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Hernando County’s landscape and natural

resources are unique and boundless – from the

marshlands of the Gulf coast, the scenic rolling hills

in the east, to the majestic oak trees all make this

county beautiful. There is also a hidden gem of water

resources below the surface. The Florida aquifer is

one of the world’s most productive aquifers and is the

main source of drinking water throughout the state.

Recognizing the wonderful water resources that

are unique to Hernando County and Florida, the

need to protect the unique water system has been a

priority in the state for 55 years. Since its inception

in 1961, the Southwest Florida Water Management

District (SWFWMD) has acquired roughly 10,000

square miles of conservation land in 16 counties in

west-central Florida, including Hernando County.

While the main focus is to protect water resources and

protecting the environment, most of these lands are

also available for public use and recreation.



The district owns several areas in Hernando

County that are available for a variety of

recreational purposes.

The Annutteliga Hammock

has more

than 2,200 acres north of Weeki Wachee, and is

an important area for groundwater recharge into

the Florida aquifer. Approximately 570 acres are

designated for recreational use, including bird and

nature watching, hiking and horseback riding.


Weeki Wachee Preserve

is more than

11,000 acres and is part of a regional system of

conservation lands that extend up to the Crystal River

Buffer Preserve. While it preserves the southernmost

coastal hardwood hammock, most residents know

it for its many recreational uses, including hiking,

bicycling, fishing, hunting, paddling, picnicking and

nature watching. “It is definitely one of our most

popular preserves,” said Carmen Sanders, SFWMD

Land Resource Manager.

The district owns the property surrounding Weeki

Wachee Springs, and in 2008, entered into a lease

agreement with Florida Parks Service to manage

the property as a state park. Home to the world-

renowned Weeki Wachee Mermaids, the spring is

one of Florida’s oldest roadside attractions. Today, it

continues to provide its mermaid and animal shows,

as well as Buccaneer Bay, a white sand beach with

water slides.

What many forget is

Weeki Wachee Springs


also a vital resource. It has an extensive underwater

cave system and the spring is also the head to the

Weeki Wachee River, a beautiful and winding river

that flows more than 7 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.

Probably one of the best partnerships came into

fruition about 10 years ago with the creation of the

Springs Coast Environmental Education


a 23-acre center in Weeki Wachee. The

center is owned by SFWMD and is leased to the