The serpentine liquid highway slowly moves through Brevard, Orange and Seminole counties and provides a natural border for Lake and Volusia counties before it opens up in Lake George and continues its path up to Jacksonville and into the Atlantic.
Everything from fish camps to swell restaurants line the shores of the noble river, including the Swamp House Grill in DeBary.
It's evident there's a lot going on here, whether you arrive by boat or car. From the waterside, there's a convenience store and gas dock and a tiki bar partially shaded by geometric tenting. From the roadside, there's a camp resort and pool.
But for hungry travelers, it's the top-floor restaurant that draws 'em in. The expansive room is full of light with an open format that offers panoramic views of the river. At one end is another bar. The rest of the space is a comfortable, casual dining room with lots of overhead flat screen televisions.
The menu is ambitious and augmented by a chalkboard with the daily "fresh catch."
From my visits and observing the food served to tables around me, the kitchen shines with basics such as sandwiches, ribs, soups, salads and appetizers. But there's chicken, pastas and aged steaks to choose from, too.
I recommend the Bourbon Street burger ($9.49) topped with a thick Jack Daniels sauce and mushrooms, onions and sweet peppers. All burgers, sandwiches and po boys are served with side of the day (room temperature fries this day), chips or slaw.
The Caesar salad ($4.99) with grilled chicken (an additional $4.99) was basic but perfectly fueling and cooling on a recent blistering day. The dressing seemed to be bottled, but a good quality and in the right proportion to the rough-chopped sweet romaine.
You'll find mahi fingers ($8.99) on the "appetizer" list. They are lightly battered before a dunk in the fryer. It's quite a handful of "fingers" that can be shared or enjoyed as a stand-alone entree.
The cedar plank salmon ($16.99) was a pleasant surprise. And it's awful of me to have assumed the kitchen couldn't pull it off. The fish absorbed a nice smoky flavor from the aromatic board and was lightly brushed with a teriyaki glaze. It came with a choice of soup of the day (vegetable) or salad and one side (sauteed vegetable medley with asparagus on this visit).
From the dessert list, keep your fingers crossed that they have Swamp House mud pie ($4.95) on hand. It's a hunky, cool and creamy wedge on a thin-brownie like crust. Push the whipped cream and maraschino cherry aside. This concoction needs no adornment and is easily shareable. In fact, it provided the perfect portion of indulgence for four of us without getting into a fork fight, which is always a bad show.
The food is not the star attraction here — though it is quite decent. Swamp House offers a rare combo platter of food, atmosphere, earnest staff and a fabulous inland water view that Floridians like to show off to visitors.
Calories for good causeShare Our Strength's 20th Taste of the Nation culinary extravaganza at the Orange County Convention Center on Aug. 29 will raise money for local hunger relief efforts. OrlandoSentinel.com/thedish
•DINE OUT THEN COOK AT HOME: Check out our database of restaurant recipes. Click on "Thought You'd Never Ask" and search. OrlandoSentinel.com/recipes
• DINE OUT AND LOG IN: We have your wi-fi connection to cafes, coffeehouses and eateries in Central Florida. Orlando.Metromix.com
Heather McPherson can be reached at 407-420-5498 or firstname.lastname@example.org.