When Florida was a Giant State (Theoretically)
At 65,757 square miles, Florida ranks 22nd in size among the 50 United States and second among states east of the Mississippi River (behind Michigan). However, Florida was two to three times larger than it is today at some point during the past million years. If there had been a United States back then, only Alaska, Texas, California, Montana and New Mexico would have been bigger than Florida. (This is only theoretical, of course, since there were no states a million years ago.)
The Florida History Internet Center (FHIC) tells how Florida once became so large: “During the Ice Age, one million years ago, the waters of the world filled into glaciers, thus lowering the level of the oceans.” FHIC reports that Florida grew to twice its present size as the waters receded. A University of Florida-Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF-IFAS) website says Florida grew even larger during the Ice Age – “as much as three times the current land area.”
As the Ice Age ended approximately 10,000-12,000 years ago, sea levels rose and Florida shrank. But the FHIC reports that “in recent geologic history, sandbars have extended (Florida’s) coastline.” The post-Ice Age combination of shrinking caused by melted water gobbling up coastal land and sandbars extending the coastline left Florida very near its current shape and size.
FLORIDA SUPERLATIVES OR MYTHS?
Although the once-gigantic Florida is now small compared to most western states, it maintains some geographic distinctions. One is reported by FHIC: “Florida’s coastline of 2,276 miles is greater than any other state in the Continental United States.”
Another “superlative” reported by FHIC is that Florida’s St. Johns River is “one of the world’s few northward flowing streams.” However, other websites report that more than 30 streams in the world flow north, including several in the United States. It can apparently be safely said, however, that the St. Johns is the only Florida river that flows north.