River Lakes Conservation Area

About this property

This conservation area includes lakes Washington, Winder and Poinsett. St. Johns River water flow is regulated at one point — a fixed-crest weir located just north of Lake Washington — to help ensure water supply to Melbourne. The area was acquired as part of the Upper St. Johns River Basin Project, undertaken jointly by the district and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as a long-term flood control project to revitalize the upper basin. The Upper St. Johns River Basin Project reclaimed drained marshlands by creating reservoirs and replumbing existing canals. The goals were numerous: to improve water quality, reduce freshwater discharges to the Indian River Lagoon, provide for water supply, and restore or enhance wetland habitat. The area contains extensive wetland communities, typically dominated by emergent species such as sawgrass, smartweed, arrowhead and maidencane.

One of the special highlights of this property is its numerous primitive camping sites (accessible by boat) along the river and access to more than 7 miles of trails. Other special features include open vistas dotted with palms, seasonal wildflowers and grasslands that change colors with the seasons. Portions of the hiking trail are unshaded, and portions go through dense shaded hardwood and palm hammocks. Eastern meadowlarks are plentiful here.


Access is possible by water. Boat ramps are available on State Road 520, U.S. 192 and at Lake Washington County Park. For details and to get driving directions from your location, see the Google Maps link on this page.

A vehicular access entry point to the property exists at the western terminus of Wickham Road. The entrance gate is open at 7 a.m. and closed promptly at 7 p.m. each day. No vehicles are allowed on the property before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. (strictly enforced). Note that the designated parking area is located approximately 3 miles (about a 15-minute drive time) west of the entrance gate. Please allow ample time to exit the gate prior to 7 p.m.

Wildlife viewing

Please respect Florida’s wildlife and use caution while visiting district lands. These are wild animals. For your safety, do not approach or feed any wild animal. This area provides important habitat for fish and wildlife populations, including several listed species: wood storks, bald eagles, Florida sandhill cranes and river otters. The diversity of fish and wildlife provides an important recreational resource for anglers, hunters, boaters and bird-watchers. Visitors may also encounter cattle on the property.

Recreational activities
  1. Most of the property is part of the Upper St. Johns River Marsh Wildlife Management Area and hunting is allowed. Other activities include fishing, hiking, bicycling, primitive camping at designated sites, canoeing, boating and wildlife viewing.
  2. Lake Washington County Park provides picnic pavilions, restrooms, a fishing pier and boat/canoe and airboat ramps.
  3. Two shelters are located in this conservation area. The shelters are for day-use only, for picnicking or protection from the weather.
  4. Geocache located on property. Please visit our geocache database for more information.
Campsites and shelters in the River Lakes Conservation Area

GPS coordinates are listed below for the campsite or shelters. Clicking the link will take you to the location displayed on Google maps. A printable map of the campsites and shelters in the area is also available.

Name Y X Link
Deepwater Campsite 28° 17′ 26.769″ N 80° 49′ 0.084″ W Google maps
Poinsett Shelter 28° 18′ 36.062″ N 80° 48′ 25.089″ W Google maps
Buzzard’s Roost Camp 28° 17′ 22.300″ N 80° 49′ 36.007″ W Google maps
Pontoon Camp 28° 17′ 17.004″ N 80° 49′ 39.410″ W Google maps
Mallow Point Camp 28° 17′ 15.204″ N 80° 49′ 42.789″ W Google maps
Palms Camp 28° 15′ 50.216″ N 80° 51′ 21.545″ W Google maps
Highwater Camp 28° 15′ 26.228″ N 80° 51′ 35.214″ W Google maps
Lake Poinsett Camp 28° 14′ 56.763″ N 80° 52′ 0.457″ W Google maps
Mud Lake Observation Tower 28° 15′ 10.029″ N 80° 49′ 54.091″ W Google maps
Spike Camp 28° 14′ 8.683″ N 80° 52′ 23.611″ W Google maps
Winder Mound 28° 13′ 49.619″ N 80° 52′ 24.959″ W Google maps
Wolf’s Head Camp 28° 13′ 4.425″ N 80° 52′ 15.884″ W Google maps
Persimmon Mound Camp 28° 13′ 8.162″ N 80° 51′ 5.624″ W Google maps
Oak Trees Shelter 28° 12′ 27.104″ N 80° 49′ 55.828″ W Google maps