Some Florida Peculiarities
( Originally Published 1900 )
Florida is a strange region, yet most attractive. The traveller regards its surface as mainly a monotonous level of forest and swamp, with fruit and floral embellishments, but it in fact rises by an almost in-sensible ascent from the coast towards the interior, where there is a central summit ridge all along the peninsula of about three hundred feet elevation, covered with pine woods. Most of the surface, however, is but a few feet above the sea-level, these "flatlands," as they are called, being grass-grown savannahs, pine woods, swamps and cabbage-palm thickets. The southern part of the peninsula is the region of the everglades, which have been formed by successive dykes of coral, built by the industrious little insect long ago. The upper part of this region is occupied by the extensive but shallow waters of Lake Okeechobee, which merges insensibly into the everglades south and east, the Seminoles calling this grass-grown and spongy region, which is still the abode of some remnants of the tribe, Pa-ha-yo-kee, meaning " much grass in water." These everglades are penetrated in all directions y tortuous water channels of slight depth ; and at frequent intervals in the whole district there are wooded islands possessing fertile soils and covered with dense tropical vegetation. These islands are said to have been sur-rounded y the sea in bygone ages, and they then stood in the same relation to the mainland as do the present Southern Florida reefs and keys. Wide tracts of cypress swamp separate the everglades from the Gulf of Mexico, while in Southern Florida they approach within a few miles of the Atlantic Coast, being separated by an intervening dyke of coral, crossed by frequent streams of rapid current, for the everglades are far from being stagnant swamps. There are also many -other extensive swamps in the State.
The Florida seacoast is usually protected by sand beaches which are quite hard, and are separated from the mainland by interior lagoons. The man-grove and the coral, constantly growing, are ever encroaching, however, on the sea-waters, and thus Florida seems to have been constructed. The country is full of water courses, lakes and springs, some of the latter being regarded as among the most remarkable in the world, the famous Silver Spring near Ocala being estimated as discharging three hundred millions of gallons daily. There are countless springs along the coasts, and one of these bursts up in the sea near St. Augustine, two miles off shore, with a torrent so vigorous that the ocean waves break over the column of fresh water as if it were a sunken reef. Scientific investigators are amazed at the vast amounts of water everywhere visible and discharged from these springs, and with only the narrow and low peninsula for a watershed, the problem as to where the vast water supply comes from baffles solution. Some of the Florida lakes are subject to remarkable fluctuations of level, and one of them, Lake Jackson, ran suddenly dry at the time of the Charleston earthquake in 1886, but after a few weeks the water began returning, and it soon resumed its natural proportions.