The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is located just 15 miles northwest of Orlando, Florida, and is known for being the 4th largest lake in the state! The lake goes on for about 12 miles and is filled with a diverse assortment of local wildlife.
Lake Apopka Fun Facts
Despite what seems like a lush wetland reservation made for wildlife to flourish, Lake Apopka used to actually be one of Florida’s most polluted lakes. During the 1900s, farmers overtook the lake and cleared nearly 20,000 acres of wetland. They pumped their phosphorus-filled, pesticide-packed wastewater back into Lake Apopka, which led to detrimental effects in the lake. The phosphorous in the water led to deadly algae blooms that completely covered the lake and reduced sunlight. All of the lakes fish and wildlife below the surface died.
During 1998, the state purchased the farmlands, which was instrumental for Lake Apopka’s recovery. All invasive plant species were removed and native plant species were reintroduced. Scientists also loaded Lake Apopka with 1.5 million bass to help with removing the Gizzard Shad Fish which would eat and recycle the phosphorus. Furthermore, teams added channels or “flow-ways” that allowed for water to freely flow into the marshy areas. These flow-ways now act as the lifeline of Lake Apopka, filtering the water and cleansing the plants. This clean water was then pumped out of the channels and into the lake which has seen great progress on a reduction of pollution!
Visitors are welcome to take the Lake Apopka wildlife drive through the marshes. During our 12 mile drive, we experienced an assortment of wildlife including birds, alligators, turtles, and even otters! The drive is completely FREE and allows visitors to take as many pictures as they like. If you’re into wildlife photography as much as we are, you’d really enjoy your visit to this lake!
Lake Apopka Wildlife DrivePhotography Tips
-Do adequate planning! The drive is 12 miles and can take up to 2 hours if there are other drivers. Lots of people are going there to take pictures, so don’t expect to be in and out of the Lake area.
-Bring a lens that has a high-quality zoom! I took most of these using a Sony f4.0 70-200mm to get the close-shots!
-Plan your drive with another person. If someone else can drive, you are more likely to get awesome shots. Sometimes when there are too many other people, you don’t have the choice to stop. Make all the shots count as much as you can!
-Drones are not allowed in Lake Apopka. We’ll save you that headache now BEFORE you bring all of that gear with you!
-Stay alert, you never know what you’ll see! We had an awesome day with lots of sun, which made for even better pictures. Our best experience was seeing the river otters who even came to playfully give us the “evil” eye on our way past them!