Which Is The Biggest Lake In Florida?
Lake Okeechobee is the biggest lake in Florida as well as the seventh largest freshwater lake in the United States. Straddling both southern and central Florida, the 451,000-acre lake is home to one of the most important ecosystems in the state and the US as a whole. The Lake is also a significant reservoir for the state's supply of water.
The Past And Present Economic And Cultural significance
Lake Okeechobee is estimated to be 6,000 years old, and its name translates to big water in Seminole Indian language. For years, the lake served as a natural water source to the Everglades through several small tributaries when it overflowed. The Seminole tribes relied on the Lake for food before they were relocated.
Developments on the lake began in 1880 when canals were constructed to allow for the passage of steamboats. Small towns sprang up around the lake, which was protected by a small muck levee in the case of flooding. Two hurricanes in the 1920s caused large-scale flooding and an estimated 2,000 deaths. In modern day, water in and out of the lake is artificially controlled to prevent flooding. The lake has subsequently become an important area for flood control.
The regions around the lake are mostly used for agricultural activities such as the production of sugarcane, vegetables, beef and dairy cattle ranching. The lake also serves for commercial fishery and navigation purposes. At the beginning of the 1990s, there was a construction of other canals on the lake for more purposes.
Lake Okeechobee is internationally renowned as a boating and sports fishing hub. Around the lake are nature trails which attract environmental enthusiasts to either hike or cycle while experiencing the lake's biodiversity. The lake also offers the opportunity for bird sightings and has become one of the most visited destinations in Florida State.
Flora And Fauna Of The Biggest Lake In Florida
Vegetation in the lake includes the bulrush, which provides habitats for adult fishes and consequently plays an important ecological role in the lake. The lake is home to different types of vegetation such as hydrilla, peppergrass, and eelgrass. Catfish species, black crappie, largemouth bass, bluegill, red ear sunfish are some of the fauna that inhabits the lake. The fishery in the Lake is highly regulated to prevent overfishing and consequent disruption of the ecosystem.
Environmental Threats And Conservation Efforts
A notable environmental threat to the lake is the trickling in of excessive nutrients from surrounding agricultural farms and urban activities. Phosphorous and nitrogen are the main damaging nutrients in the lake and are released in large amounts to the lake. Alterations to the lake's ecosystem through the construction of canals and dams have had unintended effects in recent years. The lake has had both the historic lows and dangerous highs in terms of water levels. This situation has caused the state of Florida to draft more effective water conservation measures in the lake.
Efforts to restore the lake have been implemented through the Lake Okeechobee Protection Act of 2000, which was legally strengthened in 2007. Under the Lake Okeechobee & Estuary Recovery of 2005, efforts have been initiated to restore the ecological state of the lake and its estuaries.
Portrayal In Popular Culture
The results of modernization on the biggest lake in Florida and the Seminole tribe take center stage in the novel ‘A Land Remembered' by Patrick D. Smith, where the lake and the Everglades are used as settings. The Lake assumes a significant part of the novel ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God' by Zora Neale Hurston, which speaks to the African American workers working in the agricultural plantations around the lake in the 1920s.The Lake is a setting in a climactic scene in the novel ‘ Basket Case' by Carl Hiaasen. In the film, the lake and the Everglades are set as a backdrop in the movie ‘Distant Drums', a Gary Cooper film in 1951. More recently, the lake appears in the first episode of the American Horror Story: Freak Show.