Why Does The St Johns River Flow North?


The St. Johns River is a major river located in northeastern Florida, and it is notable for its unusual flow direction, as it flows northward rather than southward like most rivers in the region. This unique feature has attracted attention from scientists and tourists alike, and there are several factors that contribute to the river’s northward flow.

Geographic context:

The St. Johns River is located in the eastern United States, in a region known as the Atlantic Coastal Plain. This plain is characterized by low, flat terrain that was formed by the accumulation of sediment from the Appalachian Mountains over millions of years. The St. Johns River is the longest river in Florida and one of the few major rivers in the region that does not flow into the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean.

Flow direction:

The St. Johns River flows northward from its source in Indian River County, passing through Brevard, Orange, Seminole, and Volusia counties before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean near Jacksonville. This direction of flow is unusual for a river in this region, as most rivers in the eastern United States flow southward or eastward due to the slope of the land. The St. Johns River is one of only a few rivers in the world that flow against the slope of the land, and this is due to a combination of geological and hydrological factors.

Factors influencing flow direction:

  1. Geology: The geology of the region plays a significant role in the direction of the St. Johns River’s flow. The river flows over a layer of porous limestone, which allows water to easily pass through it and into underground aquifers. This means that the river does not have a traditional riverbed with a stream channel, and instead, the water flows through underground channels and emerges at various points along the river’s course.
  2. Hydrology: The hydrology of the region also plays a role in the St. Johns River’s northward flow. The river is fed by a number of tributaries, including the Ocklawaha River, which flows from the west and contributes a large volume of water to the St. Johns. The Ocklawaha River is fed by a number of smaller streams that flow from the northwest, and this contributes to the overall northward flow of the St. Johns River.
  3. Elevation: The elevation of the region also plays a role in the St. Johns River’s flow direction. The river is located in a region with relatively low elevation, and this means that the water level in the river is lower than the water level in the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, the river flows toward the ocean, following the path of least resistance.


The St. Johns River is a unique and fascinating river located in northeastern Florida. Its unusual northward flow is a result of a combination of geological, hydrological, and elevation factors, and it is a testament to the dynamic and complex nature of the Earth’s surface. Understanding the factors that influence the river’s flow direction helps us to better appreciate the natural beauty and diversity of the region.

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