|The Ridge is a landscape sculpted by the sea and
maintained by fire. Over the millennia, rising and receding seas have exposed and
covered much of the Florida Peninsula. Following glacial stages, polar ice-caps melted,
waters rose, and a series of ridges stood as islands in a vast ocean that covered most of
Florida. Isolated from their distant relatives, plants and animals existing on these
ridges evolved unique characteristics. The largest of these ridges is called the Lake
Wales Ridge. Associated, smaller central Florida ridges include the Lakeland Ridge, Winter
Haven Ridge, Bombing Range Ridge, and Lake Henry Ridge.
During the last glacial stage -- 20,000 years ago -- the peninsula's land mass was
nearly doubled. This connected Florida to the American southwest and narrowed the Gulf of
Mexico. Conditions throughout Florida were drier, allowing arid plants and animals to
Today, seas have risen to current levels and the central Florida climate is humid and
subtropical. A cool dry season gives way to a warm rainy season. Tropical storms and
hurricanes form in the Gulf and Atlantic and sweep across the peninsula.
The average annual rainfall totals 50 inches. Occasional freezing temperatures prevent the
establishment of tropical plants and have moved citrus growers farther south on the Ridge.
However, the typical mild winter temperatures, averaging 50 degrees with sunny skies, are
inviting to northern tourists and offer a reprieve for local residents.
The Ridge is dotted with numerous sinkhole lakes. Naturally acidic rains and
groundwater percolate through the Ridge sands into the underlying limestone, gradually