Choctawhatchee River and Bay


The Choctawhatchee River and Bay watershed covers approximately 3,339,632 acres. About 40 percent of this is within Florida, with the remainder in Alabama. Major tributaries of the river include Holmes, Wrights, Bruce, and Pine Log creeks in Florida and the Pea and Little Choctawhatchee rivers in Alabama. Direct tributaries of the bay include Alaqua, Rocky, Black, and Turkey creeks.  Choctawhatchee Bay covers approximately 129 square miles within Okaloosa and Walton counties. The watershed also includes a portion of the Sand Hill Lakes in Washington County, including recharge area for Floridan Aquifer springs discharging into Holmes Creek. The bay joins with the Gulf of Mexico at East Pass adjacent to the city of Destin and with Santa Rosa Sound to the west and the Intracoastal Waterway to the east. For planning purposes,  several coastal dune lakes within Walton County are also considered to be within the Choctawhatchee River and Bay watershed.

The Choctawhatchee River and Bay watershed is known for its rich and diverse ecology, economic benefits, and numerous recreational opportunities. Much of the Choctawhatchee River floodplain is protected as a public land. The District has acquired more than 63,000 acres of land along the river, Holmes Creek, and Choctawhatchee Bay to preserve the basin and its ecosystems and to provide for public access and use. Substantial conservation and recreation lands have also been acquired by the state in Walton, Bay, Okaloosa, and Washington counties.

In addition to land acquisition and management, the District has worked with local governments and state and federal agencies since 1996 to implement a number of projects designed to protect and restore watershed conditions. These have included stormwater retrofit projects, which improve water quality and in many cases also provide flood protection and other benefits for the public.

Choctawhatchee River and Bay SWIM Plan

The Choctawhatchee River and Bay Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) plan describes watershed resources and issues and provides a comprehensive, basin-wide management strategy. Addressing continuing challenges affecting water quality and natural systems requires a range of strategies. Among these are additional improvements in the treatment and management of stormwater runoff; continued implementation of best management practices for agriculture, silviculture, and construction; and additional efforts to improve wastewater treatment and management. To complement these, long-term protection of critical habitats and associated buffer areas will further help protect water resources. Projects identified in the plan include the following:

  • Stormwater Planning and Retrofit
  • Septic Tank Abatement
  • Advanced Onsite Treatment Systems
  • Agriculture and Silviculture BMPs
  • Basinwide Sedimentation Abatement
  • Riparian Buffer Zones
  • Aquatic, Hydrologic, and Wetland Restoration
  • Estuarine Habitat Restoration
  • Strategic Land Conservation
  • Watershed Stewardship Initiative
  • Sub-basin Restoration Plans
  • Wastewater Treatment and Management Improvements
  • Interstate Coordination
  • Analytical Program Support
  • Comprehensive Monitoring Program

For more information, please contact Paul Thorpe at or (850) 539-5999.

Supporting Documents

RWSP – Region II –  Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton Counties

Water Supply Assessments

Choctawhatchee River Springs Inventory

Ground Water Chemical Characterization of Morrison Spring (2006)