Florida is a geographically diverse state with something for everyone. From the busy towns and cities of the eastern seaboard to the tropical islands and white sand beaches of the west, Florida is a great place to live, work, and play. Here you’ll find statistics and other information related to Florida.
Size, Location, And Extent
Florida is a state located in the southeastern United States. It is the 22nd largest state in terms of size and is the 2nd largest state east of the Mississippi River. Florida has a total area of 58,664 square miles (151,939 square kilometers), of which 54,153 square miles (140,256 square kilometers) is land, and 4,511 square miles (11,683 square kilometers) is water.
The state extends 361 miles (581 kilometers) east to west and 447 miles (719 kilometers) north to south. Florida is bordered by Alabama and Georgia to the north (with the line in the northeast formed by the St. Marys River), by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, by the Straits of Florida to the south, and by the Gulf of Mexico and Alabama to the west (separated by the Perdido River).
The state of Floria is world-renowned for its beautiful beaches and sunny weather. But did you know that it also has a large plateau, much of which is barely above sea level? The highest point in the state is believed to be a hilltop in the panhandle, only 345 ft (105 m) above sea level. No point in the state is more than 70 mi (113 km) from saltwater.
Most of the panhandle region consists of gently rolling hills similar to those found in southern Georgia and Alabama. However, there are also large swampy areas near the Gulf coast. The peninsula of Floria has a relatively elevated central spine of a rolling country dotted with lakes and springs. Its east coast is shielded from the Atlantic by a string of sandbars. And on its west coast, there are numerous bays and inlets.
In the southwestern corner of the Florida peninsula lies Key West, the southernmost point of the contiguous United States. Most of the southeastern part of the peninsula and all of the southern end are covered by the Everglades, a massive wetland that spans over 5,000 square miles.
The Everglades have been called a river due to the way water flows south-southwest from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay. It is mostly submerged during the rainy season (April to November) and becomes a muddy expanse during dry months. Slight elevations known as hammocks support clumps of cypress trees and are home to the only remaining stand of mahogany trees in the continental US.
Big Cypress Swamp is a large area of wetland located west and north of the Everglades. Covering around 2,400 square miles (6,200 square kilometers), it contains much less surface water than the Everglades. Lake Okeechobee, in south-central Florida, is the largest lake in the state, measuring 700 square miles (1,800 square kilometers). It is also the fourth-largest natural lake located entirely within the US. Like all of Florida’s lakes, it is relatively shallow, with a maximum depth of 15 feet (5 meters). It was formed through the action of groundwater and rainfall dissolving portions of the thick limestone layer that underlies Florida’s sandy soil.
Florida is home to many underground streams and caverns formed in a similar way. Due to Florida’s high water table, most of these caverns are filled with water, but some can be seen empty in places like Florida Caverns State Park near Marianna. More than 200 natural springs send up groundwater every day through cracks in the limestone. Silver Springs, near Ocala in north-central Florida, has one of inland springs’ largest average flow at 823 cubic feet per second. Florida also has over 1,700 rivers, streams, and creeks.
St. Johns River is Florida’s longest river, stretching from its headwaters near Jacksonville all the way to its mouth at the Atlantic Ocean. Along its length, estimates of St. Johns River’s length range from 273 to 318 miles (439 to 512 kilometers). Because of its swampy nature, getting an exact figure for St. Johns River’s length has been elusive.
Other major rivers in Florida include the Suwannee River and Apalachicola River. Suwannee River flows south from Georgia for 177 miles (285 kilometers) through Florida before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, the Apalachicola River is formed by the Flint River and Chattahoochee River at the Florida-Georgia border before flowing southward across the Florida panhandle for 94 miles (151 kilometers) and ending at the Gulf of Mexico as well. Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam is located on Apalachicola River, about 1,000 feet (300 meters)
The Florida Keys are a chain of islands that extend from the southern tip of Florida. The largest and most well-known island is Key Largo, 29 miles long and less than 2 miles wide. Key West, the westernmost island, is much smaller, just 4 miles long and 2 miles wide.
For much of its history, Florida was underwater. Over time, the shells of millions of sea creatures decayed and formed thick layers of limestone that now blanket the state. The peninsula began to rise above sea level about 20 million years ago, but the southern portion remained largely submerged until coral and sand built up around its rim and blocked out the sea. This left dense marine vegetation to decay and form the peaty soil of the present-day Everglades.
Florida’s mild, sunny climate is one of its most important natural resources, making it hugely popular with tourists and retirees from all over the world. The average annual temperature ranges from 18° to 21°C in the north and from 23° to 25°C in the south. Jacksonville enjoys an average annual temperature of 20°C, with lows of 57°F (14°C) and highs of 79°F (26°C).
Average temperatures tend to be warm and humid. The annual average temperature in Miami is 76°F (24°C), with lows of 69°F (21°C) and highs of 83°F (28°C). Further down south in Key West, the average temperature is even higher, sitting around 78.2°F (25.7°C). However, Monticello takes the cake when it comes to the highest temperatures, with a record high of 109°F (43°C) registered back in 1931. On the other hand, Tallahassee saw the lowest temperatures in Florida, reaching a record low of –2°F (-19°C) in 1899.
In southern Florida, rain is a frequent occurrence throughout the year. Jacksonville sees an average of 52.3 inches (132.8 cm) of precipitation annually, with 116 days of rain. Miami experiences slightly more rainfall, averaging 58.5 inches (148.6 cm) per year with 130 rainy days. However, precipitation is not distributed evenly throughout the year in Florida. Most rain falls from June through September, and heavy downpours are common during this time.
The highest 24-hour rainfall recorded in the United States fell in Yankeetown, west of Ocala on the Gulf coast, on September 5-6, 1950. This record-breaking storm deposited 38.7 inches (98.3 cm) of rain in just one day! Despite the high annual precipitation rates, Florida also receives plenty of sunshine – 61% of the maximum possible amount in Jacksonville and 68% in Miami.
Winds in Florida are typically from the east and southeast in the southern peninsula. In northern Florida, however, winter brings northwesterly breezes that can result in cold snaps. And in summer, southerly gusts predominate. On average, wind velocities are 7.9 mph (12.7 km/hr) at Jacksonville and 9.2 mph (14.8 km/hr) at Miami.
This long coastline makes Florida highly vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms, which may approach from either the Atlantic or the Gulf coast, bringing with them destructive gusts of up to 150 mph (240 km/hr). Hurricane Donna, which struck the state on 9–10 September 1960 caused an estimated $300 million in damage and was considered the most destructive hurricane in Florida’s history until 1992.
The Flora And Fauna
Florida is home to a diverse array of plant life. The state’s seven floral zones include Flatwoods, scrublands, grassy swamps, savannas, salt marshes, hardwood forests (hammocks), and pinelands. Each zone has its own unique selection of flora.
Flatwoods consist of open forests with an abundance of flowers. More than 60 varieties of orchids can be found in this zone.
The small sand pines are common in the scrublands. Other trees in this area include the saw palmetto, blackjack, and water oak.
The savannas of central Florida support water lettuce, American lotus, and water hyacinth. North Florida’s flora includes longleaf and other pines, oaks, and cypresses; one giant Seminole cypress is thought to be 3,500 years old!
There are a variety of trees that grow in Florida, each with its own unique purpose and value. However, many of these trees are now endangered or threatened due to the changing environment and loss of habitat.
Some of the most common endangered and threatened species include the key tree-cactus, Chapman rhododendron, Harper’sHarper’s fragrant prickly apple, two species of pawpaw, four species of ming, and Florida Torreya. Out of the more than 80 land mammals that once called Florida home, only a few, such as the white-tailed deer, wild hog, and gray fox, can still be found in the wild. Smaller mammals like raccoons, eastern gray and fox squirrels, and cottontail and swamp rabbits remain relatively common.
There is a wide variety of birds that call the state of Flora home. Mockingbirds were named the state bird back in 1927 and there are many different game birds here too, such as quail, wild turkey, and over 30 different types of ducks. You can also find many different types of herons as well as other coastal birds, such as gulls, pelicans, and frigates.
One really amazing thing you might see while in Flora is the Arctic tern. It stops here during its yearly migration between the North and South Poles. As for reptiles, some common ones you’ll find in Flora are diamondback rattlers and various water snakes.
There are over 300 different species of butterflies native to the Florida peninsula. The area is also well-known for its abundant marine life, including freshwater and saltwater fish, rays, shrimps, and live coral reefs. All of Florida’s lands have been declared sanctuaries for the bald eagle, of which there are approximately 350 pairs living in the state (2nd only to Alaska among the 50 states).
Conservation Of The Environment
As the population continues to grow and development expands in Florida, the state’s natural environment is under increasing pressure. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is responsible for safeguarding the environment and ensuring that state pollution laws are enforced. The DEP also works to improve water resource management and protect Florida’s coastal and marine resources.
The Department oversees five water-management districts, which have planning and regulatory responsibilities. The Division of State Lands acquires tracts of land that are environmentally endangered in order to protect them. This program is one of the largest of its kind in the nation.
Environmentalism is important to Floridians, as is evident by the 1.2 million acres of environmentally important lands that have been purchased by the state. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Forestry manages four state forests, including the Talquin State Lands. In addition, the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission manages nature preserves, and regulates hunting and fishing.
Safeguarding natural resources is a top priority for agencies in Florida. The state’s most serious environmental problems are growth, contamination of groundwater, and control of stormwater (non-point sources). Groundwater supplies 90% of the drinking water in the state, as well as 8.2% of the industry’s needs and 53% of agricultural uses. Groundwater, surface water, and soil contamination have been found across the state.
Groundwater contamination is a major problem in Florida. Thousands of wells have been contaminated by pesticides, chemicals, and other pollutants. Florida’s program to clean up groundwater contamination is one of the largest and most pioneering in the nation.
Florida is a state that is rich in water resources. These resources are vital to the state’s economy and way of life. Despite this, Florida faces many challenges when it comes to protecting its water resources.
One of the biggest challenges is the increasing demand for water from both residential and agricultural users. This has led to a reduction in the amount of freshwater that flows into the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, saltwater from these bodies has begun seeping into the layers of porous limestone that hold Florida’s reserves of fresh water.
This problem has been made worse in some areas by developers who have cut numerous inlets along the coast. To address this issue, the DEP and South Florida Water Management District are undertaking a massive restoration program for the Kissimmee River, Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, and Florida Bay.
As a result of a lawsuit brought by the federal government, a large-scale restoration effort is underway to improve water quality in Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. The project includes channeling the Kissimmee River to restore its floodplains and prevent polluted water from entering the lake; other measures to reduce surfactants in the lake caused by agricultural operations around its edges; creation of large stormwater treatment areas within the Everglades to treat nutrient-rich agricultural waters that are upsetting the ecological balance of the Everglades, and hydrological corrections to improve water delivery to the Everglades and Florida Bay.
In addition, in an effort to protect some of the beautiful reefs rich in tropical fish and other marine life that adjoin the Keys, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was established in 1960 as the first undersea park in the US.
The beautiful coral reefs of the Florida Keys have been severely damaged in recent years by a variety of factors, including sewage from the Miami area, runoff water polluted with pesticides and other chemicals, dredging associated with coastal development, and the removal of live coral by tourists and souvenir dealers.
However, most of the Keys is now a National Marine Sanctuary, and efforts are being made to improve water quality and protect the reefs. In 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency’s database listed 598 hazardous waste sites in Florida, 51 of which were on the National Priorities List. In 2001, Florida received $117,565,000 in federal grants from the EPA; EPA expenditures for procurement contracts in Florida that year amounted to $2,150,000.
In recent years, the state of Florida has seen a population boom, with many people moving to the state for its warm climate and attractive lifestyle. This growth has made Florida one of the most populous states in the country and has also contributed to its status as one of the fastest-growing states. In 1960, Florida was the 10th most populous state; by 1980, it had risen to 7th place with a population of 9,746,324; and by 1990, it was 4th. Between 1990 and 2000, Florida experienced the third-largest population increase of any state in the country, surpassed only by California and Texas.
As of 2002, Florida was home to 16,713,149 people, making it the 4th most populous state at the time. This represented a 4.6% increase from 2000 numbers. By 2025, it is estimated that Florida’s population will have grown to 20.7 million, making it the 3rd most populous state by then. These population numbers are quite a contrast from what was seen during the first US census, which included Florida data back in 1830. At that time, only 34,730 people were living within Florida’s borders. However, by 1860 (just before the outbreak of the Civil War), this number had more than quadrupled to 140,424 people. The majority of these individuals (approximately 80%)
The state of Florida has seen a sharp increase in population in recent years due to an influx of migrants from other states. This trend began in the late 19th century and continued through the early 1920s, resulting in a significant increase in the state’s population. The 1930 census was the first in which the state’s population surpassed one million.
In the post-World War II period, Florida experienced a population boom, with much of the growth occurring along the south Atlantic coast. From 1950 to 1960, Florida’s population increased by 79% – the highest rate of growth of any state during that time period. From 1960 to 1970, the growth rate slowed to 37% but then increased again to 44% from 1970 to 1980. From 1980 to 1990, the growth rate dipped slightly to 33% before climbing again to 15.3% from 1990 to 1998. In 2000, Florida had an average population density of 296.
In 2002, Jacksonville was Florida’s most populous city, with an estimated population of 762,461. This made it ranked as the 14th-largest city in the US. Miami was Florida’s second-largest city, with a population of 374,791 people. However, when taking into account metropolitan areas, such as Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater and Ft. Lauderdale, Miami falls to fourth place.
Florida’s population consists of a variety of different ethnic groups. The majority of the population is white, although there is a significant black and Hispanic population as well. European immigrants have also played a role in Florida’s history, with many Germans immigrating to the state in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Since World War II, Florida has seen a significant influx of retirees from the northern United States, which has led to even more diversity in the state. In 2000, 16.7% of Florida’s population was foreign-born – the fourth-highest percentage in the nation.
The largest group of first- and second-generation residents are Cubans, who represented 5.2% of Florida’s population in 2000. Other sizable Hispanic and Latino groups include Puerto Ricans (482,027) and Mexicans (363,925).
Florida’s non-white population was 12% of its total population in 2000, according to reports. Black-white relations in Florida have been tense throughout much of its history. Race riots occurred following World War I and II, and organizations such as Ku Klux Klan were openly active during these time periods. One of the worst race riots in US history happened in 1980 when black areas of Miami were devastated. As of 2000, Florida’s black population was estimated at 2,335,505 – making it the fourth largest in the nation.
Florida’s indigenous inhabitants resisted encroachment from settlers longer and more militantly than tribes in other seaboard states. Leaders in resistance were Seminole Indians – most of whom by the 1850s had either been killed or removed to other states, had fled to Florida swamplands, or had been assimilated as small farmers.
As of the 2000 census, 53,541 Native Americans were living in the United States. This is a significant increase from the reported 600 Native Americans living there just sixty years earlier. The difference is too large to be explained by natural population growth, and there is no evidence of marked migration into the country; presumably, then, it reflects a growing consciousness of Indian identity.
There are seven Indian reservations: five for the Seminole—Big Cypress, Hollywood, Brighton, Immokalee, and Tampa, and two for the Miccosukee—one on the Tamiami Trail and one north of Alligator Alley near Big Cypress. Also, as of 2000, Florida had an Asian population of 266,256 (which was the eighth largest Asian population in the nation at that time) or 1.7% of the total state population. The estimated number of Pacific Islanders was 8,625.
When the first settlers arrived in what is now Florida, they found the land inhabited by a variety of Indian tribes. The most prominent of these were the Creeks, who later became known as the Seminole Indians. Although many of the Seminoles were removed to Indian Territory in the 1840s, enough remained to form the basis of the present population. Florida has such Indian place names as Okeechobee, Apalachicola, Kissimmee, Sarasota, Pensacola, and Hialeah.
The massive migration of people from other parts of the country that has occurred since World War II has had a profound impact on the language spoken in Florida. Previously, Southern speech was predominant throughout much of the state. However, with the influx of newcomers from the North Central and North Atlantic regions – including a large number of speakers of Yiddish – this is no longer the case.
The increasing number of Cubans and Puerto Ricans in the Miami area has had a further effect on the local language. Representative words in the Southern speech of most native-born Floridians are white bread, temporary bed, clearing up, shivaree, carrying, green beans; mosquito hawk (dragonfly), burlap bag, wishbone, and comforter (tied and filled bedcover), especially in south Florida.
However, these terms are largely limited to the northern half of the state. In the Tampa Bay area, comfort (tied and filled bedcover) is used instead, and in the panhandle, whirlygig (merry-go-round) is common.
In the 1500s, Catholic friars from Spain arrived in Florida with the intent of converting the local Indians. For 200 years, the white population of Florida was overwhelmingly Catholic. However, in the late 1700s, Protestant colonists from Britain arrived, followed by a significant influx of Protestant settlers from the southern United States in the early 1800s. Sephardic Jews from the Carolinas also moved into Florida around this time. The largest influx of Jews occurred during the 20th century.
More than half of Americans do not belong to any religious organization, according to data from 2000. Catholicism was by far the largest religion, with 2.6 million members in around 527 congregations. Southern Baptists were the next largest, with 1.3 million members in 2,054 congregations. Judaism claimed 628,485 adherents. Other Protestant denominations followed with 458,623 members for United Methodism; 189,387 for Assemblies of God, 157,751 for Presbyterian Church USA, and 152,526 for Episcopalians.
The Transportation System
The 19th century saw a boom in railway construction which brought southern Florida into closer commercial and tourism contact with the rest of the country. In the 20th century, further developments in transportation saw millions of visitors come to Florida each year via long-distance passenger trains, planes, and automobiles.
The first operating railway in Florida was the St. Joseph Railway, which commenced service on an 8-mile (13km) track between St. Joseph Bay and Lake Wimico on 14 April 1836, using mules to pull the train.
Just over two months later, on 5 September 1836, the railway put into operation Florida’s first steam locomotive. However, it was not until the late 19th century that entrepreneurs Henry B.
In 1884, the South Florida Railroad extended service to Tampa, courtesy of Henry M. Flagler. Flagler had previously consolidated a number of small lines in the 1880s into the Florida East Coast Railway. In 1896, this railway reached Miami, and Key West in 1912 (after the construction of an extensive series of bridges).
However, the “overseas” railway down the Keys was abandoned in 1935 after a hurricane severely damaged the line. In 2000, there was a total of 2,957 rail mi (4,758 km) of track in Florida, operated by 15 railroads. In the same year, Florida-originated rail tonnage of nonmetallic minerals (43.8 million tons), accounting for 64% of the total tonnage originated within the state.
In 1997, Amtrak operated 29 passenger rail stations in Florida, with ridership exceeding one million. Construction of a surface rail system for Miami and Dade County began on June 7, 1979. The first stage of this mass transit system, a 33-km (20.5-mile) line serving Hialeah, Miami International Airport, downtown Miami, and areas to the south, opened on May 20, 1984.
In 2000, Florida had 187,728 km (116,649 miles) of public roads. Of this total, 108,505 km (67,422 miles) were rural, and 79,223 km (49,227 miles) were urban. The main section of the Florida Turnpike extends 426 km (265 miles) from Wildwood in north-central Florida to Ft. Pierce on the Atlantic coast and then south to Miami; an 80 km (50-mile)
A journey down Florida’s Overseas Highway is a must-do for any visitor to the Sunshine State. This scenic route, which includes the famous Seven Mile Bridge, offers breathtaking views of some of Florida’s most beautiful coastline.
Florida is home to a large number of registered motor vehicles and active drivers’ licenses. In 2000, there were 12,853,428 people holding active Florida drivers’ licenses. Inland waterways in Florida include sections of both the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. These waterways provide approximately 1,200 miles (1,931 km) of navigable channels for commercial vessels and pleasure craft.
The state of Florida is home to many commercially important ports. The largest of these, in terms of gross tonnage, is Tampa. In 2000, Tampa handled over 46.5 million tons of cargo, ranking it the 17th-busiest port in the US. Other major ports in Florida include Port Everglades (in Ft. Lauderdale), Jacksonville, Port Manatee, Miami, Panama City, Port Canaveral, and Palm Beach.
In addition to its civil aviation activity, Florida also has more than 20 military airfields. These facilities play an important role in the state’s economy and transportation infrastructure.
Over 47 million passengers take off from Florida’s airports each year. With 112 public airports, it’s no wonder that the state is a popular destination. The busiest airport in Florida is Miami International, with 16.5 million enplanements in 2000. Other major airports include Orlando International, Tampa International, and Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International.