Florida has a large number of lakes, and they are all created differently. Even though they may look the same, they are actually very different from one another. Scientists who study lakes group them together based on the ecologically relevant criteria that is known as the trophic state.
The trophic state refers to the total weight of biomass in a given body of water at the time of measurement. The type of biomass in a lake determines which group it is in. Other factors include lake quality and the amount of nutrients in the water.
The typical nutrients found in lakes in Florida are phosphorus and nitrogen. The amount of these nutrients in the water depends on general lake productivity. Plants and phytoplankton need nutrients to grow and enhance the aquatic wildlife. The different trophic states are as follows:
- Oligotrophic – nutrient poor, clear, blue water
- Mesotrophic – clear, blue water with intermediate nutrients
- Eutrophic – murky with nutrient-rich, dark water
A clear and blue lake does not always mean it is a healthy lake. The health of a lake depends on how it was formed and any abnormal problems, such as pollution, that are occurring.
Eutrophication – when a body of water becomes overly enriched with nutrients and minerals – can happen to many lakes that are near farmland. The runoff of the farmland will go into the lakes and increase the amount of nutrients in the water. Excessive amounts of nutrients create unhealthy lakes. This can cause the plants to overgrow and may result in oxygen depletion of the water.
Origin of Lakes in Florida
The trophic state of a lake depends on how it started. Florida lakes are different than northern lakes by their hydrogeological lake formations. Northern lakes have carved out depressions from glacial processes. For example, most northern lakes formed via glacial processes; as glacial sheets retreated northwards across the continents, they gouged out large crevasses and depressions along the continent. Most of the northern lakes were created by nutrient poor and clear water.
Two processes control Florida’s lake development: (1) karstification or dissolution of the underlying limestone, and (2) the collapse of limestone to form sinkholes. Florida lakes can be classified by size, fill, subsurface features, and geomorphology.
How Many Natural Lakes Are in Florida?
Florida has approximately 7,800 natural lakes with a surface area of one acre or more. The lakes range from very small to the nation’s fourth-largest natural lake — the 448,000-acre Lake Okeechobee. To the delight of fishing enthusiasts, these lakes are homes for bass, blue bream, black crappie, shellcrackers, stripers, redear sunfish, speckled perch, and catfish. Others enjoy water-skiing, wakeboarding, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, swimming’ and windsurfing as well as simply watching the sun rise and set over the water.
Why Are There So Many Man-Made Lakes in Florida?
Retention and detention ponds can and should function as healthy ecosystems and can enhance the livability of the area where they are located. However, they were created for three main reasons.
- Water Management: A detention pond is a low-lying area designed to temporarily hold water while slowly draining it to a different location. They are mainly used for flood control at times when large amounts of rainwater might cause flash flooding if not appropriately handled.
- Pollution Control: A retention pond holds a specific amount of water indefinitely. The pond is usually designed to drain into another location when the water level gets above the pond’s capacity. However, the water level doesn’t drain below a certain capacity. These ponds guard against the deterioration of natural freshwater bodies from nutrient- and pollutant-laden water that drains from paved roads and yards.
- Aesthetics to Improve Home Values: Even though Florida has a lot of coastline, a natural water view isn’t always available. From the tiniest backyard koi pond to the ponds dotting Florida’s many golf courses, to lakes built for planned ‘waterfront’ communities; these bodies of water provide outdoor activities and enjoyment.
Top Lakes in Florida
Florida has more than 3,000 lakes covering approximately 3 million acres of the state, ranging from tiny to the nation’s fourth-largest natural lake, the 488,000-acre Lake Okeechobee. Below are the top 5 lakes in Florida.
Known for its phenomenal bird watching scene, Lake Kissimmee sits in the Lake Kissimmee State Park. Bald eagles, ospreys, white-tailed deer, bobcats, alligators, and more can be found within the park and around the 54.61 miles of the lake. The park features equestrian and hiking trails, picnic tables, and playgrounds. It is a forty-minute drive from Orlando.
Famous for its fishing and bird watching, Lake Tohopekaliga, or Lake Toho as it is sometimes called, is also the home of trophy bass and plenty of waterfowl, alligators, turtles, and other local wildlife. Picnic tables, playgrounds, and a marina for launching and storing boats can be found at the west end of the lake. And if that’s not enough, there is also a hiking trail if you want to explore the surrounding natural area. At 35.47 miles, it is the largest lake in Osceola County, and one of the largest in Florida.
This 21.54 square mile lake is a part of the Harris Chain of Lakes in the Upper Ocklawaha River Basin. This popular boating and fishing spot is known for its irregular shape, which looks something like a rooster. Campgrounds and recreational features surround the lake. The Leesburg International Airport is located on the north-eastern shore, and the surrounding sand hills and cypress create a spectacular backdrop.
Located in downtown Orlando, Lake Eola is the centerpiece of the park of the same name. The Disney Amphitheatre, Chinese pagoda, and a playground are located on the 1,369 shoreline of the lake. Though small, the lake is known for its fountain that lights up at night and creates a truly stunning sight. Visitors can paddleboat around the lake during the day or at night, when it is illuminated by the fountain. The lake was donated to the city by Jacob Summerlin with the stipulation that it be made and kept beautiful.
Known by locals as “Lake O” or the “Big O,” Lake Okeechobee is the largest freshwater lake in Florida and covers an area of more than 700 square miles. It is also Florida’s most recognizable feature from space and the 10th largest lake in the US. The lake spreads across five counties, and is a famous fishing spot, especially for crappie and largemouth bass. Its name is a combination of Hitchiti words that accurately describe the lake as water and big. A popular vacation spot, the lake is on the Florida National Scenic Trail and features cottages for rent and campgrounds for RVs and tents.
It’s easy to see why Florida’s many lakes are an important part of the state’s environment and ecosystem. The lakes in your community are just as important for our environment as the major lakes on this list. Lake & Wetland Management provides full service of maintenance for lakes, wetlands, and ponds. For a free estimate call 877-693-9714.