There is no well-defined system of streams in the BCNP except the tidal channels along the coast. When the water table begins to rise at the beginning of the wet season, the first natural surface flows occur in the major strands and sloughs. As water levels continue to rise, these deeper areas eventually overflow into the adjacent marshes, which results in the general pattern of over-land sheet flow characteristic of the Big Cypress. This pattern is maintained until the dry season begins and water levels start to decline again, and the sequence is reversed. Rates of surface water flows obviously are zero when water levels are low and increase as the water table rises. Total distances moved during a dry year would be about 6.5 mi and during a wet year about 40-50 mi. These slow flows were due to a combination of the gentle gradient and the dense vegetation through which the water must move. .(From "The Big Cypress National Preserve" by Michael J. Duever et al.)
Distinct river channels are uncommon in south Florida. A shallow wetland environment predominates the region, and where channels are present they are too short, discontinuous, densely vegetated, shallow, or too remote for navigation with canoe or kayak. Three rivers in the Preserve are the exception to this statement. Three rivers that are named in the Preserve are the Barron River, the Turner River, and the New River. The Barron River flows almost completely within a canal along the western boundary of Big Cypress National Preserve. It flows south to Everglades City and into Everglades National Park's Gulf Coast District. The New River and New River strand flow to the mangroves and into the Gulf of Mexico in Everglades National Park. The Turner River lies in the southwestern portion of the Preserve. Its contributing watershed, headwater pools and upstream channel are all within the Big Cypress boundary. It flows through the southern portion of the Preserve, and it's tailwaters and terminus lie in Everglades national park. It twists and turns through nine miles of mixed cypress swamp, open grassland prairie, mangrove tunnels, and estuarine tailwaters before emptying into Chokoloskee Bay.