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Florida's Geography

Probably no geographical feature identifies North America as easily as the peninsula of Florida. Florida is divided into 67 counties. To the north and west, the “panhandle” shares borders with Georgia and Alabama. The bottom two-thirds of the state lies on the distinctive peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides. Florida’s location near the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea has made it a crossroads of European, North American, and South American history.

When geographers study Florida, they look at its physical conditions-land, water, plants, animals, and climate. Just as important, though, is the study of human geography: the study of people, who they are, where they live, and how they live. Today, more than ever before, geographers are also interested in how humans relate to and interact with their environment.
Florida Counties

Physical Geography
Florida ranks 22nd among the 50 states in total area, with about 58,560 total square miles. Northern Florida is cooler and hillier. Southern Florida is flatter and warmer. All of Florida is rather low, with most of the land less than 100 feet (30 meters) above sea level. Geologists—scientists who study Earth’s history through rock formations—think that Florida is one of the youngest parts of the continental United States, the last landform to emerge from the ocean. The Florida landscape is sprinkled with more than 7,000 lakes, and Lake Okeechobee is the nation’s second largest freshwater lake in the United States. Water is important to Florida, and seawater, lakes, rivers, and streams have shaped the land into seven regions.

Florida Map

The Coastal Lowlands The coastal lowlands make up 75 percent of the state’s land. These areas border the sea. Most coastal lowlands are very low, less than 25 feet (7.6 meters) above sea level.

The Lake Okeechobee-Everglades Basin This region is 150 miles long and 50 miles wide. Low and wet, the basin is actually a slow-moving river, sometimes called the “River of Grass.” The southern part of the basin contains Everglades National Park and Lake Okeechobee.

Florida Population

The Kissimmee Lowlands The Kissimmee Lowlands are about the same size as the Okeechobee-Everglades Basin. These flat grasslands provide fine pasture along the Kissimmee River as it flows south toward Lake Okeechobee.

The Marianna Lowlands The area of the Marianna Lowlands is in the northwest between the Choctawhatchee and Apalachicola Rivers. It is a region of heavy erosion with many sinkholes and caves.

Florida Population 1900-2000

The Tallahassee Hills The Tallahassee Hills lie east of the Marianna Lowlands. This beautiful rolling area has been an important area for field crops.

The Western Highlands East of the Marianna Lowlands, extending to the Alabama border are the Western Highlands. This area, like the Tallahassee Hills, was once part of an ancient upland plain and is now an important agricultural area.

The Central Highlands The Central Highlands lie east of the Tallahassee Hills and west of the St. Johns River, which separate them from the Coastal Lowlands farther east. This region, too, is rolling country and has thousands of lakes.

Florida's 10 Largest Cities in 2000

Unique Features of Florida's Geography
Sinkholes Sinkholes are a common geographic phenomenon in Florida. Rainwater filters through the porous limestone of Florida's aquifer beneath the ground's surface. Persistent erosion over time can create underground voids. The collapse of overlying ground into the underground cavities produces sinkholes. Many Florida sinkholes have been converted into lakes, hiking and biking trails, and tourist attractions.

Beaches Florida has over 1,197 miles of coastline, with 663 miles containing sandy beaches. No part of Florida is more than 60 miles (96 km) from its famous beaches. For most people, beaches and palm trees are synonymous with Florida's landscape. Beach erosion is a concern, and measures are underway to protect, preserve, and restore the coastal sandy beach resources of the state.

Palm Tree

Coral Reefs Florida is the only state in the continental United States to have extensive shallow coral reef formations near its coasts. The most thriving reef developments are found by the Florida Keys and rival those of many Caribbean areas.

Climate Sunshine is one of Florida's most important resources. The state's comfortable climate has lured vacationers for more than a century. Other than Hawaii, Florida is closer to the Equator than any other American state, giving it a humid subtropical climate. Heavy rainfall occurs from April to November with hurricane season from June to November. Snow falls occasionally in the north, and valuable crops are sometimes subject to freeze warnings.

Orange Tree

Plants and Animals
More than 300 species of trees grow in Florida, including a wide variety of hardwoods and pines in the north. In the south are tropical varieties, such as the Sabal Palm, Florida's state tree. Although citrus trees are not native to Florida, probably no other tree identifies Florida as much as the orange tree. Many historians believe Christopher Columbus first brought citrus fruits to the New World in 1493. Early Spanish explorers planted orange trees around St. Augustine, Florida, in the late 1500s. Florida's unique sandy soil and subtropical climate have proven to be ideal for growing citrus.

Alligator

In this changing environment live about 100 species of mammals, from the endangered Florida panther to common deer, and more than 400 species and subspecies of birds. Alligators are the largest and most famous reptiles found here, and more than 40 species of snakes have been discovered. Animal life is under pressure from growing cities and suburbs, but steps are in place to protect threatened and endangered species. One example is the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, which declares the State of Florida to be a refuge and sanctuary for the manatee, or sea cow.

Florida's People

Florida's 10 Largest Cities in 2000

Florida Population

Florida Population