlands County, bordered by U.S. Highway 98 to the north, County Road 621 to the south and east, and the Lake Wales Ridge to the west. One parcel of the Lake Wales Ridge IBA fronts a portion of the western part of the lake.

The fifth-largest natural lake in Florida, surrounded by pasture, caladium fields (an exotic plant used in landscaping and floral displays), citrus groves, a scrub preserve, and some development. The lake contains two islands (Big Island and Bumblebee Island). The lake receives an estimated 60,000 boaters annually.

Lake Istokpoga is ringed by virgin cypresses, of which many are hundreds of years old. Indian sites are thought to be present in adjacent uplands.

Ornithological Summary

Significant populations of FCREPA species; significant numbers of raptors; significant natural habitats; and long-term research

Lake Istokpoga supports populations of aquatic species, including wading birds and Limpkins. It is believed to contain the greatest concentration of Osprey nests in the world, a population that has been color-banded and monitored by Mike McMillian for 12 years.

Conservation Issues

*human disturbance, *exotic plants, *habitat succession, development

Hydrilla is controlled every three years with SONAR herbicide treatment. Lake vegetation is sprayed seasonally to keep open boat traffic lanes. ? In 2001, a $3 million clean-up project was initiated, during which the water level was lowered for the first time since the 1960s. Over 2 million tons (1.8 million metric tons) of muck and accumulated marsh vegetation were removed. ? Disturbance by airboats is a severe problem to waterfowl, especially American Coots.

Ownership

State of Florida (Lake Istokpoga), The Nature Conservancy (Apthorpe Preserve, which protects a small portion of the western shoreline; see the Lake Wales Ridge Ecosystem IBA), and private owners (most uplands, and Big and Bumblebee islands)

Habitat

*cypress swamp, *freshwater marsh, *cattail marsh, *lacustrine, pine flatwoods, sand pine scrub, non-native pasture, agricultural fields, citrus grove, hardwood swamp, bayhead, riverine

Land Use

Lake Istokpoga: *recreation, conservation, water supply; Surrounding uplands: *residential, *grazing, agriculture

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