This map started as a personal enquiry. When you visit Florida, you cannot stop finding natural places and parks. But when you start looking it gets a bit more complex.
They are everywhere. You pay for some, others have gates and rangers, others are free entrance, some have extensive information, and there are really small ones with very little information that turn out to be incredible places to visit.
I wanted to find a map with the different designations of parks in Florida, but could not find one. Therefore, I decided to make one.
It highlights the different types of natural preserves present in the State of Florida, but it also shows the extent of these areas in Florida!
This map has 2640 different delimited areas that are parks, reserves, management areas, or preserves; all in the State of Florida. But, Why so many different names? and What is the difference between each designation?
The enquiry looks simple but it is not.
With more than 400 national parks managed by the Department of Interior. They are usually large swaths of land that protect a variety of resources.
To qualify as a National Park, the natural area must meet certain criteria such as providing an outstanding region of natural beauty, an unusual ecosystem or a plethora of recreational activities.
National parks can only be created by Congress Department of Interior.
National parks are federal public lands owned by US taxpayers.
National parks can only be used for recreation and National forests may also be used for timber. National parks need tax payers approval to be sold Virginian Wesleyan University.
State parks are generally closer to urban areas and have more amenities than national parks
State parks are controlled by state governments and are required to generate funding.
There are over 10,000 State parks to choose from across the nation.
State parks can be sold to cover budget deficit. Source: Virginian Wesleyan University.
Florida has all sorts of state parks for recreation, whether they are popular or secluded activities. Florida has one of the largest State park systems in the country with 175 state parks to choose from.
Floridastatparks.org is a great resource for Florida State parks with detailed information about each one.
With 100 miles of beaches Florida has all sorts of water activities like surfing, swimming, diving snorkeling, boating, kayaking, and fishing
But if water is not your choice there are more than 800,000 acres of state parks for hiking, camping, photography, birdwatching, exploring, geocatching, reenactments, museums, shows, and more.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) oversees more than 5.8 million acres of land established as wildlife management areas.
These lands, managed for both conservation and recreation, are more rugged than parks and have fewer developed amenities.
By regulating hunting and fishing harvests, creating refuges and actively managing habitat, wildlife populations have rebounded.
The wildlife management area system is enjoyed by Florida’s anglers, hunters, wildlife viewers and boaters or regular visitors alike Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Florida is home to Eglin Air Force Base. This base is considered the largest air force installation in the free world with 460,000 acres!
These forests have been used for staged war games and minor maneuvers.
Some environmentalists dislike the idea of these habitats to be used for military purposes but other groups, like the Nature Conservancy, think that military and conservation may work well together. According some of these groups, military interest helps ensure that state forest land is never sold for commercial development E&E News.
There are other Air Force owned bases in Florida. For example, Cape Canaveral. This site was used for launching space explorations that put the first U.S. satellite and the first U.S. astronaut in orbit.
Florida has over a 1000 acres of protected land for the purposes of keeping ecological systems untouched by humans.
Florida has aquatic, estuarine, coral reefs, forests, and more preserves for present and future generations to care and enjoy.
The descriptions above focus in Florida, but there are other classifications of natural places nationwide that are present in Florida Department of Interior. Some of these are:
This summary is just a scratch on the surface of all the names and designations to public lands in the US.
The task of classifying them is enormous. This map simplifies the task. At least in Florida.
Once the map was finished and natural places differentiated, finding a park to visit is not an easy task. Using the descriptions, State Parks seemed like the most informational. But with so many to choose from, it is still hard to decide which one to visit.
At this point I decided to use Google trends to find Florida Parks and related queries. The list is not steady and keeps changing, but it is a good start. It popular State Parks in Florida and includes different areas and ecosystems.
Northeast of Panama City, is the only dry cave system in the state.
The caves have large underground rooms whose access was enlarged by Civilian Conservation Corps workers in the 1930s. Thanks to their work it is possible to visit the caverns standing up.
Speleothems are the main attraction for visitors. Speleothems are mineral deposits formed inside caves by the dripping or flowing of water.
The most common forms of Speleothems are stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and flowstone. They take thousands of years to form.
Speleothem shapes varies depending on water dynamics and crystal growth of the constituents. Some of the minerals usual minerals are calcite, aragonite, and gypsum, all common in Florida. Science Direct.
Other attractions inside the caves are small fossil remains visible in the limestone. You may also see small animals like mice, bats, or salamanders Florida Caverns State Park.
Even though it is a small park compared to other state parks, it offers all sorts of amenities including kayaking, equestrian trails, and campgrounds.
Tomoka State Park is South of Jacksonville.
The area was occupied by a large Indian village, but after the first European explorers the locals died with the diseases brought. You can still see mounds of the shells left by their daily catch on the shorelines.
In the 1700's the area was an indigo plantation. You can still see indigo plants throughout the park.
The park is a special place to walk trails and watch birds.
There is biking, hiking, camping and paddling. There is also boat ramps for boats and canoes to access the river.
The park has a first magnitude spring with a flow of 50 to 150 million gallons of water/day. Its waters are crystal clear. You can even see schools of fish and manatees!
Even though manatees are mainly visible in the cooler months, manatees greatest threat to survival is tourism. Weather it is from boat propellers, or from divers and canoes. The best way to decrease their mortality is through public education and awareness campaigns Manatees and Tourism.
The wildlife visible while swimming or kayaking at the park also includes turtles, birds, alligators and snakes.
The park has an extensive series of caves and tunnels beneath the springs. There are more than 5 miles of known routes for divers to explore!
Besides water amenities, the park has 800ft of boardwalk along the spring. It is ideal to walk under a canopy of trees and observe wildlife and plants. There are other trails that will take you to a swamp and ponds. There is no end to what you can see.
This barrier Island is located on the Gulf of Mexico, Southeast of Tallahassee.
The park offers 9 miles of beaches for relaxing and swimming. One of the most beautiful beaches in Florida!
The park also offers boat ramps, to access the bay and it is possible to kayak and canoe on the shallow areas.
Fishing is quite popular as some of the catches include flounder, pompano, whiting, red fish, sea trout, and Spanish mackerel.
The park offers facilities for family camping and a playground Surce: Carabelle.org.
What few people know is that it is that is one of the best birding sites in all of Florida.
This is especially evident in the fall and winter months.
Some of the birds are: Piping Plovers, Snowy Plovers, Least Terns, American Oystercatchers, Gull-billed terns, scissor-tailed flycatchers, Snowy Owl, and the list goes on.....FloridaBirdingTrail.com
Northwest and not too far from Gainesville, is Ginnie Springs.
This is a private park that has one of the clearest waters in Florida.
Jacques Cousteau dove in it in 1974, and described it as "visibility forever".
This is a group of springs where you can go swimming, snorkeling, tubing, and diving in the spring.
The diving is one of the major attractions as the springs have a cave system and underwater passageways.
The park also offers camping sites throughout its 200 wooded acres. Source: GinnieSpringsOutdoors.com
Bahia Honda State Park is located in Monroe County approximately 120 miles south of Miami. Access to the park is by U.S. Highway 1.
The park includes Bahia Honda Key and Little Bahia Honda Island, which is one half mile to the southwest and can be accessed only by boat.
The allure of this park is its beautiful beaches and its tropical surroundings. The park has birdwatching, snorkeling, and stargazing, plus campgrounds and usual amenities by the beach.
The history of the park was marked by Henry Flagler who made a Railroad to reach Key West in the early 1900's. The railroad was eventually damaged by a strong hurricane. The remains of the bridge were used to build the Overseas Highway Bahia Honda State Park.
Is 100mi north of Miami Beach, close to Jupiter FL.
The Loxahachee River is a central part of the park as it a pristine water body that can be used to explore the rest of the preserve. Named by the Seminole Indians, "Loxahatchee" means River of Turtles.
The park also offers other ecosystems like coastal sand hills, upland lakes, and scrub forests.
The park has the only sand dune in the state that tourists can climb, Hobe Mountain.
About 20 percent of the park is covered in coastal sand pine scrub, a plant so rare it is designated "globally imperiled".
The park has hiking, paddling, biking, horseback riding, picnicking, boat tours, environmental education programs, and campgrounds. Source: JDStatepark.com
Lake Louisa is just west of Orlando. It is designated as an Outstanding Florida Water Way.
The park has 10 lakes that provide opportunities for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming and paddle boarding.
It is ideal to watch wild communities like white-tail deer, bobcat, fox squirrel, raccoon, gopher tortoise, and the bald eagle.
The park has about 20 miles of unpaved trails, where you can see Sand hills, swamp forests, creeks and lakes all with different wildlife to observe.
West of Panama City, this park offers 3mi of white sand beaches on the emerald colored waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The park has fresh water lakes protected from the Gulf by tall sand dunes. There is an area that you can cross the sand dunes and reach the beach.
On the lakes it is possible to paddle board or kayak. To reach the lakes it is possible to walk but the best way to reach them is by biking.
The park is covered with pine forests and sandy scrubland. It is not rare to see pitcher plants and deer while you take a stroll.
Located in Key Largo, it is praised to be the first undersea park.
The main attraction of the park are its coral reefs and the life forms around it. These include sea stars, sea slugs, tunicates, crabs, shrimp, lobsters, manatees, sea turtles, dolphins, and schools of fish. If you don't do scuba dive it is possible to see these beauties on glass bottom boats.
Because of the parks latitude it is also possible to find mangrove and seagrass areas, a vital part of the Florida Keys ecosystem.
For families it is also possible to go for a swim by the beach and see more sea life in the parks large aquariums.
The park has all sorts of amenities, including boat ramps, campgrounds, playgrounds, pavilions and parking John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
The Shapefiles to make this map of parks were obtained from Florida Natural Areas Inventory. The shapefiles for cities came from Natural Earth.
Made by Luz K. Molina with D3.js.