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Lake Jackson Aquatic Preserve

Lake Jackson is internationally known for sport fishing and its trophy largemouth bass.

Lake Jackson is located within the northern boundaries of the Tallahassee Hills physiographic region. The Tallahassee Hills Region covers a 25-mile-wide strip of upland formations spanning five counties in northwest Florida from the Withlacoochee River to the Apalachicola River. The steep hills associated with the Tallahassee Hills form the sub-basins that give Lake Jackson its irregular shape. The topography has an elevation of 200 to 230 feet above sea level.

Lake Jackson is a flat-bottomed water body that has an average depth of 6 feet with the exception of two major sinkholes - Porter Hole Sink and Lime Hole - that have a localized depth of about 28 feet. The lake was formed through the dissolution of limestone over a long period causing the collapse of the overlaying sediment. This also produced the two major sinkholes that have the capability to drain the lake of its water within days. The sinkholes are often a source of extreme water loss in the lake. The sinkholes are generally partially or completely plugged with sediments, but collapse when groundwater levels drop, allowing lake water to funnel into the aquifer, often dramatically lowering the water level.

Tallahassee, FL
Managed Location Contact: 
Caitlin Snyder
Total Acreage: 
Receives State Funding: 
State Owned: 

Lake Jackson Aquatic Preserve was designated by the Legislature in 1973.

Public Access: 

There are several boat ramps that access the aquatic preserve, as well as nearby Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park with hiking trails and boardwalks for viewing wildlife and enjoying the scenery.

Archaeological Resources: 

Lake Jackson has served as an important natural resource to communities long before its designation as an aquatic preserve in 1974. The Fort Walton Culture of 1200 to 1500 A.D. thrived in the early environmental setting of the aquatic preserve and surrounding areas. The remains of their ritualistic culture can be found at Lake Jackson Archaeological Mounds State Park. The Southeastern Ceremonial Complex located in the park is evidence of an advanced community structure that existed around 1200 A.D. near Lake Jackson. The earthen mounds have been preserved to offer visitors the opportunity to look back through time into the area's rich cultural history.

Wildlife Habitat Description: 

Wet prairies are communities of non-woody vegetation found on continuously wet but not inundated soils on flat gentle slopes. They are dominated by dense wiregrass in dry areas and a mixture of wiregrass and sedges in the wetter portions. Wet prairies in North Florida are some of the most diverse communities in the United States with an average of more than 20 species per square meter. These communities are very sensitive to alterations to the soil surface that can alter the hydrology. Wet prairies are prevalent in the northern section of Lake Jackson near the "cattle gap."

Clastic upland lakes are generally characterized as shallow to relatively deep, irregular-shaped depressions or basins occurring in uplands on substrates. They have surface inflows, but are often without significant outflows. Water is generally dissippated through evaporation and transpiration, but it may also disappear through sinks that connect with the aquifer, especially during prolonged droughts.

The karst topography of North Florida produces numerous sinkholes from the dissolution of the underlying limestone. Lake Jackson has small- to medium-size sinkholes scattered across the bottom. The natural drawdown and refill cycles of the lake are determined by the activity of these sinks and the amount of rainfall in the area. The sinkholes are important to the lake's ecosystem because natural periodic draining creates a cleansing effect for the lake, allowing invasive vegetation to die off and exposing organic sediments that eventually dry out.

The habitat of the Lake Jackson Aquatic Preserve is a diverse ecosystem with productive ecotones that harbor a myriad of wildlife. Most species living in the preserve have adapted to living in variable conditions, which is beneficial to survival given the lake's tendency to fluctuate between water levels. The most biodiversity is seen in the transitional marsh (wet prairie) communities that separate the open water systems from adjacent uplands. This habitat allows species to adapt to a variety of natural communities. The extensive wetlands that border the preserve attract a diverse multitude of wildlife ranging from deer and bobcats to resident and migratory birds. The lake supports seven animal species that are listed as a Species of Special Concern, Threatened or Endangered.

The fluctuating water levels and habitats within the aquatic preserve prevent the domination of most potential invasive species. The main threats are hydrilla and the island apple snail. Chinese tallow (popcorn tree), alligatorweed and water hyacinths are also present, but controlled.

The island apple snail is well-adapted for these conditions and is thriving in all areas of the aquatic preserve. This invasive species is originally from South America. They are voracious eaters that feed off of all types of aquatic plants, threatening the natural environment and reducing the habitat for other native species. There are no effective control measures for the snail, and they remain a major problem in Lake Jackson.

Hydrilla has been difficult to control, but the drawdown in 1999 nearly eradicated it and allowed for easier management of the remainder. It is being managed by a combination of herbicidal treatments and sterile grass carp that are introduced to eat the hydrilla. Hydrilla is still abundant, especially in areas with heavy runoff pollution. The major threat of hydrilla is its ability to dominate the ecosystem at all levels of the lake's water column. The only known benefit of hydrilla is as a food source for migrating waterfowl.

Alligatorweed has historically been controlled by the alligatorweed flea beetle, but has begun expanding recently. Recent cold weather may have killed the beetle. Water hyacinths are less abundant on the lake and have been controlled using herbicides. Chinese tallow is a tree that can become invasive in saturated areas. Most of the areas where it has become established are disturbed areas where native species have been removed, but it can be a problem for native species such as tupelo and cypress. Cuban bulrush is an invasive plant species that can form large floating colonies. It is controlled by herbicide and also eaten by waterfowl. This species is one of the newer invasive plants to come into Lake Jackson Aquatic Preserve.

Habitat-Wildlife Type: 
Aquatic Preserves
Last Modified:
January 13, 2020 - 1:11pm

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