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Lake Wales Ridge

The Lake Wales Ridge is a narrow ridge of ancient sand dunes that runs north to south through the central Florida Peninsula. The sands of this ridgeline, which extends nearly 115 miles in length and four to 10 miles in width, were deposited 650,000 years ago. This geographic area includes the highest elevations in peninsular Florida, topping out at more than 300 feet.  Upland habitats on the Ridge are sometimes described as “wet deserts,” referring to annual rainfall amounts – typically in excess of 50 inches – that fall across the well-draining, sandy soils.

Central Florida is a highly developed part of the state and many natural plant and animal communities are now highly fragmented.  Scattered, intact pockets of natural habitat still occur along the Ridge and each area often includes its own distinctive suite of species. The characteristic natural community type is a short-statured forest known as scrub. Along the Lake Wales Ridge, the scrub community supports one of the highest concentrations of federally listed plants and animals in the United States. In fact, the first national wildlife refuge created specifically for plants was established on the Lake Wales Ridge. 

The state of Florida has protected two of the finest examples of Lake Wales Ridge scrub: the Carter Creek Unit of the Lake Wales Ridge Wildlife and Environmental Area and the Lake Wales Ridge State Forest. Both sites offer exceptional opportunities to explore the unique and rare scrub habitat and to see some of its many rare plants and animals, including the federally threatened Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens).


Explore the Lake Wales Ridge:

Florida’s Ancient Islands: The Lake Wales Ridge

For more information about the Lake Wales Ridge, explore “Florida's Ancient Islands,” a 16-page booklet produced in 1998 by the Lake Wales Ridge Ecosystem Working Group.

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Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Lake Wales Ridge Wildlife and Environmental Area

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The Lake Wales Ridge State Forest

Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Division of Forestry: Lake Wales Ridge State Forest.

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