ATLANTIC OCEAN | EVERGLADES | GULF | FLORIDA KEYS | LAKE OKEECHOBEE | PENINSULA | PANHANDLE | TAMPA BAY | FUTURE
View FLORIDA GEOGRAPHY in a larger map. Panhandle (see more Panhandle …).
View FLORIDA GEOGRAPHY in a larger map Peninsula.
The Florida Peninsula — for those who love beaches, oceans, sub-tropical and tropical climates.
FLORIDA GEOGRAPHY 101
The Total Area of Florida is 65,795 sq mi (170,304 km2)
Florida State Boundaries
The state line begins in the Atlantic Ocean, traveling west, south, and north up the thalweg (a valley line — the lowest line in a valley) of the Saint Mary’s River. At the origin of that river, it then follows a straight line nearly due west and slightly north, to the point where the confluence of the Flint River (from Georgia) and the Chattahoochee River (down the Alabama/Georgia line) used to form Florida’s Apalachicola River. Since Woodruff Dam was built, this point has been under Lake Seminole. The border with Georgia continues north through the lake for a short distance up the former thalweg of the Chattahoochee, then with Alabama runs due west along latitude 31°N to the Perdido River, then south along its thalweg to the Gulf via Perdido Bay. Much of the state is at or near sea level. The rest of the state borders the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Florida peninsula is a porous plateau of karst limestone sitting atop bedrock known as the Florida Platform. The emergent portion of the platform was created during the Eocene to Oligocene as the Gulf Trough filled with silts, clays, and sands. Flora and fauna began appearing during the Miocene. No land animals were present in Florida prior to the Miocene.
Extended systems of underwater caves, sinkholes and springs are found throughout the state and supply most of the water used by residents. The limestone is topped with sandy soils deposited as ancient beaches over millions of years as global sea levels rose and fell. During the last glacial period, lower sea levels and a drier climate revealed a much wider peninsula, largely savanna. The Everglades, an enormously wide, very slow-flowing river encompasses the southern tip of the peninsula.
Because Florida is not located near any tectonic plate boundaries, earthquakes are very rare, but not totally unknown. In January, 1879, a shock occurred near St. Augustine with reports of heavy shaking that knocked plaster from walls and articles from shelves. Similar effects were noted at Daytona Beach 50 miles (80 km) south. The tremor was felt as far south as Tampa and as far north as Savannah, Georgia. In January 1880, Cuba was the center of two strong earthquakes that sent severe shock waves through the city of Key West, Florida. Another earthquake centered outside Florida was the 1886 Charleston earthquake. The shock was felt throughout northern Florida, ringing church bells at St. Augustine and severely jolting other towns along that section of Florida’s east coast. Jacksonville residents felt many of the strong aftershocks that occurred in September, October, and November 1886. In 2006, a magnitude 6.0 earthquake centered about 260 miles (420 km) southwest of Tampa in the Gulf of Mexico sent shock waves through southwest and central Florida. The earthquake was too small to trigger a tsunami. No damage was reported.
At 345 feet (105 m) above mean sea level, Britton Hill is the highest point in Florida and the lowest highpoint of any U.S. state. Britton Hill is located in the central panhandle, just south of the Alabama border. Much of the state south of Orlando is low-lying and fairly level; however, some places, such as Clearwater, feature vistas that rise 50 to 100 feet (15 – 30 m) above the water. Much of Central and North Florida, typically 25 miles (40 km) or more away from the coastline, features rolling hills with elevations ranging from 100 to 250 feet (30 – 76 m). The highest point in peninsular Florida, Sugarloaf Mountain, is a 312-foot (95 m) peak in Lake County — about 20 miles northwest of Orlando.
Areas under control of the National Park Service include:
Florida’s extensive coastline made it a perceived target during World War II, so the government built airstrips throughout the state. Approximately 400 airports are still in service. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, Florida has 131 public airports, and more than 700 private airports, airstrips, heliports, and seaplane bases. Florida is one of the largest states east of the Mississippi River. Only Alaska and Michigan are larger in water area.