The Butler Chain of Lakes is a great place to spend time with your family and enjoy the wonder of nature.
By Sarah Kezer
Photo by Anna Cary Photography
There are some precious waters surrounding Windermere. The Butler Chain of Lakes is a source of pride, beauty and recreation for Orange County residents and visitors, who enjoy boating, fishing and recreation there.
The 12 connected lakes are surrounded by old and new Florida homes, including those of celebrities Shaquille O’Neal and Tiger Woods. Lake Down is the northernmost lake, followed by Little Lake Down, Wauseon Bay, Lake Butler, Lake Louise, Lake Isleworth, Lake Chase, Lake Blanche, Lake Tibet, Lake Sheen, Pocket Lake and Fish Lake.
Lake Butler is the largest of the fresh water, sand-bottom lakes. It has an island bird sanctuary, which is off limits to people; but locals often dock their boats there and socialize on the weekends.
Though the scenery is beautiful, the main reason Capt. Tim Fey takes most of his clients out on the lakes is to fish. Fey, a licensed captain with the U.S. Coast Guard, has been fishing Central Florida waters for more than 20 years. “I get people all the way from Canada and United Kingdom and take them to the Butler Chain,” says Fey.
As an experienced fishing guide and Southwest Orlando resident, Fey says the area has clean, deep water and great bass and crappie fishing. Fey says that he and his guests are also usually lucky enough to spot other wildlife ranging from otters, alligators and an occasional eagle.
If you’re looking to take your own boat for a spin on these waters, consider joining the Orange County Sportsman Club. Members of the club enjoy private boat ramp access onto the lakes and additional recreation facilities. There is one public bank access area on Lake Down but parking is limited and usually fills up quickly.
Albert Gallof, president of Orange County Sportsman Club, says that their 1,700 plus members not only get to use the private launch site on Lake Sheen, but can take advantage of their pavilions, volleyball courts and meeting hall. “It’s a great family atmosphere,” Gallof says, “you’d never know we were back here but it is beautiful.” According to Gallof, the county limits the number of members the club can obtain so the waiting list can get pretty long. Gallof says the group can accept about 100 new members each year.
According to the Department of Environmental Protection, the chain of lakes is worthy of special protection because of its natural attributes, so it has been designated an Outstanding Florida Water. This recognition is applied to certain waters to conserve existing good water quality. Most of these areas are managed by the state or federal government as parks, including wildlife refuges, preserves, marine sanctuaries and aquatic preserves. This designation requires that activities requiring a water management district permit such as dredge, fill and pollutant discharge must not significantly degrade nearby Outstanding Florida Waters and be “clearly in the public interest”.
Organizations such as the Butler Chain Conservation Association work to protect the environment. According to their Web site, the association acknowledges that development is inevitable but insists that it can be done without destroying nature’s delicate balance. Protecting Southwest Orlando’s Butler Chain of Lakes ensures that these precious waters are available for future generations to enjoy.