Lakes Santa Fe and Alto
About Lakes Santa Fe and Alto
Lake Santa Fe forms the northeastern boundary of Alachua County and is located near the intersection of State Roads 26 and 21. The lake occupies approximately 5,856 acres, including 4,721 acres for the larger southern lobe, and 1,135 acres for the smaller northern basin which is also referred to as Little Lake Santa Fe. The lake has a mean depth of 19.7 ft. The lake connects to the 7,046-acre Santa Fe Swamp which is considered the headwaters of the Santa Fe River, the largest tributary of the Suwannee River. Lake Santa Fe is designated by FDEP as an Outstanding Florida Water, meaning it is “worthy of special protection”.
Lake Alto is in Alachua County, Florida adjacent to the City of Waldo. The surface area of the lake is approximately 573 acres and has a mean depth of 13.1 ft. Flows from Lake Alto are known to pass north through the Lake Alto Swamp and ultimately into the Santa Fe River.
Lake Santa Fe is connected to Lake Alto through a man-made canal, called the Santa Fe Canal. It was constructed in the late 1870s, along with the Waldo Canal, to connect Melrose on Lake Santa Fe to the train depot in Waldo, which was an important stop for rail traffic to and from Jacksonville. The canal was utilized to transport agricultural products, mail, supplies, and tourists. It was abandoned as a primary means of transportation by the early 1900s.
The lakes occur in the Upper Santa Fe Flatwoods Lake Region in a geology dominated by thin Plio-Pleistocene sediments that overlie the deeply weathered sand and kaolinitic clay of the Miocene Hawthorn Group. The lakes of the region tend to be slightly acidic and tannic colored, with low to moderate nutrients. The combined Lake Santa Fe and Lake Alto basin covers 37,483.8 acres, and the major land uses in the basin include upland forests (31.1 percent), wetlands (25.7 percent), and waters (15.6 percent). The lakes are not designated as impaired under the Impaired Waters Rule (Chapter 62-303, F.A.C.).
Lake Minimum Flows & Minimum Water Levels
The District's Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs) program is a means to ensure water availability for the present and future, and to prevent "significant harm" to the area's natural resources. The Florida Legislature has directed the five water management districts to establish MFLs for streams, springs, rivers, lakes and other priority water bodies. As defined by statute (Section 373.042 Florida Statutes), "the minimum flow for a given watercourse shall be the limit at which further withdrawals would be significantly harmful to the water resources or ecology of the area."
The District has an accelerated schedule to establish MFLs for its priority water bodies. The District's MFL Program is a science-based process, which the District Governing Board uses to establish MFLs. Before rule adoption by the Governing Board, the science supporting the MFLs will undergo a peer review process initiated by the District.
The District voluntarily submits to independent scientific peer review for all MFLs established. This practice ensures that the highest degree of scientific certainty is provided prior to adopting an MFL by rule.
Supporting Technical Data & Reports
The final technical reports and peer review document for the Lake Santa Fe and Alto MFLs are available for download:
- Lake Santa Fe and Alto MFL Technical Documents Public Comment Response
- Lake Santa Fe MFL Technical Report (2022)
- Lake Santa Fe and Alto Hydrological Modeling Report (2022)
- Lake Santa Fe and Alto MFL Status Assessment Memo (2022)
- Lake Santa Fe MFLs SWFWMD Comparison Memo (2022)
- Lake Santa Fe MFL Peer Review Report
- Lake Alto MFL Peer Review Report
- Lake Santa Fe and Alto Hydrologic Modeling Peer Review Report
Get More Information
Contact the MFL program at 386.362.1001 with questions.