Butler Chain of Lakes

Thirteen interconnected lakes in southwest Orange County

The Butler Chain of Lakes is located in southwest Orange County. Historically, the Butler Chain of Lakes have been renowned for their excellent water quality and good fishing and are heavily used for recreational activities such as boating and water sports. The Butler Chain of Lakes is composed of thirteen (13) lakes of varying sizes that flow south toward Reedy Creek, the Kissimmee River, Lake Okeechobee and then the Everglades. The Butler Chain of Lakes was the first lake system in Florida to receive the designation of Outstanding Florida Waters from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in 1985 because of its water quality and wildlife habitat.

Quick Facts
  • 13 interconnected lakes
  • Over 5,000 acres in surface water
  • 32 navigable canals
  • Part of the 8,676 acre Cypress Creek Watershed

The Butler Chain of Lakes has over 5,000 acres in surface water; distributed in the following 13 interconnected lakes: Down (900 acres), Little Lake Down (23 acres), Wauseon Bay (100 acres), Butler (1,600 acres), Louise (140 acres), Isleworth (86 acres), Blanche (121 acres), Chase (135 acres), Tibet-Butler (1,200 acres), Unnamed lake (14 acres), Sheen (656 acres), Pocket (126 acres) and Fish (23 acres). The Butler Chain has a total of 32 navigable canals.

Windermere Water Navigation Control District (WWNCD)

The lakes in the Butler Chain are part of the WWNCD, which also includes these lakes: Bessie, Brenda (Hour Glass), Burden, Buynak, Crescent, William Davis, Estes (Cypress), Sawyer (Butt), Little Lake Sawyer (Robinson), Story, Mabel, Rhea, South Lake, and Sloat. The WWNCD is the largest lake MSTU in Orange County, including 27 lakes having a combined surface water area of over 6,000 acres.

The WWNCD Advisory Board was created on August 2, 1963, by the Florida Legislature. On March 21, 2006, it adopted the name Butler Chain of Lakes Advisory Board (BCLAB) to better describe its responsibilities. The BCLAB consists of five members appointed to four-year terms by the District Commissioner and approved by the Board of County Commissioners to advise Orange County on boating regulations, waterfront construction, canal maintenance, flood plain alterations, lakes patrol services, protection of public riparian property rights, aquatic weed control, and pollution control for the preservation of water bodies.

Water quality in the Butler Chain of Lakes is generally excellent, with most of its lakes having Trophic State Index (TSI) averages between 20 and 40. However, during 2005, the draft verified list of impaired water bodies for the Kissimmee River Basin was released by the FDEP and included Lake Butler as an impaired water body, because of changes in historic TSI values. Lake Butler water quality returned to its historic average in 2009 and was removed from the list of impaired water bodies.

Over the past 10 years some short-term algae blooms at the Butler Chain had been raising concerns with nutrient contributions from a wide range of sources such as: Stormwater runoff and baseflow, groundwater seepage, inflow from interconnected water bodies, wetland impacts, atmospheric deposition and boating activities in shallow areas.

Butler Patrol

In 1988 the WWNCD created the “Butler Patrol” to enforce the boating and environmental laws on the lakes and canals that make up the Butler Chain. The Butler Patrol consists of over a dozen fully-empowered state police officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Florida Park Patrol, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office that provide law enforcement assistance, and also provide search and rescue and boating accident assistance.

For more information about boating safety, please visit the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission's website.


Contact Information

For more information please contact the EPD Staff Liaison:

David J. Hansen
(407) 836-1505

Butler Chain of Lakes

Markers match CIP projects listed to the left; click a marker to view project details.

Map Legend

  • CIP Project

List of Lakes

View Water Atlas information for a specific lake.


The Butler Chain of Lakes Advisory Board meets the third Monday of each month at 4:30 pm at the WindermereTown Hall.

Water Restoration Projects

The watershed study conducted by ERD Inc. in 2006 pointed out that the Butler Chain is less susceptible to stormwater runoff pollution effects because the drainage basin is relatively small in proportion to the size of the lakes. However, the fast pace of urbanization, the presence of older septic tanks, the existing performance/maintenance of existing areas, wetland discharges, and groundwater pollution from reused water, are all factors that would need to be addressed in the near future to maintain the water quality of the Butler Chain.

Activities conducted by the WWNCD have included: navigation sign projects, shoreline restorations, canal dredging projects, environmental pollution studies and stormwater engineering projects to reduce the flow of pollutants into the Butler Chain.

Video: Representatives from Orange County and the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection and local residents gathered to observe the official opening of the Lake Down Alum Treatment Facility on July 15, 2016.

WWNCD Duties

  1. Protection of public riparian property rights.
  2. Preservation of the natural beauty and attractiveness of the lakes, canals, streams, waterways, inlets and bays.
  3. Regulate and control water levels within the District.
  4. Regulate floodplain changes (minimum elevation of land filling for residential building purposes).
  5. Regulate and control the speed and operation of watercraft.
  6. Regulate the construction and repair of canals or ditches.
  7. Prevent the ditching of lands for drainage into waters within the District.
  8. Regulate dredging, pumping of sand, extension of lands, construction or extension of islands, creating canals, basins, inlets or bays, filling or creating obstructions in the waters of the District.
  9. Cooperation with agencies to control invasive plants.
  10. Employment and compensation of personnel.
  11. Conduct hearings on exceptions.
  12. Make rules and regulations for the construction of docks or wharves.
  13. Review time limits on pennits: revocations for noncompliance or violations of terms.
  14. Purchase of submerged lands, islands, sand bars, swamp and overflow lands, applications, notice and hearings.
  15. Determination of the natural landward extent of waters for regulatory purposes.
  16. Recommend use of moneys collected under taxing and fee provisions.