Bivens Arm is a small shallow lake covering approximately 189 acres in southwest Gainesville. Bivens Arm is a unique environment, which supports a wide diversity of plant and animal life in an urban setting. Tumblin Creek, which is fed by small springs and seeps, drains into Bivens Arm and is the primary source of drainage into the lake. Bivens Arm overflows onto Paynes Prairie and eventually discharges to the aquifer via Alachua Sink.
Want to learn more about Bivens Arm Lake? Read the Bivens chapter from our 2007 Orange Creek Basin Report or read the fact sheet .
Land Use History
The early history of Bivens Arm is not well documented given that it is a relatively small body of water. The earliest known use of the land around the lake was as hunting grounds by Native Americans. Beginning in the late 1800s, the land was used mostly for agricultural purposes including cattle ranching, swine farms, vegetable farms, and orange groves. In the 1930s, Bivens Arm was designated as a bird sanctuary and rookery with a resident ranger to care for the sanctuary. In 1965, the state of Florida designated the lake area as a wildlife sanctuary (Bill No. 1356 Chap. 65 1005). In 1981, the City of Gainesville purchased the land between the lake and Williston Road to form the Bivens Arm Nature Park. This park features a lush Live Oak Hammock habitat and marshlands, which periodically become inundated with rising water levels from the lake.
Bivens Arm is surrounded by restaurants, hotels, apartments, private residences, and restricted access University of Florida property. According to CH2MHILL, up to sixty percent of the basin is impervious, meaning it is composed of asphalt, concrete, or other surfaces that shed water rather than absorbing it. Due to its urban location and impervious drainage basin, the lake receives a large dose of stormwater runoff which can contain harmful pollutants. The lake is classified as hypereutrophic as indicated by the high levels of nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen), extensive algal and aquatic plant growth, and high productivity.
Aquatic Weed Management Program
Several invasive exotic plants are established in Bivens Arm and have been managed for many years. Exotics lack natural predators and diseases and quickly out compete native aquatic vegetation. Native aquatic plants are beneficial and provide habitat for spawning fish and their young and serve as the basis for the aquatic food chain. Of the exotics on Bivens Arm, four are classified as category one invasive exotics by the Florida Exotic Plant Pest Counsel (FLEPPC) and have been targeted for control within the lake (For a complete list of exotic plant species and an explanation of the categories visit the FLEPPC website at http://fleppc.org/.
Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) was introduced into Florida in 1884. Since that time it has spread and become one of Florida's major exotic plant problems. With current maintenance control practices this plant is now suppressed in most areas. To learn more about this invasive plant click here.
Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) was first recorded in Florida in 1765. It is a minor species in Bivens Arm and is controlled in the same manner as water hyacinths. To learn more about this invasive plant click here.
Wild Taro (Colecacia esculenta) is an emergent non-native invasive species, which inhabits the shoreline of many Florida lakes and wetlands. Maintenance control of this species continues on those properties which have allowed treatment. To learn more about this invasive plant click here.
Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) was introduced into Florida in the 1950's and has become a major aquatic weed problem in many lakes in the state. Several strategies for control have been implemented in Bivens Arm. In the spring of 1999, Alachua County released 2500 triploid grass carp into Bivens Arm to provide a control mechanism for hydrilla in the lake. By summer 2000, the grass carp had cleared hydrilla from most of the lake. After the removal of the hydrilla, planktonic algae became the dominant open-water plant species, turning the water a green color. To learn more about this invasive plant click here.
For more information and photos on invasive aquatic plants in Florida, visit UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic Invasive Plants.
Control of aquatic plants is regulated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. For a complete list of regulations and information on how to obtain a permit to manage aquatic plants on your shoreline property or for any information on invasive species and their control visit http://www.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/invasive-plants/.
Flora and Fauna
Bivens Arm Lake provides an ideal habitat for many species of plants and animals. Alligators can often be seen basking on the surface of the lake, and osprey and bald eagles can be observed hunting in the area. Other common bird species include herons and egrets, ibis, gallinule, cormorants, and anhinga. Wildlife can best be observed from the Bivens Arm Nature Park. All other land around Bivens Arm is privately owned or has limited access. An array of freshwater fish also exist in the lake including native species such as the Florida largemouth bass and exotic species such as the blue tilapia. Angling on the lake is a popular activity and species commonly caught include catfish, tilapia, crappie, bass, and sunfish (bluegill and shell-crackers). Angling on Bivens Arm is regulated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (see regulations below).
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, fishing Bivens Arm Lake does require a fishing license. Black bass, including largemouth bass, have a daily bag limit of 5, a minimum length of 14 inches, and only one may be 22 inches or longer. It is illegal to possess grass carp without a permit and all grass carp must be released immediately. To find a complete list of rules pertaining to Florida freshwater fishing go to the FWCC web site at http://myfwc.com/fishing/freshwater/regulations/ or ask wherever state fishing licenses are sold.