Lake Wales Ridge
The Lake Wales Ridge is a low ridge running for about 150 miles south to north in Central Florida. The greater part of the ridge is in Highlands County and Polk County, but it extends north into Osceola, Orange and Lake Counties. It is named for the city of Lake Wales, roughly at the midpoint of the ridge. The highest point of the ridge is Sugarloaf Mountain, which at 312 feet (95 meters) is also the highest point in peninsular Florida. Iron Mountain, the location of Bok Tower, marks another well known high point on the ridge, attaining an elevation of 295 feet (90 meters).
The ridge originated as a series of sand islands, formed at a time more than a million years ago during the Pleistocene epoch. It was once believed that these sand islands formed when sea level was higher than today, but new research has revealed that the Lake Wales Ridge has probably been uplifted due to isostatic rebound of the crust beneath the Florida Platform. The uplift is attributed to the karstification of the platform with associated solutioning and removal of limestone by ground flow in the Floridan aquifer. Over many tens of thousands of years, this process has removed millions of tons of limestone, replacing the rock with cavities and reducing the weight on the underlying basement rock. This mass reduction triggered an uplift process similar to post glacial rebound.
During the last ice age the ridge was connected to what is now the southwestern United States by an extension of land which today is submerged beneath the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and is referred to as the Florida Shelf. The now sunken land enabled many southwestern species to migrate to Florida.
The ridge in its natural state is mostly composed of scrub, which shelters animals such as the gopher tortoise, sand skink, and scrub jay. In the early twentieth century large parts of the ridge were converted to citrus groves. More recently, some of the citrus groves, particularly in the north of the ridge, have been developed for residential housing.
Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge
The refuge preserves natural habitat in four separated areas of the ridge. The refuge is not open to the public.
Lake Wales Ridge State Forest
The state forest is located east of Frostproof, and provides hiking trails and other recreational facilities.
- Adams, Peter N, Opdyke, Neil D., & Jaeger, John M. Isostatic uplift driven by karstification and sea-level oscillation: Modeling landscape evolution in north Florida. Geology, June 2010, v. 38, no. 6, p. 531–534.
- Sharpe, Gaye Griffin. "The Lake Wales Ridge: Florida's Ancient Islands". Retrieved 2010-11-14.
- "The Lake Wales Ridge: Ancient sands, diverse biota". Archbold Biological Station. Retrieved 2010-11-14.