Five cases of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis associated with swimming in freshwater lakes have been recorded in Florida over the past 14 years. The present study demonstrated that pathogenic Naegleria, the causative agent, is relatively widespread. Twelve of 26 lakes sampled only once yielded the amoeba. Populations in three of five lakes sampled routinely reached levels of one amoeba per 25 ml of water tested during the hot summer months. Overwintering in freshwater lake bottom sediments was demonstrated, showing that thermal-discharge pollution of waters plays a miniscule, if any, role in the maintenance of pathogenic Naegleria in nature in this semitropical area.