Located in Lake County, Lake Eustis is one of a series of naturally interconnected lakes in central Florida.
Known as the Harris Chain of Lakes, these bodies of water include eight major lakes, including Lake Apopka, Lake Harris, Lake Dora, and Lake Yale, that have a total of 75,000 surface acres.
Lake Eustis comprises approximately 7,806 acres, connected to other lakes by way of the Dead River – a mile-long channel that links it with Lake Harris – and Haines Creek, sometimes known as “Haynes Creek.”
Access to the Harris Chain is possible through more than 30 public boat ramps in the eight primary lakes and tributaries.
Restoration and water management is governed by various county and municipal bodies in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
State workers with FWC take an active role in improving the habitat, managing fish stockings, and monitoring habitat plantings.
Lake Eustis is well-regarded as a fishing destination. A backwater area in the lake’s northwestern corner known as “Gator Hole” is a popular spot to catch bass.
In addition to fishing, boating is a top recreation activity along this lake. With an average depth of eight to ten feet, this lake and its siblings do not feel the effects of seasonal drought in a way that lakes lower on the Florida peninsula do.
From Lake Eustis, a boat can reach all the other lakes in the chain.
Notable settlements first appeared in Lake County in the 1870s. Named for Colonel Abraham Eustis, an early 19th-century officer from Florida, the settlement of Eustis on the lake’s eastern shore began in 1875.
Steamboats came to the area and other lakes linked to the St. Johns River in the late 1800s. Citrus groves appeared in the 1880s and remained prominent into the mid-20th century, despite occasional freezes.
Ferran Park became the first park near the waterfront when it took shape in 1913. A bulkhead into the lake came shortly after that.
Today, developments, residential areas with docks, and urbanized tracts surround much of Lake Eustis.
A popular boating and fishing destination in central Florida, Lake Eustis welcomes all types of vessels and personal watercraft.
Those who spend time along the shoreline enjoy the lake’s beauty, diverse wildlife, and hiking opportunities.
Swimming is uncommon within the Harris Chain of Lakes, including Lake Eustis.
Generally, no restrictions prevent people from swimming, though a concern about the presence of alligators discourages individuals from swimming or diving.
Alligators live in many freshwater lakes in Florida, including in Lake County.
Similar to most natural Florida lakes without large natural springs, the water within Lake Eustis is dark and has limited visibility.
Swimming by adults usually occurs without incident, though babies, smaller children, and dogs face higher levels of peril if they swim in Florida lake waters.
Never swim in any of the Harris Chain of Lakes at night, when alligators tend to be more active.
Stories about large alligators in the waters are largely true, such as a 14-foot gator caught in Lake Eustis in the early 20th century.
By the 1993 estimate, Lake Eustis had 300 large alligators and a total population of 500, approximately 35 for each shoreline mile.
In 2014, for example, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) claimed that 326 alligators were hunted and caught in Lake County’s lakes, with two from Lake Eustis exceeding eleven feet and ten over ten feet.
- Boating is permitted within Lake Eustis, connecting rivers and waterways, and other lakes in this county.
- An idle speed “no wake zone” exists in the Gator Hole area of the lake.
- Other interconnected lakes may have speed restrictions or no wake zones.
- Motorboats, sailboats, pontoon boats, and other boats are permitted on lake water.
- Speed boating, water skiing, jet skiing, and the use of personal watercraft are permitted on Lake Eustis.
- Lake Eustis Sailing Club operates on this lake, along with other marinas.
- Canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and similar paddling activities are permitted in the lake.
- The top species found in Lake Eustis include largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, channel catfish, and black crappie.
- The Harris Chain includes other species, like blue tilapia, bowfin, bullhead, Florida gar, chain pickerel, lake chubsucker, brown bullhead, longnose gar, sailfin catfish, Nile tilapia, white catfish, and yellow bullhead, among others.
- Trophy bass like to congregate near Gator Hole, the notable sinkhole in the lake’s northwestern corner.
- Canals and shallow waters are popular places to cast a line.
- FWC fish stocking programs regularly replenish fish populations.
- Never clean fish near the shoreline, as such activities may attract alligators.
- No lakefront campgrounds exist at Lake Eustis.
- Commercial RV parks are located near the lake, some of which may have age (55+) restrictions.
- Eustis Lake Walk: Along the lake’s western shore, this dock walkway in Eustis provides direct lake access and may be entered through Pendleton Park and Ferran Park.
- Haynes Creek Park: A 36-acre preserve near “Gator Hole” and the lake’s northwestern corner offers areas for hiking and nature watching.
- Marsh Park and Boat Ramp: A 35-acre retreat that offers direct access to Lake Yale, open from sunrise to sunset.
- Alligators, turtles, and a variety of birds may be found in and near the lake’s waters.
Note: Access points are found in many of the Harris Chain of Lakes. The ones included here are within Lake Eustis or the Dead River, the ones closest to the lake’s waters.
- Buzzard Beach Boat Ramp, Lake Eustis Marina, Eustis.
- Marsh Park and Boat Ramp offers access to Lake Yale, immediately north of Lake Eustis.
- Palm Garden Fishing Camp and Marina, along the Dead River between Lakes Harris and Eustis, Tavares.
- Tavares Recreation Park, Tavares.
- Triangle Boat Club, along the Dead River between Lakes Harris and Eustis, Tavares.
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