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USF Libraries Exhibits

Natural Florida

The natural flora and fauna of Florida were the state’s original tourist attractions; the subtropical landscape of Florida was different from the rest of the United States. With 663 miles of beaches in the state, it's sandy shore alone is a big part of Florida’s tourism and economy. Beaches in 2003 had an economic impact of $40,000,000,000 with some of the biggest contributors being spring-break tourists. The southeast region of Florida from Brevard County to Monroe County attracted the most tourists in 2003, with over 25 million people, followed by southeast Florida, Pinellas to Collier, with about 14 million visitors. In addition to the salt water beaches, Florida is filled with springs, lakes, and rivers.

To showcase and preserve the natural beauty of Florida, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was created in 1933 to assist in the development of the Florida State Park system. This was not fully created until 1935 by the Florida Board of Forestry. Some of the parks are strictly beaches, like Grayton Beach State Park.  Some parks have no beaches at all, and then there are others that combine both the forestry and beach aspects of the state. The first four state parks to be established in Florida included Hillsborough River State Park, Gold Head Branch State Park, Myakka River State Park, and Torreya State Park. Today there are 160 state parks spanning a combined 707,736 acres above and below sea level.  In 2011, Florida's state parks brought in over twenty million visitors, over fifty million dollars in revenue, and had close to a billion dollars worth of economic impact. Honeymoon Island State Park, the most visited park in all of Florida, resides on the west coast with over one million visitors annually. The parks also come in all sizes, ranging from Fernandina Plaza Historic State Park covering 0.80 acres to Fakahatchaa Strand Preserve State Park at 77,574 acres.

Much of Florida's unique wildlife resides underwater. Trying to see these creatures is not as easy as finding and looking at alligators and deer. To try and fix this dilemma, a man in Silver Springs named Hullam Jones decided to build a row boat with a glass bottom around 1878. This, once applied to bigger boats as well, allowed people to observe marine life outside of an aquarium, without having to get wet from swimming and diving. 

Many of the aquariums in Florida help rehabilitate and rescue injured marine animals and will release them back into the wild if possible. For example, a dolphin named Winter lost her tail when she got wrapped up in a crab trap line. She was found near Cape Canaveral and was taken to Clearwater Marine Aquarium where she now lives has been given a prosthetic tail.

With hundreds of species of birds, plants, and other animals, the Everglades is a wetland showcase of diversity. It can be explored by going deep within the marshy land on an airboat. The airboats can maneuver through the half-submerged plants and other flora and will pull right up next to alligators, crocodiles, and other animals.