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Butler Chain - Windermere, FL

Butler Chain of Lakes, Windermere, FL

Windermere: Prior to the 1500s, the area was inhabited by the Timucuan Indians, and by 1564, by the Spanish. The United States purchased the eastern half of the state from Spain in 1821 and Florida became a state in 1845. It was around 1885 that Englishman Joseph Hill Scott purchased 150 acres on the southern shore of Lake Butler for his two sons, Stanley and Douglas.

Eventually, Dr. Stanley Scott homesteaded the property and named the area Windermere, many believe, after Lake Windermere in England. Additional settlers, many from England, came over to the area soon after. During this time, Citrus Groves were planted and the Florida Midland Railway was constructed through the area. By 1920, the population of Windermere was numbered.

Today, with a population of more than 4,300, the Town of Windermere is a quaint mixture of old and new homes with many of the original sand roads that wind through the town still remaining, reminiscent of its rich heritage and character.

This picturesque 4,720-acre chain is made up of 11 interconnected lakes. The Chain of Lakes was formed as a result of a typical Florida occurrence which is known as "karst topography". In this occurrence, limestone (found under the majority of Florida soil) is slowly dissolved by water to form sinkholes. A series of sinkholes formed over time created what is now called the Butler Chain of Lakes (also known as the Windermere Chain). There are areas in these lakes that reach depths of 50 feet and are believed to be the remnants of those old sinkholes which helped form this beautiful chain of lakes.

Waste Disposal System
Wastewater Disposal System Information

Homes around the Butler Chain of Lakes dispose of wastewater in septic tanks. Given enough space between houses and at least 150-foot distance from the lakes, modern septic tanks and drain fields are an accepted method of disposing of bath and kitchen wastewater.

The state of Florida has strict regulations and codes regarding the installation of septic tank systems, and they require regular maintenance to continue functioning properly without despoiling the lakes. Sludge should be pumped as often as required, depending upon the amount of use, and the system should be inspected every three to five years.

Protecting the Water Quality of Our Lakes
Waterfront property slopes to the water’s edge. Some lake edges are steeper than others. The steeper the slope, the faster rain runs off toward the lake, carrying sediment, nutrients, and pesticides with it.

Engineers have shown that a system of swales and berms can slow down the rush of water toward the lake and hold back the solids. A swale is a shallow ditch parallel to the edge of the lake, and a berm is a low mound closer to the lake and parallel to the swale. The swale catches rain runoff, which is held back by the berm. Impurities sink to the bottom of the swale and the cleaner water on the surface spills over the berm when the swale becomes full. The water in the swale evaporates into the air and percolates into the soil, recharging the aquifer and returning clean water to the lake.

Swales and berms ar an important drainage device for protecting the quality of water in the Butler Chain lakes. It may take only a six-inch swale to provide protection for the lake. Swales and berms can also be attractive landscaping feature when planted with colorful, moisture-loving native plants.

Alligators in Florida Lakes
Q: Are alligators dangerous to humans?

A: Yes, large alligators can be dangerous, particularly those that have been fed by people. Feeding alligators and other wild animals is not only illegal, but causes them to lose their fear of humans. They become bold, aggressive and come to expect more food, which can be dangerous to people and ultimately to the animals. A mother alligator protecting her nest or young is very dangerous. In the United States from 1948 to 1995, there were 236 attacks on humans by alligators, 8 of which were fatal.

* Note: Alligators are naturally afraid of humans. A lot of water skiing, tubing, and swimming takes place on the Butler Chain of Lakes and there have been no known alligator attacks on humans.  However, being in the water after dark is not recommended.  If you are towing your child on a tube on the lakes and you spot an alligator--stop and bring your child into the boat.

Marine Law Enforcement
The Butler Patrol
The patrol consists of over a dozen fully empowered State Police Officers. Half of the Officers are from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). FWC being the authority on Florida’s Fish, Wildlife and Boating Safety. The other half of the detail consists of Officers from the Florida Park Patrol (FPP). This is the State agency responsible for environmental resource law enforcement for Florida’s State Parks, Greenways and trails. Collectively, they are the State Police Officers that make up the Butler Patrol providing boating safety and environmental law enforcement specifically for your taxing district, the Butler Chain of Lakes.

The detail has been in service since 1988, providing boating law enforcement on the eleven lakes and canals that make up the Butler Chain. In the late 1980’s the initiation of the Butler Patrol was a response to an overall rising crime rate and boating safety violations that were occurring on the chain of lakes. The Patrol’s primary mission is almost identical to that of the FWC, to provide boating safety and fish and wildlife law enforcement. Law enforcement presence on the Butler Chain is simply more concentrated as the officers are hired in an “off duty” capacity as provided by the taxing district. This solution provides a much safer environment for the people who enjoy the Butler Chain of Lakes. Additionally, the Patrol works with Orange County Department of Environmental Protection to provide information about illegal dock construction dredge and fill violations as well as illegal removal of vegetation. Further, the Butler Patrol works in concert with existing FWC law enforcement officers assigned to the geographic area. Over the past 15 years the Butler Patrol has performed well over 10,000 boating safety inspections, written thousands of warnings and citations, assisted in search and rescues and worked dozens of boating accidents. Officers have made boating under the influence arrests (BUI), drug arrests, arrests for wanted persons, theft and even arrests for disorderly conduct and battery. The Butler Patrol maintains a zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol and careless or reckless operation of boats.

Contact Patrol Officers at 407-448-4744 or 407-448-4746

Fishing in the Butler Chain

The Butler (4,927 acres) Chains of lakes are all very similar in that they are relatively deep for Florida lakes (20 - 40 foot holes), have abundant submerge vegetation and good largemouth bass fisheries. This 4,720-acre chain is made up of 11 interconnected lakes. Boat access is available only at one county ramp (Lake Isleworth just south of downtown Windermere) and public bank access is almost non-existent. Orange County charges a launch fee at the Lake Isleworth ramp and the ramp is not open after dark.

The R.D. Keene ramp at Lake Isleworth (Butler Chain) costs per day or per year for use of the ramp.

The Butler Chain is known for its excellent largemouth bass fishing. Most successful bass anglers pay attention to the bottom contours of the lakes offshore structure where 4- to 5-pound bass are commonly produced. Live shiners free-lined over grass edges, humps, ledges, and drop-offs adjacent to spawning flats is one method to consistently catch quality bass in the winter/spring (Try Lake Butler). Jigging spoons fished over deep-water humps can produce 50-fish days when the water gets cold and fish congregate tightly (Try Little Lake Down). The lakes also have relatively unknown and unstudied black crappie (speck), bluegill and redear sunfish (shellcracker) populations, but anecdotal angler reports and field observations indicate a fishery exists for all three species.

Expect to see schooling fish almost twelve months out of the year. These schooling fish sometime average 3 - 5 pounds, but in most cases are smaller. Carolina-rigging in depths of 8 - 30 feet is a great producer all year.

It is nice place to fish where you can catch big numbers of bass with an occasional big fish, though just being on this Chain for the day is worth the trip. If you enjoy topwater, this is where you'll want to be if you're looking for some fun.

Central Florida Lakefront Descriptions

Central Florida Lakes

The Lakes of the Butler Chain

The Butler Chain Of Lakes is Orlandos premier lake chain offering 12 lakes full of pristine water. The lakes are connected by canals and offer great opportunities for water sports such as wake-boarding, skiing, barefooting and fishing. The real estate fronting on the chain has seen great appreciation in the recent past and is the site of many of Orlandos most prestigious homes. 

In the following descriptions, the lakes will be arranged in boating order from North to South.

Lake Down is the northern-most lake in the Butler Chain with 872 acres of ski-able clear water. Public Access is located at Conroy-Windermere Road across from the Isleworth entrance and at R. D. Keene Park and Boat Ramp at 10900 Chase Road, just south of Windermere. 

Neighborhoods on Lake Down include Sunset Bay, Down Point, Windermere Oaks, the city of Windermere (east side of town), Harbor Isle, Marina Bay (features a community dock, but no ramp), Lake Down Village (provides community access), Windermere Downs (provides community access), and The Lakes (provides community access). 

Exiting the lake via the canal on the western side, the boater travels under the main street of Windermere to Wauseon Bay. Please remember that all canals are NO-WAKE zones.

Little Lake Down is entered via a somewhat hidden canal on the west side of Lake Down. The canal is to the north of the main canal between Lake Down and Wauseon Bay. You can ski there, but its really too small for skiing. Public access is the same as for Lake Down. Homes on Bayshore Drive are the only ones with frontage on Little Lake Down. The OARS high school crew teams usually put-in on the west side and often use this lake and parts of Lake Down for practice.

Wauseon Bay is a smaller body of water which essentially acts as a conduit from the west side of Lake Down to Lake Butler. It also provides lake frontage for many homes in the city of Windermere. Skiing is possible on the western part of Wauseon Bay, but the east side from Bumby Point to the canal is restricted to a no-wake zone on the north side of the bouys due to the proximity of docks. From the south exit of Wauseon Bay, the boater moves onto Lake Butler.

Lake Butler is the largest lake of the chain and it offers 1,665 acres of ski-able, high-quality water. Public Access is the same as for Lake Down. It might be noted that the city of Windermere has a Residents-only ramp onto Lake Butler. Many people will anchor and party on the north side of Bird Island on weekend afternoons. 

Neighborhoods on the lake are the city of Windermere (community access), Isleworth Country Club (community access to Lake Tibet), Chaine Du Lac, Lake Butler Sound, and Kelso on Lake Butler (community access). The canal out is located on the south side of the lake adjacent to the western end of Isleworth Country Club property.

Lake Louise is a 50 acre lake which is a way-point on the canal from Lake Butler to Lake Tibet. Lake Louise is a long, narrow lake. Because of this length, you can often see boats towing skiers from one end to the other. Isleworth Country Club is the only community which fronts on this lake. Isleworth community access is found on the north end of Lake Tibet. Exiting to the south, the boater will find a lengthy canal to Lake Isleworth.

Lake Isleworth is a somewhat circular shaped pool of about 10 acres on the canal south of Lake Louise. The R. D. Keene Parks boat ramp is found on this lake. Isleworth is the only community which fronts on this lake. The canal out of Lake Isleworth to the south leads to Lake Tibet.

Lake Chase is 135 acres fronted by Isleworth Country Club, Isle of Osprey, and part of Bay Hill Country Club (community access). From the canals exit into Lake Tibet, the entrance to Lake Chase is just past the Isleworth floating docks to the east. This lake offers a good location to ski if there is too much wind or traffic on the larger lakes. However, it may become too congested at times. The exit to Lake Blanche is at the northeast corner of Chase and passes under the bridge to Isle of Osprey first. This is a longer and narrower canal with some parallel boat docks on the east side. Larger boats might find difficulty in passing an oncoming boat in this tight space.

Lake Blanche provides 121 acres of placid frontage to parts of Isleworth Country Club, Isle Of Osprey, and North Bay. It is a circular pool which becomes too congested to ski if there are more than about 3 or 4 boats present. The only way out is through the canal back to Lake Chase.

Lake Tibet is the second largest lake on the change with 1,198 acres. It is longer than wide and has bays on both the east and west side. Neighborhoods fronting on this lake are Isleworth Country Club, Keenes Point (found in the northern-most bay on the west side), Cypress Point, Bentley Park, Pointe Tibet, Bay Point, Bay Hill (private marina accessed through 2 canals from the long narrow bay on the east side) and Cypress Isle. There is a slalom course set up on the south east side of this lake right in front of the Cypress Point homes. The south western side of this lake fronts a nature preserve. Exiting from the south side of the lake between the multi-million dollar homes of Cypress Point and the homes of Cypress Isle is a short canal into Lake Sheen.

Lake Sheen is 565 acres of circular shaped lake which offers good fishing and plenty of room to ski. It is the site of the Orange County Sportsmans Association club; a private membership boat launch and picnic facility. Membership is currently about $175/year for a family with one boat. The waiting list tends to be 18 to 24 months in length and memberships are rarely available so, if youre new to the area, its a good idea to put your name on the list. Neighborhoods fronting the lake are Cypress Point, Cypress Isle, the Kilgore road lake-front homes, and Lake Sheen Reserve on the southwest side (offering community access) along with some additional homes on the west side of the lake. The canal on the south side of the lake leads to Pocket Lake.

Pocket Lake is roughly circular in shape and covers 126 acres. There is a well-maintained slalom course on the west side of this lake. Homes fronting the lake are located on Kilgore road, Darlene, and Charles E. Limpus road. None of these homes are in formally established communities. The canal found on the southwest corner of Pocket Lake leads to Little Fish Lake. Warning: This canal is over 1/4 of a mile in length with two right angle turns and usually contains obstacles such as sunken logs, so take care for your prop when going through.

Fish Lake or Little Fish Lake is about 30 acres and is often fairly weedy. There is one neighborhood located on the lake and along a neighborhood canal and that is Turtle Creek. The only exit is through the canal to Pocket Lake.

Cypress Lake is 65 acres of private ski-lake fronted by Kelso on Lake Butler. This lake used to be part of the Butler Chain, but the canal has gradually filled in and now is impassible.

The Sand Lakes Chain

Big Sand Lake is 1,110 acres with no public access. The lake is ski-able and fishing may be good at times. Water levels are subject to fairly large seasonal fluctuations which, along with shallow margins, necessarily makes docks quite long in many areas. The Neighborhoods on the lake are Bay Vista Estates (community access), Sand Lake Point (community access), Sand Lake Cove, Phillips Landing (community dock), Vizcaya (community clubhouse), and the time-share properties on the east side of the lake which have had a water-sports business operating from their lake frontage.

Little Sand Lake is the other component of this chain. The lake size is 156 acres and it is fronted by Grenada Villas (community access), Vizcaya and commercial developments.

Other Individual Lakes

Lake Burden is a nice, private ski lake with about 40 acres of water. It has a slalom course which is currently accessable only to Keenes Pointe residents who have a community access ramp and park.

Lake Bessie is 156 acres situated between Isleworth and Windermere. There is no public access, but the residents of both areas can water ski on the lake.

Lake Sawyer is a 93 acre ski-able lake with a canal to Lake Butt (probably soon to be renamed). This lake is fronted by Sawyer Shores.

Lake Butt is about 70 acres and is ski-able and fronted by Windermere Lakes.

Lake Mabel is a larger lake with 412 acres. It is ski-able but has no public access. There is some lake frontage in developing neighborhoods. The southwest part of the lake fronts on Disney property.

Lake William Davis is a small lake (about 25 acres) adjacent to Cypress Lake. It is ski-able, but with no public access. Neighborhoods on the lake are Tildens Grove, West Lake Butler Estates, and Kelso on Lake Butler.

Lake Crescent is a larger crescent-shaped lake with 172 acres of ski-able space. It is only available to residents of Windermere Club, Butler Bay, the Manors at Butler Bay, Crescent Lake Estates and some individual homes on the lake, but not in neighborhoods.

Lake Roper is 35 acres in extent and is ski-able for residents of Sunset Lakes.

Lake Roberts is 95 acres of private ski-able water available to residents of Windermere Club/Butler Bay and Waterford Pointe.

Motorized Watercraft

The Butler Chain of Lakes has a 36-mph speed limit and regulations regarding motor boat operation. These rules are designed not only to promote public safety but also to minimize the destructive impact of motor boats. Excessive speeds in shallow water can erode the shoreline, disturb rooted vegetation and stir up bottom nutrients and sediments. These resuspended bottom nutrients are then returned to the water body's ecosystem and result in increased turbidity.

Proper maintenance of motor boats is an important factor in maintaining good water quality. Motor boats are prone to oil and gas leakage problems; both of these substances can lead to disastrous effects on water quality and aquatic organisms. Oil and gas from this source, together with that from automobiles (picked up by storm water runoff) can have a significant impact.

Boat trailers and motors should be checked before launching to remove all aquatic weeds. This prevents the introduction of foreign plants should you launch your boat into different waters. The Butler Chain of Lakes has had some problems with exotic, noxious aquatic weeds that were brought in by boats. Aquatic weed control is an expensive, not always successful, program. Prevention is better than the cure!

Boating Regulations

Some Orange County boating regulations that you should be aware of are:

1. Children under six years of age must wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket while in a boat.

2. All skiers, knee boarders, etc. must wear a life jacket while being pulled behind the boat.

3. When pulling a person behind the boat, you must have either a wide angle ski mirror or another per-son in the boat.

4. As a courtesy to other boaters when pulling a skier, you should drive in a counter-clockwise direction.

5. Bow riding is prohibited.

6. All boats must contain the proper safety equipment, which depends on the size of the boat. For a complete list of these regulations, contact the Orange County Sheriffs Office Marine Patrol Unit.

7. Operation of a boat or skiing while impaired or intoxicated from alcohol or drugs is prohibited.

8. All mechanically propelled boats must be registered with the state.

9. All canals on the Butler Chain of Lakes have an idle speed or no wake speed limit. This also applies to motoring within 100 feet of the shoreline, weed line or dock extension except while picking up or dropping off a skier.

10. The following regulations apply to the operation of Personal Watercraft:

* No person under the age of 14 may operate a personal watercraft in the State of Florida.

*Each person riding on and/or being towed behind such vessel must wear an USCG approved personal flotation device.

*A Personal watercraft must at all times be operated in a reasonable and prudent manner.

The Wetlands

The wetlands that border our lakes and rivers serve many important purposes. Wetlands can be in the form of a marsh or swamp. The difference between a marsh and a swamp is that a marsh has no trees. The wetlands act as the "kidney" to the lakes, filtering out nutrients and pollutants, and cleaning the water before it goes into the lake. This cleansing process takes place in the plants; they love the nutrients and their roots act like a sieve, catching all the sediments, leaves and other debris that would wash right into the lake if they were not there.

Another function of our wetlands is that they act as floodplains. In the case of heavy rains or hurricanes, the extra water flows into them. The marshes and swamps also serve as homes for many of our water birds and animals. They depend on the rich nutrients available and the undisturbed wilderness to make their nests and raise their young. As our wetlands diminish due to development, the wildlife decreases in number and some species even become endangered.

Shoreline Protection

The shoreline of a lakefront lot is measured along the normal high water line. The Orange County Board of county Commissioners established 99.5 feet (mean sea level) as the normal high water line for the Butler Chain of Lakes. The water lines for other lakes maybe obtained from the Orange County Environmental Protection Department and the Orange County Engineering Department. Lakefront lots are platted down to the normal high water elevation, below which the State of Florida owns all lands.

The shoreline of a water body should remain completely natural; modification of the natural form or shape inhibits a water body's ability to effectively utilize or absorb nutrients. Numerous waterfront homeowners have removed beneficial vegetation and formed sandy beaches along their shorelines. This action removes the natural buffer, which helps to protect the water body from shock loads of nutrients and other water pollutants. Shoreline vegetation will absorb harmful nutrients preventing them from entering the water body, and prevent erosion caused by waves created by boats and wind.

Orange County's Lakeshore Protection Regulations allow you to clear only twenty percent (20%) or thirty (30) linear feet (whichever is greater) of your lake frontage for lake access. If additional clearing in excess of 20% is done without a permit, it constitutes a violation, which could carry a fine of up to $10,000. However, with proper permitting through the Environmental Protection Department, you may remove existing exotic plants and revegetate with native species.

If most or all of your shoreline vegetation has been removed, consider replanting at least a portion of your shoreline or allowing plants to come back on their own. Shoreline vegetation height should extend far above the water level. There is a direct relation between height and a plant's nutrient absorptive capacity. In fact, if vegetation height is clipped below the water level, a buffer zone's filtering efficiency steadily declines to zero.

Many varieties of native aquatic vegetation are very beautiful and some have lovely blossoms. Consider creating a "water garden" along your shoreline by planting your favorite varieties of aquatic plants. They will help clean the lake and enhance your property at the same time.

There is an excellent booklet entitled, Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Florida, containing color photographs of native aquatic plants, which may be ordered through the Publications Department of the Institute of Forestry and Agricultural Services (IFAS), Building 664, Gainesville, Florida 32611-0001. At present, the cost is $11.00. Checks should be made payable to the University of Florida. Telephone: (904) 392-1764.

If you decide to revegetate your shoreline, please be certain that you choose desirable, native aquatic plants and not Exotics. "Exotic plants" are simply plants that come from somewhere else and are not "native" to our ecosystem. The danger of introducing exotics is that they have no natural enemies and thus may grow unchecked and out of control.

A perfect example of an exotic plant growing out of control is Hydrilla. Hydrilla was imported from South America by the aquarium industry. People bought this plant to put in their aquariums and then, when their fish died, they dumped everything into our lakes and streams. We have an incredible problem controlling this exotic weed. It has an unbelievable root system that sends nodules deep into the earth. Therefore, even if the plant is killed back by chemical spraying, it will eventually grow back from its roots. Hydrilla can be spread from one lake to another by a tiny piece caught on the propeller of a boat. Even if the plant dries up on the propeller, when it gets wet again, its tubers will germinate and grow.

Another aggressive and exotic plant, water hyacinth, is choking our rivers and lakes by completely covering the surface of the water, making is impossible to pass through in a boat. Learn to recognize these plants and contact the proper authorities if you find it in our lakes.

Tannic Acid

Some of our lakes have a clear, but reddish-brown tint to the water. This is caused by TANNIC ACID, a natural by-product (decomposition of the tissue of some woody plants, such as cypress trees. It affects the color and acidity of the water, but does not affect humans. It is simply a natural phenomenon that is found in many southern waters.

Swales & Berms

As it descends to the water, Central Florida's waterfront property ranges from gentle to steep slopes. if your backyard fits into the steep or critically sloping category, your nutrient contributions are greater, storm water runoff cascades down a steep yard with almost no deterrents. Sediment loading caused by erosion are also increased.

Proper placement of a swale and berm system slows down the rapid flow of impure storm water runoff entering water bodies. After the swale catches the flow, it is held back by the berm. Impurities sink to the bottom and the cleaner water lining the surface spills over when the swale becomes full. Slowly, the storm water evaporates and percolates through the soil. The percolation process cleanses storm water runoff and recharges underground aquifers. In the case of lake front property, the cleansed storm water returns to the lake. Swales and berms are an extremely important drainage device that can protect the excellent water quality of Florida's lakes. A swale and berm system slows down storm water runoff and traps pollutants before they reach the lake.

Septic Tank Systems

Most homes around the Butler Chain of Lakes are on septic tanks. These systems require routine maintenance, depending on the accumulation of sludge, and should be inspected every 3 to 5 years. The State of Florida has strict regulations and codes regarding the installation of a septic tank system. For more information, contact the Orange County Health Department, 832 W. Central Blvd., Room 213, Orlando, FL 32801, Tel. 836-2630. Want to know more about a septic tank

Dredging and Filling

Orange County has strict regulations concerning dredging and filling due to the fact that: Dredging resuspends decomposing matter that has settled on the bottom, which causes turbidity and destroys habitat for aquatic-dependent organisms such as decomposers, which are an important part of the food web of the lake. Filling in an area that is habitually wet is simply reclaiming public waters for private use.


The installation of seawalls is strictly regulated on the Butler Chain of Lakes. There must be some very compelling reasons why a seawall is needed. If constructed, stringent design criteria must be followed. If a seawall has already been constructed on your property, the best solution would be to place a sloping rock revetment and to revegetate lake ward of the rock revetment.

Pesticides & Herbicides

Any pesticides or herbicides, if used, will eventually reach the lakes. These chemicals can cause serious damage to the lake ecosystem, especially if used in an improper manner. it is possible, but difficult, to have a healthy yard without using pesticides. If you must use pesticides, please read very carefully the instructions on proper application and disposal.

Yard Maintenance

In terms of water front property, removal of grass and other yard clippings after lawn mowing is beneficial. Yard clippings must not be allowed to reach the lake. For the lake to decompose these organic wastes requires the use of oxygen. In turn, this imposes a strain to the water body's oxygen levels. In addition, fertilizing should be limited as much as possible because during a storm, any excess or unabsorbed fertilizer will wash into the lake, "feeding" the algae and possibly causing it to grow excessively.

Irrigation with Lake Water

The use of Lake Water for Irrigation has the benefit of protecting our drinking water supply due to the fact that the water is not withdrawn from the aquifer, which is our underground water supply. Water withdrawn from the lake for irrigation will eventually percolate through the soil and recharge the lake.

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