The Little Lake That CouldAug 11, 2023 06:40PM ● By Cristi Mc Kee
In the Northwest corner of Leon County, in the small town of Miccosukee, Florida, an iconic example of local conservation efforts is found: Lake Miccosukee, the “little lake that could” and a hidden gem of the Red Hills.
Known to native hunters and fishers as “The Mic,” this body of water located on the Norias Property is a prime example of how land conservation efforts have the ability to save treasured lands for future generations to come.
Lake Miccosukee is controlled by an active sinkhole fed by the Florida Aquifer.
The sinkhole provides excellent quality freshwater, with the quality of groundwater in the Upper Floridan aquifer considered among the best in the United States.
Several thousand years ago, when Lake Miccosukee began as a prairie lake, it connected to the St. Marks River on the south end.
The aquatic plant coverage of the lake has changed over time, with the basic refilled on a 10-year cycle, which is typical for other lakes in the region, such as Lake Iamonia.
Beginning in the 1940s, as aquatic vegetation grew back, it became overgrown with different plant life, and the option to better restore these areas of the lake and create future open-water habitats was not available.
This was because burning the muck deposits within the lake area couldn’t occur due to the lack of permission given by the Forestry Service due to concerns of smoke from the fire causing traffic disturbances on Highway 90, near the lake’s south end.
By 1954, a gate, concrete spillways and an earthen dike were built around the sinkhole so that the lake wouldn’t dry naturally, which was what it did as a prairie lake many years ago.
By 1988, the lake only drained twice, and by the late 1990s, Lake Miccosukee was nearly covered in plant life, essentially turning into a marsh.
Soon, a drought caused the lake to drain into the aquifer, and a majority of the bottom lake was burned so the muck deposits could be removed.
Nowadays, the healthy lake is thriving with native plants and wildlife.
There’s a forested buffer made up of tupelo and cypress trees, for instance.
A bluff located on the southern end is home to the rare, federally endangered Miccosukee gooseberry (Ribes echinellum), which can only be found on two shores on this property.
The property is also the site of the Leon County Astronomical Park, otherwise known as the Cypress Landing Astronomical Park.
The lack of light pollution in the area makes the property the ideal sight for local stargazers to enjoy the night sky, free of distraction from the city, which is another part of what makes this land and lake so special to the Red Hills.
Today, residential, industrial and commercial development is prohibited from the historic quail hunting and local fishing property and can only be used for forestry, agriculture and hunting.
While solidified plans for forestry and agriculture haven’t yet been made, this property — and its gem of a lake — is here to stay.