Guana Dam is a very popular fishing, crabbing and shrimping area.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM Research Reserve) will begin improvements to the Guana Dam fishing walkways on Wed., Oct. 14. Concrete pilings will be installed beginning Mon., Oct. 26.
"Guana Dam is a very popular fishing, crabbing and shrimping area for the surrounding communities," said Michael Shirley, director of the GTM Research Reserve. "Since the project is short-term construction, the public should experience minimal alternate routes during the process. The goal is to complete this construction project by Nov. 6."
The GTM Research Reserve manages the Guana River, south of the dam, the dam parking lot, the entry station and restroom facilities. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) manages the water control structure and the lake on the north side of the dam for wildlife (including both fisheries and waterfowl).
Since the 1950s, the Guana River has been divided by Guana Dam with the northern waters becoming a lake, originally named Lake Ponte Vedra, but popularly known as Guana Lake. South of the dam, the river flows into the Tolomato River, part of the continuous Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.
In 1984, the State of Florida purchased the approximately 12,800-acre Guana Tract from Gate Petroleum with funds from the state Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) and Save Our Coast programs. The state then divided the Tract between FWC and DEP, allotting FWC the Guana River Wildlife Management Area (9,815 acres) north of the dam, and DEP the Guana State Park (2,600 acres), which became the GTM Research Reserve in 2004.
By 1982, the original water control structures became inoperable for managed water level control manipulations. With the 1984 acquisition, the state obtained legislative funding to replace the aging dam. FWC installed the current structures controlling the water flow in both directions of the Guana Dam. With engineering design and planned development, construction of the new dam began in December 1988 and was installed and fully functioning by July 1989. The new structure doubled capacity and volume of water flow in discharge and flooding operations.
Damming the river originally for hunting waterfowl created a unique situation for fishing. From the southern end of the lake near Guana Dam, brackish to salty water gradually turns to fresh water toward the northern end, resulting in both saltwater and freshwater fish species inhabiting the same lake. The saltwater fish include redfish, black drum, catfish, jacks, croaker, ladyfish, bluefish, flounder, mullet, and numerous others. Only a small number of freshwater species inhabit the northern edge of the lake.
Other recreational opportunities include kayaking, canoeing and many miles of upland hiking trails through the same wilderness once inhabited and fished by pre-Columbian Indians and farmed by early Europeans.
The public is encouraged to enjoy the scenic river, lake and hiking trails. Water, restroom facilities and ample parking are available at GTM Research Reserve. A parking fee of $3.00 per car is collected at the entry gate. Annual passes can be purchased at the GTM Research Reserve Environmental Education Center.
For more information about this project, please contact Joe Burgess, resource management coordinator, at 904-823-4500.
About the GTM Research Reserve
The GTM Research Reserve is one of 28 National Estuarine Research Reserves across the nation focused on researching, educating and protecting the natural biodiversity and cultural resources within the estuary. It is managed by Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Coastal Office, in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Environmental Education Center is located at 505 Guana River Road, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, 32082. For more information about the GTM Research Reserve, please call 904-823-4500 or visit our website at www.gtmnerr.org.