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Martin B. Main and Ginger M. Allen2 1. This document is WEC230, part of Florida's Environment series of the Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date November 2007. Reviewed November 2010. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu. 2. Martin B. Main, associate professor, wildlife extension specialist, and Ginger M. Allen, senior biologist, Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, Immokalee, FL; Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-0304. Florida's Environment series Northwest Florida (Fig.1), has nearly 30 percent of the region in conservation lands ( Table 1), and includes some of the state's most beautiful natural areas. The region forms a narrow panhandle between the piedmont uplands of Alabama and Georgia and the Gulf of Mexico. The region is crossed by many rivers running north to south, with a series of sandhill ridges between river floodplain valleys. Hardwood forests, particularly in the Apalachicola River basin, include more species of trees and shrubs than found in any forest community in the continental United States. Florida's northwest region also supports the largest pineland ecoregion east of the Mississippi River and the second largest pineland ecoregion in the continental United States. Mature longleaf pine forests protected on conservation lands provide critical habitat for endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers and other wildlife. Northwest Florida Region with counties. Credits: UF/IFAS Barrier islands, beaches and tidal marshes fringe most of the Gulf coast. Panhandle beaches are famous for their white quartz sugar sand. The panhandle is one of the least populated areas of Florida.
Florida's Environment Northwest Region 2 This document summarizes major rivers, lakes and springs, featured natural areas, and cultural aspects of Florida's northwest region. For information on other regions in Florida refer to The Florida Environment: An Overview and the other eight regional profiles available online (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu). Conservation land acreage in Florida's northwest region Bay 50,560 10% Calhoun 3,060 1% Escambia 43,410 10% Franklin 274,470 80% Gulf 53,550 15% Holmes 13,260 4% Jackson 18,750 3% Liberty 333,810 62% Okaloosa 314,760 53% Santa Rosa 239,700 37% Walton 228,300 34% Washingtont 50,780 14% Based on 2006 Florida Natural Areas Inventory Managed Conservation Lands. Florida State University. The northwest region has several rivers that form important estuaries in the Gulf of Mexico. The Apalachicola River is Florida's largest river and one of the state's most significant natural resources. The Apalachicola River is designated a Florida Special Water, an Outstanding Florida Water, an Aquatic Preserve (the estuary), and an International Biosphere Reserve. Originating in Georgia and Alabama as the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers, the Apalachicola River delineates the division between Eastern and Central time zones as it travels 107 miles through the Florida panhandle en route to Apalachicola Bay, one of the most productive estuarine systems in the Northern Hemisphere. The fish and shellfish industry supported by the estuary is vital to the economy of the area. The Apalachicola River is also one of the most ecologically diverse areas in Florida. More than 100 species of unusual plants have been identified in the region, including the Torreya tree, Croomia, Florida yew, and Ogeechee tupelo to name a few. The Apalachicola River has the highest diversity of reptiles and amphibians in North America north of Mexico. Over 180 species of fish have been documented from the river and bay systems that support important commercial fisheries and also include protected species such as the Gulf Sturgeon and rare invertebrates. Escambia Bay is fed by the Escambia River, which flows 54 miles along the border between Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties. The Escambia River has one of the richest assemblages of freshwater fish of any river in Florida and the 34,000 acre Escambia River Wildlife Management Area borders 25 miles of the river. Numerous boat launches occur along the river. The Blackwater River flows from Alabama through Okaloosa and Santa Rosa Counties into Blackwater Bay, which is part of the Escambia Bay estuary system. Blackwater Bay is also fed by the Yellow River. The Yellow River flows through the Yellow River Marsh Preserve State Park, which is known for the abundance of carnivorous pitcher plants that occur there. About 20 rare and endangered species of plants and animals make their homes along the bay and its wet prairies, swamps, and flatwoods. The Econfina River is a small coastal river that flows 35 miles from its headwaters in Madison and Taylor counties to the Apalachee Bay in the Gulf of Mexico where it forms an estuarine marsh at western extent of Florida's Big Bend coastline. Other freshwater inputs into the estuary include the Ochlockonee, Sopchoppy, Wakulla, Wacissa, Aucilla, and Fenholloway Rivers. Swamps in the Florida panhandle that are associated with river floodplains such as the Apalachicola River are known as bottomland hardwood swamps. These are highly productive habitats because spring floods deposit large amounts of nutrient rich sediments that support diverse plant communities, particularly trees that produce nuts and fruits (mast) that provide important food resources for wildlife. In addition to their habitat value for resident wildlife, river swamps in this region are critical for migratory wildlife such as songbirds and
Florida's Environment Northwest Region 3 waterfowl and as corridors for species that travel over large areas, such as the Florida black bear. One of Northwest Florida's more unusual ecosystems is Tate's Hell Swamp, a large mixed wetland, technically known as a shrub bog. Tate's Hell is located in Franklin County between the Apalachicola and Ochlockonee Rivers (Fig. 2). There are relatively few large lakes in the Northwest Florida region. Types of lakes that occur in the region include oxbow lakes that are created when rivers change course and sections of river become disconnected and isolated from the main channel, sandhill lakes that occur on upland ridges, and shallow and marshy seasonal lakes. Northwest Florida major conservation lands. Credits: UF/IFAS (see Table 2 for detailed list of natural areas) St. Vincents National Wildlife Reserve is a 12,358-acre barrier island located just offshore of the Apalachicola River estuary and includes pine dominated uplands. Once privately owned as a hunting preserve, nonnative sambar deer still roam the island. Eglin Air Force Base Wildlife Management Area encompasses 460,000 acres and contains some of the most biologically significant public land in the United States. More than 90 rare or imperiled species, including at least nine federally listed species, are found on the base. The base manages a 320,000-acre longleaf pine sandhills ecosystem, the largest known tract of this habitat under single ownership. Blackwater River State Park includes one of the purest sand bottom rivers in the world. Various pine and upland habitats occur in the park. In the river floodplain, the forest is dominated by various hardwoods, species composition varying in response to hydrology. Tyndall Air Force Base covers 29,000 acres and abuts the Gulf of Mexico. The base features many wetland habitats but also pine flatwoods and sand pine scrub. Tyndall AFB operates the longest ongoing loggerhead sea turtle monitoring program in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Tyndall's management efforts have maintained hatching rates above 70 percent, significantly enhancing the population of this endangered species. Apalachicola National Forest encompasses 564,961 acres and supports slash pine flatwoods, longleaf pine sandhills, and various other upland and wetland habitats. Mature pine forests provide habitat for many species including red-cockaded woodpeckers. Prehistoric Indian sites, middens (trash heaps), and burial mounds are found along many of northwest Florida's lakes, rivers, and springs. Known sites occur along the Escambia River, with evidence of Pensacola, American, Ft. Walton, Archaic and Weeden Island Indian cultures. Archeological sites and more than 200 historical structures occur along the Blackwater River, and a few sites have been found along the Choctawhatchee River, Holmes Creek, Chipola River and Apalachicola River. Evidence found in this region indicates the central panhandle was inhabited by nomadic hunters 14,000 years ago. Native tribes included the Apalachee, who resided in the area from about 1000 years ago to the mid 1700s when they declined due to diseases brought in by Spanish missionaries. Creeks, who later came to be known as Seminoles, moved into the area from Georgia and Alabama about this time. Most of the Seminoles in the panhandle were killed, forcibly relocated, or fled to the south Florida Everglades where many still live todayn. Many of Florida's rivers hold names of Indian or Spanish origin, Perdido and Ecofina are two examples.
Florida's Environment Northwest Region 4 Table 2. Recreational and cultural opportunities in natural areas in northwest Florida. (WMA=Water Management Area, NWR=National Wildlife Refuge) Bay St. Andrews State Park (850) 233-5140 http://www.floridastateparks.org Bay St. Andrews Aquatic Preserve (850) 983-5359 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/standrews/ Bay Junior Museum of Bay County (850) 769-6128 http://www.jrmuseum.org Bay Tyndall Air Force Baset (850) 283-2641 http://myfwc.com/RECREATION/ View_Destinations_site-nw05.htm Escambia Tarklin Bayou Preserve State Park http://www.floridastateparks.org Escambia Perdido River WMA (850) 265-3676 http://www.floridastateparks.org/perdidokey/ Escambia Escambia River nWMA (850) 539-5999 http://myfwc.com/RECREATION/ WMASites_EscambiaRiver_index.htm Escambia Perdido Key State Park (850) 492-1595 http://www.floridastateparks.org Escambia Big Lagoon State Park (850) 492-1595 http://www.floridastateparks.org Escambia Gulf Islands National Seashore (850) 934-2600 http://www.nps.gov/guis Escambia Ft. Pickens Aquatic Preserve (850) 9835359 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/COASTAL/sites/ftpickens/ info.htm Franklin Tate's Hell State Forest (850) 265-3676 http://www.fl-dof.com/state_forests/tates_hell.html Franklin St. George Island St. Park (850) 927-2111 http://www.floridastateparks.org/stgeorgeisland/ Franklin Alligator Harbor Aquatic Preserve (850) 670-4783 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/alligator/ Franklin/Gulf St. Vincent NWR (850) 653-8808 http://www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm Franklin/Wakulla/ Liberty Apalachicola National Forest (850) 523-8500 http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/florida/recreation/ index_apa.shtml Gulf Tyndall Air Force Base (850) 283-2641 http://www.tyndall.af.mil/ Gulf St. Joseph Peninsula Park (850) 227-1327 http://www.floridastateparks.org/stjoseph/default.cfm Gulf St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve (850) 670-4783 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/stjoseph/ Holmes/ Washington Choctawhatchee & Holmes Creek (850) 539-5999 http://myfwc.com/RECREATION/ FW_forecasts_nwr.htm#choctawh Jackson Florida Caverns State Park (850) 482-9598 http://www.floridastateparks.org/floridacaverns/ default.cfm Jackson Upper Chipola River WMA (850) 539-5999 http://myfwc.com/Recreation/ WMASites_UpperChipolaRiver_index.htm Jackson Dead Lakes State Recreation Area (Chipola) (850) 639-2702 http://www.funandsun.com/parks/DeadLakes/ deadlakes.html Jackson Three Rivers State Park (850) 482-9006 http://www.funandsun.com/parks/ThreeRivers/ threerivers.html
Florida's Environment Northwest Region 5 Table 2. Recreational and cultural opportunities in natural areas in northwest Florida. (WMA=Water Management Area, NWR=National Wildlife Refuge) Jackson/ Washington/ Econfina Creek WMA (Sandhill lakes) (850) 539-5999 http://myfwc.com/Recreation/ WMASites_EconfinaCreek_index.htm Liberty Torreya State Park/nGregory House (850) 643-2674 http://www.floridastateparks.org/torreya/ Liberty Mud Swamp New River: Apalachicola (850) 643-2359 http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/florida/ Liberty Apalachicola Bluffs Preserve t(850)-643-2756 http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/ states/florida/preserves/art5521.html Okaloosa/ Santa Rosa Yellow River WMAt (850) 539-5999 http://www.nwfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation/ yellowriver.html Okaloosa Rocky Bayou (850) 833-9144 http://www.floridastateparks.org/rockybayou/default.cfm Okaloosa Indian Temple Mound (850) 833-9595 Okaloosa Henderson Beach State Park (850) 837-7550 http://www.floridastateparks.org/hendersonbeach/ default.cfm Santa Rosa Navarre Beach Park (850) 410-1666 http://www.floridastateparks.org/ nsoon to be county park... Santa Rosa Yellow River Marsh Aquatic Preserve (850) 9835359 http://www.floridastateparks.org/yellowriver/default.cfm Santa Rosa Blackwater River State Forest (850) 957-6140 http://www.fl-dof.com/state_forests/ blackwater_river.html Santa Rosa/ Okaloosa Blackwater River WMA (850) 923-5363 http://myfwc.com/recreation/ WMASites_BlackwaterRiver_index.htm Santa Rosa Blackwater River State Park (850) 923-5363 http://www.floridastateparks.org/blackwaterriver/ default.cfm Santa Rosa/ Okaloosa Eglin Air Force Base WMA (850) 983-5363 http://myfwc.com/recreation/View_Destinations_sitenw04.htm Walton / Washington Pine Log State Forest (850) 547-7084 http://www.fl-dof.com/state_forests/pine_log.html Walton Eden Gardens State Park http://www.floridastateparks.org Walton Ponce De Leon Springs State Park (850) 836-4281 http://www.floridastateparks.org/poncedeleonsprings/ default.cfm Walton Grayton Beach State Park (850) 231-4210 http://www.floridastateparks.org/graytonbeach/ default.cfm Walton Topsail Hill Preserve State Park (877) 232-3521 http://www.floridastateparks.org/topsailhill/default.cfm Washington Falling Waters State Park (850) 638-6130 http://www.floridastateparks.org/fallingwaters/ default.cfm Florida's rivers provided important avenues of transportation during the settlement of the state. The Apalachicola River, in particular, served as a main transportation route for goods and people between the Gulf of Mexico and the interiors of Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. In 1828, when Florida became a U.S. Territory, the first government road across north Florida crossed the Apalachicola River at what is
Florida's Environment Northwest Region 6 now Torreya State Park, and a six cannon battery was located at this location during the Civil War. Throughout the 1800s, it is estimated that more than 200 steamboats traveled the river during the great trading era of 1840-1910. Today, the Apalachicola River still is an important port. Allen, G.M. and M.B. Main. 2005. Florida's Geological History. Fact Sheet WEC 189, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu. Bense, J. A. ed. 1999. Archaeology of Colonial Pensacola, Florida Museum of Natural History: Ripley P. Bullen Series, Gainesville, FL. Cerulean, S. and A. Morrow. 1998. Florida Wildlife Viewing Guide. Falcon Publishing. Helena, MT. Fernald, E. A. and E. D. Prudum, eds. 1998. Water Resources Atlas of Florida. Institute of Science and Public Affairs. Tallahassee, FL. Florida Department of Natural Resources. 1989. Florida Rivers Assessment. Florida Department of Natural Resources. Tallahassee, FL. Gannon, M., ed. 1996. The New History of Florida. Univ. Press of Florida. Gainesville, FL. Karim, A. and M.B. Main. 2004. Tropical Hardwood Hammocks in Florida. Fact Sheet WEC 181, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu. Kavanagh, J. ed. 1997. The Nature of Florida : An Introduction to Common Plants & Animals n& Natural Attractions (Field Guides Series) Waterford Press, Phoenix, AZ. Kleinberg, E. 1997. Historical Traveler's Guide to Florida. Pineapple Press, Sarasota, FL. Laurie M., and D. Bardon. 1998. Florida's Museums and Cultural Attractions. Pineapple Press, Sarasota, FL. Main M.B., and G.M. Allen. 2005. Florida State Symbols. Circular 1467, Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu. Main M.B. M.E. Swisher, J. Mullahey, W. DeBusk, A. J. Shriar, G. W. Tanner, J. Selph, P. Hogue, P. Bohlen and G. M. Allen. 2004. The Ecology and Economics of Florida's Ranches. Fact Sheet WEC 187, Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu Main M.B., and G.W. Tanner. 1999. Effects of Fire on Florida's Wildlife and Wildlife Habitat. Fact Sheet WEC 137, Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu. Meyers, Ronald L. & John J. Ewel, eds. 1990. Ecosystems of Florida. University of Central Florida Press. Orlando, FL. Milanich, J. T. 1998. Florida Indians from Ancient Times to the Present. University of Florida Press. Gainesville, FL. Milanich, Jerald T. 1995. Florida Indians and the Invasion from Europe. University of Florida Press. Gainesville, FL. Nelson, G. 1995. Exploring Wild Northwest Florida. Pineapple Press, Sarasota, FL. Ohr, T. 1998. Florida's Fabulous Natural Places. World Publications, Tampa, FL. Perry J., and J. G. Perry 1992. The Sierra Club Guide to the Natural Areas of Florida. Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, CA. Ripple, J. 1997. Florida: The Natural Wonders. Voyageur Press, Osceola,.
Florida's Environment Northwest Region 7 Stamm D., and D. R. Stamm. 1998. The Springs of Florida. Pineapple Press, Sarasota, FL. Winsberg, M. D. 1997. Florida's History Through Its Places: Properties in the National Register of Historic Places, University Press of Florida, Gainesville, FL. Florida Division of Historical Resources, http://www.flheritage.com/ Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission Wildlife Viewing Sites, http://www.myfwc.com/recreation/View_index.htm Florida's Historic Places, http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/florida/lessons/places.htm Florida's Museum of Natural History, http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/ Florida Natural Areas Inventory, http://www.fnai.org/ Florida's Scenic Highways, http://www.floridascenichighways.com/ Florida State Parks, http://www.floridastateparks.org/ Florida Water Management Districts, http://dlis.dos.state.fl.us/fgils/wmd.html P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History, http://web.uflib.ufl.edu/spec/pkyonge/index.html Touring the Georgia-Florida Coast, http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/geo-flor/gfintro.htm Visit Florida, http://www.visitflorida.com