Okeechobee Water Levels and Navigation Depths

Lake Okeechobee and the Okeechobee Waterway (OWW) - where water levels share the top billing with bridge clearances. These (2) things combined are the #1 determining factors that boaters must consider when planning their passage through the waterway.

There are actually (3) stages of water levels on the OWW: those that are too high, those that are too low, or those that are just right (if there is such a thing.

High Water Levels on Lake Okeechobee often require that all locks be left open to assist the discharge of water to keep the lake below flood stage. Bridge clearances may be reduced and currents and turbulence will be at their maximum. During these periods of discharge, all vessels approaching any lock should exercise caution. The increased water turbulence may affect the handling of your vessel. Additionally, there are reports that the water depth over the upper lock sill of the St. Lucie Lock is reduced when water is being discharged from Lake Okeechobee.


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Normal Water Levels allow for the best passage opportunities for the mariner transiting from one coast to the other. Water depths and bridge clearances are as charted, currents are minimal to almost non-existent, and little to no turbulence in the vicinity of the locks and dams.

Low Water Levels in Lake Okeechobee reduce the draft of vessels that are able to safely navigate the waterway.

The Federal project depth for the Okeechobee Waterway is 8’ from the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway near Stuart, FL via Okeechobee Lake Route 1 to Fort Myers, FL, then 10’ from Ft. Myers to Punta Rassa and then 12’ to the Gulf of Mexico. A channel 6’ deep in Taylor Creek from the town of Okeechobee to the lake, and a depth of 6’ for Route 2 along the south shore of Lake Okeechobee from Port Mayaca westward to Clewiston.

The Controlling Depth (Navigational Depth) is the primary factor to consider for the transiting mariner; it governs the maximum recommended draft of vessels that can safely cross Lake Okeechobee.

Lake Okeechobee water levels vary dramatically; from season to season, month to month, and sometimes even day to day. Rainfall in Southern Florida is the driving force behind the water level fluctuations. The Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) takes daily water level readings of Lake Okeechobee and uses this information to compute the recommended draft for vessels transiting Lake Okeechobee along both Route #1 and Route #2.

Okeechobee Waterway Recommended Maximum Drafts

The tables shown below were created to provide mariners with a guide for navigating Lake Okeechobee by way of the "Cross Lake Route" (Route #1) and the "Rim Route" (Route #2.) They are based upon surveys of the Okeechobee Waterway by the Corps of Engineers.

Conditions are subject to change and mariners should remain alert and aware of the actual on water conditions. Available water depth may be temporarily impacted up to 1.1 feet by strong winds.

US Army Corp of Engineers Lake Okeechobee Draft Recommendations - Route #1

NOTE: The above chart was created to provide mariners with a guide for navigating Route 1. This chart is based upon bathymetric surveys (2007 Channel Condition Survey) of the Okeechobee Waterway performed by the Corps of Engineers. Conditions are subject to change and mariners should remain alert and aware of the actual on water conditions. Available water depth may be temporarily impacted up to 1.1 feet by strong winds
Lake Level in Feet - NGVD 1929   Max. Recommended Draft in Feet
 
15.06’   9.0’
14.56’   8.5’
14.06’   8.0’
13.56’   7.5’
13.06’   7.0’
12.56’   6.5’
12.06’   6.0’
11.56’   5.5’
11.06’   5.0’
10.56’   4.5’
10.06’   4.0’
9.56’   3.5’
9.06’   3.0’
8.56’   2.5’
8.06’   2.0’
7.56’   1.5’
7.06’   1.0’
6.56’   0.5’

Okeechobee Route #1 (Cross Lake Route) Draft Recommendations - View or Download.

US Army Corp of Engineers Lake Okeechobee Draft Recommendations - Route #2

NOTE: The above chart was created to provide mariners with a guide for navigating Route 2. This chart is based upon bathymetric surveys (2008 Channel Condition Survey) of the Okeechobee Waterway performed by the Corps of Engineers. Conditions are subject to change and mariners should remain alert and aware of the actual on water conditions.
Lake Level in Feet - NGVD 1929   Max. Recommended Draft in Feet
 
15.06’   7.2’
14.56’   6.7’
14.06’   6.2’
13.56’   5.7’
13.06’   5.2’
12.56’   4.7’
12.06’   4.2’
11.56’   3.7’
11.06’   3.2’
10.56’   2.7’
10.06’   2.2’
9.56’   1.7’
9.06’   1.2’
8.56’   0.7’
8.06’   0.2’

Okeechobee Route #2 (Rim Route) Draft Recommendations - View or Download.

Okeechobee Waterway Recommended Routes

  Routes #1 and #2 Available for Navigation
  Only Route #1 Available for Navigation
  Not Accessible
NGVD 1929 Lake Level (in feet) Vessel Draft in Feet
8.0 7.5 7.0 6.5 6.0 5.5 5.0 4.5 4.0 3.5 3.0 2.5 2.0 1.5 1.0 0.5
15.06                                
14.56                                
14.06                                
13.56                                
13.06                                
12.56                                
12.06                                
11.56                                
11.06                                
10.56                                
10.06                                
9.56                                
9.06                                
8.56                                
8.06                                
7.56                                
7.06                                
6.56                                
6.06                                

Okeechobee Waterway Route Recommendations – View or Download.

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