This study examined the cladoceran assemblages in three oxbow lakes of the Taquari River floodplain, near the transition between the plateau and the plain. We sought to answer the following questions: does the Taquari River function as a geographical barrier or dispersal corridor for Cladocera? Can different degrees of connection induce different structures in the assemblages in each lake? Cladocerans and limnological variables were sampled every other month for one year. Forty-one species were recorded, four of which were common to all the lakes. Our results indicated that the different degrees of connection between the river and the oxbow lakes favoured environmental heterogeneity and diversification in the cladoceran assemblages. The greatest dissimilarity between the two lakes connected with the river indicates that in this case the river functions better as a barrier than a dispersal corridor.