The Caloosahatchee River is a river on the southwest Gulf Coast of Florida in the United States, approximately 67 miles (108 km) long. It drains rural areas on the northern edge of the Everglades northwest of Miami. An important link in the Okeechobee Waterway, a manmade inland waterway system of southern Florida, the river forms a tidal estuary along most of its course and has recently become the subject of efforts to restore and preserve the Everglades.
The river issues from Lake Hicpochee, in southeastern Glades County, approximately 10 mi (16 km) west of Clewiston. It flows west-southwest past La Belle, where it becomes tidal, forming an estuary along its lower 25 mi (40 km). It broadens as it nears the gulf, passing Fort Myers and Cape Coral. It enters the Gulf of Mexico 10 mi (16 km) southwest of Fort Myers in San Carlos Bay, protected by Sanibel Island.
The 5 mi (8 km) Caloosahatchee Canal connecting Lake Hicpochee to Lake Okeechobee allows continuous navigation from the Caloosahatchee to the Okeechobee Waterway system; oxbow lakes mark isolated stretches of the original waterway. Since the late 19th century, dredging and channelization of the river, as well as the artificial connection to Lake Okeechobee and its use as a water supply for urban and agricultural uses, have substantially altered the hydrology of the river. As a result, both the magnitude and timing of water delivery to the estuary have been substantially altered. Recent programs by the state government have attempted to establish minimum flow levels in the river, in part to help restore the water supply to the Everglades. A federal wildlife refuge for manatees has been established at the mouth of the river on San Carlos Bay near Fort Myers.
Ortona Lock and Dam on the Caloosahatchee River, part of the Okeechobee Waterway, in Glades County, Florida
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Coordinates: 26°31′01″N 82°01′59″W / 26.5170225°N 82.0331467°W