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Martin B. Main and Ginger M. Allen2 1. This document is WEC234, part of the 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 July, 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 Florida's central region (Fig. 1 ) is characterized by diverse upland habitats and wetland systems. Conservation lands make up nearly one quarter of the regional land use (Table 1). Conservation land acreage in Florida's central region Hardee 680 0% Highlands 113,020 17% Lake 191,620 31% Marion 343,290 34% Orange 83,880 14% Osceola 159,530 19% Polk 254,970 21% Seminole 27,900 14% Sumter 112,110 32% Conservation land acreage in Florida's central region Based on 2006 Florida Natural Areas Inventory Managed Conservation Lands. Florida State University. The Ocala National Forest is one of three national forests in Florida and encompasses most of the northern portion of this region (Fig. 2 ). Natural communities include large tracts of upland pine forest and scrub. To the south is Florida's lake country, sparkling with thousands of clear, natural lakes which host the largest concentration of bald eagles in the continental United States. The Lake Wales Ridge, which forms an important part of Florida's central ridge system, was once a series of islands in a long-ago sea and now is home to Florida's ancient and critically-endangered scrub communities. West and south of the Kissimmee River basin are Florida's largest remaining dry prairie habitats.
Florida's Environment Central Region 2 Central Florida region with counties. Credits: UF/IFAS Central Florida major conservation lands. Credits: UF/IFAS This document summarizes major rivers, lakes and springs, featured natural areas, and cultural aspects of Florida's central region. For information on other regions in Florida refer to The Florida Environment: An Overview, and to the other seven regional profiles in documents available online (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu). The rivers of central Florida drain the Lake Wales Ridge in all directions as they empty into various lakes and travel outside of the region into the Gulf of Mexico. Abundant springs originating from the Floridan aquifer dot the central landscape and give life to many of the rivers in the region. The Oklawaha River flows 96 miles north from Lake Harris in Lake County to the St. Johns River, to which it is the principle tributary. The Oklawaha is one of the oldest rivers in Florida, and this gives it a variety of established habitats. Three dams, the Moss Bluff Dam, Eureka Dam, and Rodman Dam, alter the flow of the Oklawaha and create recreation areas. The river's water quality is tied to its source lakes, Lake Apopka and Lake Griffith. The Peace River originates in the Green Swamp of Polk County and flows 105 miles before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico at Charlotte Harbor (Southwest Region). The Peace River has many tributary creeks and the land use along the banks is mainly agriculture. The Palatlakaha River, one of Florida's most pristine and beautiful rivers, is more of a watercourse connecting several lakes than a true river. It is contained entirely within Lake County, originating from Lake Louisa and ending at Lake Harris. Historically, the Kissimmee River coursed 98 miles between Lake Kissimmee and Lake Okeechobee. The river was channelized for flood control and navigation to a 56-mile-long canal by the early 1970s. The once extensive floodplain marshes were transformed into cattle pasture and the water cleansing ability of the river was lost, which increased nutrient loads entering Lake Okeechobee. During 1992 the Kissimmee River became the site of the largest river restoration project in the world, with
Florida's Environment Central Region 3 plans to restore over 40 square miles of river/floodplain ecosystem including 43 miles of meandering river channel and 27,000 acres of wetlands. Designated an Outstanding Florida Water, a Wild and Scenic River, and an Aquatic Preserve, the Wekiva River is valued for its biological and archaeological resources, as well as for its pure water. The Wekiva is one of the steepest rivers in Florida. The banks and swamps along the Wekiva provide important bird rookeries and wildlife habitats. Silver Springs is Florida's third largest spring and it has been made famous by movies and television. Visitors come enjoy glass-bottom boat tours, crystal clear waters, and constant water temperatures of 72F. Rainbow Springs, Silver Glen Springs, Alexander Springs, and Wekiwa Springs are also popular recreational spots. Lake Apopka is found in the headwaters of the Ocklawaha River in Lake and Orange counties. In 1941, a levee was built along the north shore to drain 20,000 acres of shallow marsh for farming. During 1947 citrus and muck farming wastes were discharged into the lake, which resulted in algae blooms and fish kills, and by the mid-1950s fish populations were greatly reduced. Water hyacinth invaded the lake in 1959 and replaced native eelgrass and pondweed by the early 1970s. Treated wastewater was discharged into the lake from shoreline communities until the 1980s. Agricultural discharge laden with phosphorous continued until the early 1990s. Lake Apopka was targeted for restoration by St. Johns Water Management District in partnership with local state and federal agencies in 1985. Lake Apopka's water quality has improved in response to these conservation efforts. Phosphorous levels are down 62 percent and water clarity has improved by 68 percent. Future improvements are anticipated as more former farms on the lake's north shore are reflooded. Lake Istokpoga (27,692 acres) is located northeast of Lake Placid in Highlands County. Lake Istokpoga is highly known for high quality black crappie and large mouth bass fishing. Lake Kissimmee, Florida's third largest lake, encompasses 35,000 acres in Osceola County. The lake and its surrounding area hosts over 200 species of birdsn making it one of the best birding areas in central Florida. A 1996 lake drawdown and habitat enhancement project has led to a great increase in large mouth bass populations. Lake Panasoffkee, located in Sumter County, is a lake/swamp hybrid. Many acres of forested swamp occur within the lake, which drains into the Withlacoochee River. The lake is a popular fishing spot and it is a major wintering ground for migratory waterfowl. Lake Griffin, located in Lake County, is also a popular fishing and birding location. Marsh islands occasionally appear in the lake, which are created by floating chunks of marsh vegetation that break off from the adjacent marsh habitat and float iceberg-like into the lake. (see Table 2 for detailed list of natural areas) Ocala National Forest covers approximately 389, 000 acres in central Florida. Established in 1908, it is the oldest National Forest east of the Mississippi River and the southernmost National Forest in the continental U.S. This huge area includes scrub and various other upland habitats, as well as all manner of wetlands. Wekiwa Springs State Park is a sandhill community located near Apopka. Barred owls and pileated woodpeckers are common in the cabbage palm-oak hammocks near the river. Sand pine scrub occurs near the picnic area and is home to a number of Florida rarities, including the Florida mouse, worm-lizard, and crowned snake. Sandhills, scrub, flatwoods, hammocks, and swamps support black bear and many other species of wildlife. Archbold Biological Station, in Highlands County, is a 5,000 acre privately-owned property that supports an active research program dedicated to understanding and conserving species and habitats-particularly scrubof the Lake Wales Ridge.
Florida's Environment Central Region 4 Nature Conservancy Tiger Creek Preserve encompasses 4,805 acres on the edge of Florida's oldest and highest landmass, the Lake Wales Ridge. Tiger Creek Preserve is named after the pristine blackwater stream within the preserve, almost all of which is protected as well as its surrounding hardwood swamps, hammocks, oak scrub, pine flatwoods, sandhill, and longleaf pine/wiregrass habitats. Rare animals and plants live in the preserve, some of which occur nowhere else on Earth. Highlands Hammock State Park preserves a virgin hardwood forest and also includes cypress swamp, pine flatwoods, sand pine scrub, scrubby flatwoods, bayheads, and marsh habitats. Three boardwalks provide easy access to forested habitats. Avon Park Air Force Range manages unique and endangered central Florida habitats including dry prairie, oak and sand pine scrub, and seepage slopes. Pine flatwoods, marshes, and hardwood hammocks also occur. Hunting and other recreational opportunities exist. Lake Kissimmee State Park was once used by Native Americans because of the abundance of fish and game in the area. Habitats include floodplain forests, hardwood hammocks, oak scrub, and longleaf pine communities. Lake Kissimmee State Park hosts over two hundred species of birds making it one of the best birding areas in central Florida. Recreational and cultural opportunities in natural areas in central Florida Hardee Paynes Creek State Historic Site (941) 375-4717 http://www.floridastateparks.org/paynescreek/ Highlands Avon Park Air Force Range (863) 452-4254 http://www.myfwc.com/RECREATION/ View_Destinations_site-c20.htm n Highlands Highlands Hammock State Park (863) 386-6094 http://www.floridastateparks.org/ highlandshammock/ Highlands Archbold Biological Station (863) 465-2571 http://www.archbold-station.org/ Highlands Buck Island (863) 465-2571 http://www.archbold-station.org/ Highlands Lake Istokpoga (863) 648-3202 http://www.jimporter.org/lakes/istokpoga/ Lake Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area (407) 893-3127 http://sjr.state.fl.us/recreationguide/emeraldamarsh/ index.html Lake Blue Springs State Park (904) 775-3663 http://www.floridastateparks.org/bluespring/ Lake Lake Louisa State Park (352) 394-3969 http://www.floridastateparks.org/lakelouisa/ Lake Lake Griffin State Parkt (352) 360-6760 http://www.floridastateparks.org/lakegriffin/ Prehistoric Indian sites, middens (trash heaps), and mounds (burial sites), are found along many of central Florida's rivers. For example, the Oklawaha River, Arbuckle Creek, and the Wekiwa, all have archeological sites. A look back at the region's history in the area gives evidence of changing land. For example, the land that is now Lake Kissimmee State Park was once used by Native Americans because of the abundance of fishn and game in the area. During the third Seminole War Fort Gardiner was built near Lake Kissimmee as a temporary fortification. Later the area was widely used for timber and turpentine. During the Civil War the area was used for raising cattle that were shipped to the Confederate Army or traded with Cuba for supplies. After the war cattle ranching became the primary industry in the area and remains an important industry today. A short drive to the east of Silver Springs is the Juniper Prairie wilderness area. The Long family, characterized in Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' famous book, The Yearling, settled Pats Island around 1840. The character and history of the area are captured in Rawling's writing, and visitors can still visit many of the places described in her book.
Florida's Environment Central Region 5 Recreational and cultural opportunities in natural areas in central Florida Lake Lake Apopka Restoration Area (904) 329-4500 http://sjr.state.fl.us/recreationguide/lakeapopka/ index.html Lake Seminole State Forestt (352) 360-6675 http://www.fl-dof.com/state_forests/seminole.html Marion Ocklawaha Prairie Restoration Area t (407) 893-3127 http://www.floridaswater.com/recreationguide/ ocklawahaprairie/ Marion Juniper Prairie Wildernesst (850) 523-8500 http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/florida/recreation/ index_oca.shtml#juniper Marion Ocala National Forest (850) 523-8500 http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/florida/recreation/ index_oca.shtml Marion Silver River State Parkt (352) 236-1827 http://www.floridastateparks.org/silverriver/ default.cfm Orange Lower Wekiva River State Preserve (407) 884-2008 http://www.floridastateparks.org/lowerwekivariver/ default.cfm Orange Rock Springs Run State Reserve t http://www.floridastateparks.org/rockspringsrun/ default.cfm Orange Disney Wilderness Preserve (407) 935-0002 http://nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/ florida/preserves/art5523.html Orange Forever Florida (866) 854-3837 http://www.floridaecosafaris.com/ Orange Split Oak Forest Mitigation Park http://www.myfwc.com/RECREATION/ WMASites_SplitOakForest_index.htm Orange Tibet-Butler Preserve (407) 876-6696 http://myfwc.com/RECREATION/ View_Destinations_site-c07.htm Orange Three Lakes Wildlife Mgmt. Area (407) 436-1818 http://www.myfwc.com/RECREATION/ View_Destinations_site-c16.htm Orange Econlockhatchee River Canoe Trail (850) 488-3701 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/regions/ eastcentral/trails/econlockhatchee.htm Orange West Orange Trail (407) 654-5144 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/regions/ eastcentral/trails/west_orange.htm Orange William Beardall Tosohatchee State Reserve (407) 568-5893 http://www.visitflorida.com/destinations/ moreinfo.php/ID=8035/detail=park Osceola Disney Wilderness Preserve, The (407) 935-0002 http://www.nature.org/ Osceola Lower Reedy Creek Management Area https://my.sfwmd.gov/portal/page?_pageid=2236, 4736096&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL Osceola Lake Kissimmee State Park (863) 696-1112 http://www.floridastateparks.org/lakekissimmee/ default.cfm Osceola East Lake Tohopekaliga (407) 957-7243 http://www.toptenlakes.com/lake_tohopekaliga.htm Osceola Three Lakes WMA (352) 732-1225 http://www.myfwc.com/RECREATION/ WMASites_ThreeLakes_index.htm Polk Lake Weohyakapka (850) 488-4676 http://www.toptenlakes.com/lake_weohyakapka.htm Polk Arbuckle Wildlife Mgmt. Area (407) 635-7801 http://myfwc.com/recreation/ View_Destinations_site-c19.htm Polk Bok Tower Pine Ridge Trail (863) 676-1408 http://www.boktower.org/ Polk & Highlands Nature Conservancy Tiger Creek Preserve (407) 682-3664 http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/ states/florida/preserves/art5524.html Seminole Cross Seminole Trail (407) 869-5966 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/regions/ eastcentral/trails/cross_seminole.htm
Florida's Environment Central Region 6 Recreational and cultural opportunities in natural areas in central Florida Seminole Little Big Econ State Forest (407) 971-3500 http://www.fl-dof.com/state_forests/ little_big_econ.html Sumter Dade Battlefield State Historic Site (904) 793-4781 http://www.floridastateparks.org/dadebattlefield/ default.cfm Sumter Withlacoochee State Forest (352) 754-6777 http://www.fl-dof.com/state_forests/ withlacoochee.html 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. Burt, A., Jr. 1999. The Tropic of Cracker (The Florida History and Culture Series), University Press of Florida, Gainesville, FL. Carter, E. F., L. Glaros, and D. Sphar 1985. A Canoeing And Kayaking Guide To The Streams Of Florida, Volume II, Central And South Peninsula. Menasha Ridge Press, Birmingham, Alabama. 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. Jewell, S. D. 1995. Exploring Wild Central Florida : A Guide to Finding the Natural Areas and Wildlife of the Central Peninsula. Pineapple Press, Sarasota, 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 & 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.
Florida's Environment Central Region 7 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. 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, WI. Rosenau, J.C., G.L. Faulkner, C.W. Hendry, Jr., and R.W. Hull. 1977. Springs of Florida. Geological Bulletin No. 31. Department of Natural Resources, Bureau of Geology. Tallahassee, FL. 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. Camping in Central Florida, http://www.gorp.com/parks-guide/travel-ta-lakegriffin-state-park-leesburg-camping-birdwatchingsidwcmdev_055283.html Emeralda Marsh Journal, http://www.stetson.edu/~pmay/emeralda/ 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 Visit Florida, http://www.visitflorida.com