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The Kissimmee River is a river in south-central Floridamarker, United Statesmarker.

Course

The Kissimmee River arises in Osceola Countymarker as the outflow from East Lake Tohopekaligamarker, passing through Lake Tohopekaligamarker, Lake Cypress, Lake Hatchineha and Lake Kissimmeemarker. Below Lake Kissimmee, the river forms the boundary between Osceola County and Polk Countymarker, between Highlands Countymarker and Okeechobee Countymarker, and between Glades Countymarker and Okeechobee County before it flows into Lake Okeechobeemarker. The river was originally in length, of which was between Lake Kissimmee and Lake Okeechobee. It drains a watershed of and forms the headwaters of the Kissimmee River-Lake Okeechobee-Evergladesmarker ecosystem.

The floodplain of the river supports a diverse community of waterfowl, wading birds, fish, and other wildlife.

Flood control

The 1947 Atlantic hurricane season, which included the 1947 Fort Lauderdale Hurricane and the 1947 October Hurricane, produced very heavy rainfall and flooding over most of centralmarker and southern Floridamarker. Florida requested federal assistance in controlling future floods, and in 1954 the United States Congress authorized the canalization of the Kissimee River. From 1962 to 1970 the United States Army Corps of Engineers dredged the C-38 Canal down the Kissimmee valley, shortening the distance from Lake Kissimmee to Lake Okeechobee to just . It has since been realized that this project damaged the river, with the faster water flow leading to major environmental problems in the Kissimmee Valley and Lake Okeechobee. Efforts are currently underway to reverse the process and re-introduce the many oxbows in the river that slowed the water.

Effects of channelization

After the river channel was straightened, 40,000 acres (160 kmĀ²) of floodplain below Lake Kissimmeemarker dried out, reducing the quality of waterfowl habitat by ninety percent, and the number of herons, egrets and wood storks by two-thirds. Catches of largemouth bass in the river were consistently worse after the channelization. While the Kissimmee was not a significant source of pollution for Lake Okeechobee before channelization, in the 1970s and later the river contributed about 25% of the nitrogen and 20% of the phosphorus flowing into the lake.

References in Popular Culture

In protest to the canalization of the river and its resultant damage to the habitat, Florida author Piers Anthony based the plot of the tenth Xanth novel, Vale of the Vole, around the straightening of the "Kiss-Me River," an obvious parody to "Kissimmee."

Restoration

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Efforts to restore the Kissimmee River to its original flow were approved by Congress in 1992, and began with modification to the headwater lakes in 1997. The United States Army Corps of Engineers currently hopes to complete the project in 2011.In 2006, the South Florida Water Management District had acquired enough land along the river and in the upper chain of lakes to complete restoration. In all, 43 miles of the Kissimmee River will be restored.

Already, wildlife is returning to the restored sections of river. When flooding began again, muck and smothering aquatic weeds were flushed out. Sandbars reemerged. Encroaching dry land trees began dying back. Once dormant plants began to reestablish themselves. The species included pink-tipped smartweed, horsetail, sedges, rushes, arrowhead, duck potato and pickerel weed. Flooding and continuous flow increased levels of dissolved oxygen in the water, creating near perfect conditions for aquatic invertebrates such as insects, mollusks, works, crayfish and freshwater shrimp. This, in turn, boosted fish populations and it led to a rise in bird and alligator populations. The entire food chain benefitted. This is one reason that the Kissimmee River restoration is considered to be the largest true ecosystem restoration project in the world, attracting ecologists from other states and countries. [5]

References

5. Alderson, Doug. 2009. New Dawn for the Kissimmee River. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida. ISBN 978-0-8130-3395-2

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