Estero River (Florida)

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Estero River
Mouth Estero Bay
Basin countries United States
Basin area Estero Bay

The Estero River is a 6.4-mile-long (10.3 km)[1] waterway in south Lee County, Florida, near the census-designated place of Estero. It flows from east to west, emptying into Estero Bay, an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico.

General Information[edit]

Topography: Access to the river can be gained at the follow Latitude/Longitude coordinates, (26.434917225242593°, -81.81058287620544°)

River boundaries: Western boundary is the Estero Bay; Eastern boundary is three miles east of I75 The northern and southern river banks are surrounded by developing housing communities towards the Eastern part of the river, with a greater biodiversity along the Western banks of the river.

Bridge over the Estero River


The Estero River is located in Southwest Florida; the river is 6.52 miles long, it flows west and spills into Estero Bay estuary. The Estero River has an abundant variety of wildlife and is an important habitat for some of Florida’s endangered species such as the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), Key Largo Woodrat (Neotoma floridana smalli),[2] Gray Bat (Myotis grisescens), and the Whooping Crane (Grus americana), among others.[3]


Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) inhabits and breeds in both salt and fresh water habitat, making the Estero River a perfect habitat for this heron, since this bird nests anywhere from “5 to 20 m above ground” –Audubon Florida, the trees surrounding the river make for a great nesting habitat. These herons feed mostly on aquatic and terrestrial insects that can be found along the Estero River. The Great Egret (Ardea alba) does not directly compete with the great blue heron; instead it consumes small mammals, amphibians, and sometimes insects.

Tri colored heron Egretta tricolor Similar diet and habitat to the Great Egret, the tri colored heron can be spotted at the Estero River and estuary in the early mornings. Egretta tricolor; This heron nests closer to the ground and therefore can coexist with the great blue heron; its diet consists of insects and small amphibians.

Human impact on the ecosystem of the Estero River: The water quality in the eastern part of the river is of much lesser quality compared to the Western part; this is attributed to the increasing human development in the Estero area and the subsequent waste generation/ disposal. (Refer to abiotic section)

The water quality increase dramatically with distance from the drainage outlets and surrounding houses, Since the majority of development occurs on the banks of the eastern parts of the river the water quality decreases inland.[citation needed]

Estero river water quality

The mangroves present on the banks of Estero river support a variety of wildlife and play a vital role in supporting the large biodiversity of the river. The majority of mangroves can be found at the point where Estero River merges into Estero Bay.[4]

Estero river plant life

Alligator mississippiensis can be found along the Estero River, and even though the numbers are relatively small, this animal plays a crucial role in maintaining the biodiversity of the river by keeping the raccoon population in balance. Reported sightings are along the western part of the river with isolated sightings in the eastern region. Diet consists of small mammals, birds, and larger amphibians.

Procyon lotor is one of the most common nocturnal mammals that inhabit the area surrounding the Estero river, diet is mostly omnivorous consisting of berries, plant foods, and smaller vertebrates and invertebrates. It is not uncommon to see one during the day on one of the river banks, this mammal has grown used to human presence along the river.

Insects Estero River is a rich habitat for insects;[5]

Mosquito (Culicidae(Mosquito) Abundance of mosquito species can be found in the vicinity of the river, a perfect habitat for proliferation. Diet: females consume blood for the vital proteins required for egg development, both males and females are pollinators and will consume plant nectar for sustenance.

Araneidae the orb weaver spider is found in abundance along the river banks, this spider is easily identified by the shape of the web, and its diet consists of small insects.

Hymenoptera Bee’s can be found nesting on overhanging trees; they play an important role of pollinators, the diet consists primarily of nectar and honey.

As depicted in the picture [6] a bee hive can be seen descending from this tree, this bee colony is estimated to be anywhere from four to five thousand bees, it can be spotted at the 2 mile marker from the eastern river point at coordinates. (26.43699232626178, -81.81930541992188)

Bee hive estero river.jpg


History of Estero River[edit]

The first inhabitants that have been known to occupy the Estero River were the Calusa Indians around 7000 years ago. They often used the river for transportation and food. The Calusa Indians were a culture heavily dependent on fishing. Even though they lived on the river, much of their history is located around the Caloosahatchee River, where they first encountered European settlers. More artifacts have been and are still being discovered in neighboring locations, such as the Estero River, in the past few years.[8]

The Calusa’s first encounter, around 1513, was with the Spaniard, Juan Ponce de León. After that they began to diminish, and it is assumed that the river at that time was still being used for mainly the same purposes by the Europeans. Even though they used the Estero River they also stayed centrally located around the Caloosahatchee River, which was the much more sophisticated and reliable river.[9]

Drainage into the Estero River

The history of the Estero River starts with Gustave Damkohler, whom founded the river in 1882 and lived alongside the banks in a small shack with his family. In 1894 he decided to travel back to his hometown in Chicago, Illinois where he met Cyrus Teed, the leader of Koreshanity. Damkohler offered Teed 300 acres of the land in Estero, including access to the river. Cyrus and a small group of followers moved to Florida, arrived at Estero Bay, and made their way up the Estero River to what is now the Koreshan State Historic Site. They gradually started to build a community and called more and more believers to come down from Chicago. The Koreshans had a major ecological impact on the river when they were living there. They traveled it every day, going in and out of the Estero bay. They hunted and gathered foods from Mound Key, an island just west of the Estero river inlet and used canoes, which were the fastest way of traveling at the time. They also fished the river every day and used the river for all of its possessions. The Koreshans believed the earth was like a cell, not concave, but convex and they were living on the inside looking at the center of the cell as the atmosphere of Earth. They lived in Estero alongside the river until 1961 when their land was given over to the state of Florida. The Koreshan cult, being believers in immortality and celibacy, had already been in decline since 1908 when Cyrus Teed had died. After this point all that exist of the Koreshans is the state historic site where people may visit the land and observe the history of the Koreshan people. Canoeing, kayaking, boating, and fishing are still available at the local dock of the Estero River Outfitter store.[10]

The Estero River has an ongoing connection to the History of Florida. During modern times, new developments have been built by the river and it has become a landmark moreover than what it was originally used for in the past. The river is still accessible from about 6.4 miles inland to the outlet at the Estero Bay. Many boaters that live on the river visit the island of Mound Key and do a little exploring as the Calusa’s did in the past. The river is now used for mainly sports fishing and sight seeing. Although the river was hit hard by major hurricanes Wilma and Charley in the past couple of years it has stayed available to boating traffic and it is still habitable by different wildlife and vegetation.


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey.
  2. ^ Humphrey, S.R. (1988). "Density estimates of the endangered Key Largo woodrat and cotton mouse (Neotoma floridana smalli and Peromyscus gossypinus allapaticola), using the nested-grid approach". Journal of Mammalogy 69 (3): 524–531. doi:10.2307/1381344. JSTOR 1381344. 
  3. ^ Biodiversity
  4. ^ Tolley, S., Volety, A., Savarese, M., Linardich, C., Walls, L., & Everham, E.,III. (2006). Multi-variate analysis of spatial variability of oyster-reef communities: The influence of salinity. Journal of Shellfish Research, 25(2), 784.
  5. ^ Estero estuary habitat information
  6. ^ Bee hive estero river
  7. ^ Concepts in river ecology: implications for indicator development;2-1/abstract
  8. ^ Milanich 1994.
    Milanich 1998.
  9. ^ Fuson 2000.
  10. ^ Rea, Sara Weber.

Expedition by: Vladimir Orlov, Albaro Lopez Perez, Justin Ayoub


  • U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed April 18, 2011
  • Milanich, Jerald T. (1994). Archaeology of Precolumbian Florida. University Press of Florida.
  • Milanich, Jerald T. (1998). Florida's Indians From Ancient Time to the Present. University Press of Florida.
  • Fuson, Robert H. (2000). Juan Ponce de León and the Discovery of Puerto Rico and Florida. McDonald & Woodward Publishing Co.
  • Rea, Sara Weber. The Koreshan Story. Estero, FL: Guiding Star Publishing House, 1994.
  • Biodiversity: towards a unifying theme for river ecology
  • Concepts in river ecology: implications for indicator development
  • Estero estuary habitat information
  • Tolley, S., Volety, A., Savarese, M., Linardich, C., Walls, L., & Everham, E.,III. (2006). Multi-variate analysis of spatial variability of oyster-reef communities: The influence of salinity. Journal of Shellfish Research, 25(2), 784.
  • Estero River. Wikipedia:The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 4 June 2011.

See also[edit]

Coordinates: 26°25′53.8″N 81°51′25.7″W / 26.431611°N 81.857139°W / 26.431611; -81.857139