Natural & Environmental Resources

Natural & Environmental Resources

Jefferson County is in the northern part of the Florida Peninsula. The region known as the "Big Bend" for the arc of Gulf of Mexico shoreline where the panhandle meets the peninsula. It is bordered to the north by Georgia; on the west by Leon and Wakulla Counties; on the east by Taylor and Madison Counties; and to the south by the Gulf of Mexico. The county covers 392,365 acres, or 611 square miles. It is about 39 miles from north to south and about 24 miles wide at the widest point. There are about six miles of coastline. The county is known as the "Keystone County," the only county bordering Georgia and extending to the Gulf. Two major physiographic divisions, the Northern Highlands and the Coastal Lowlands are separated by the Cody Scarp. The northern two-thirds of the county is dominated by the Tallahassee Hills. Most of the crop and livestock farming on sandy to sandy loam soils are located in the northern region of the county. Most residential population is located there, too. The southern third of the county is relatively flat coastal, poorly drained sands in commercial timber production. The county is located in the St. Marks and Aucilla River Basins. Wetlands in the county include acres of Lake Miccosukee along the northwest boundary shared with Leon County, over 80,000 acres in the Aucilla Wildlife Management Area, and the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. At an elevation of 235 feet above sea level, at the Courthouse, Monticello is one of the highest points in Florida. The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) classifies environmental systems in 26 Ecological Communities of Florida.

These communities are found in Jefferson County:

  • Mixed Hardwood and Pines (northern 2/3 of county, commonly referred to as "Red Hills")
  • Longleaf Pine-Turkey Oak Hills (south-central portion along Cody Scarp)
  • North Florida Flatwoods (southwest region along Leon and Wakulla Counties)
  • Freshwater Marsh (associated with the upper Aucilla River)
  • Swamp Hardwoods (wetlands along Wacissa and lower Aucilla Rivers, Lake Miccosukkee)
  • Wetland Hardwood Hammocks (small region along the southern reaches of Aucilla River)
  • Salt Marsh (entire coastline)

For information on forestry in Jefferson County, click here.

A comprehensive, modern soil survey was initiated by the USDA Soil Conservation Service in the early 1980s with the support of the Board of County Commissioners and the Soil and Water Conservation District. The survey was completed in 1986 and published manuals (1989) are now available. The survey has detailed discussions of the classified soil series. Data associated with use and management of soils for crop and pasture, forest/woodlands, recreation, wildlife habitat and human development make the manual an indispensable tool for natural resource managers. Engineering, physical and chemical properties of soils are discussed. Contact the Monticello Field Office of the US Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly SCS) or the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service office for soils information, a copy of the soil survey and resource management guidelines.

 Primary Soils of Jefferson County

Soil Name 1


Depth 2

% Clay 3

% OM 4

Soil pH 5

Orangeburg (10.9%)

sandy loam

5-9 in.

7 - 15 %

0.5 - 2 %

4.5 - 6.0

Pelham (9.4%)

fine sand

up to 34 in.

1 - 8 %

1 - 2 %

3.6 - 5.5

Dothan (9.0%)

loamy fine sand

up to 9 in.

5 - 15 %

< 0.5 %

4.5 - 6.0

Surrency (8.2%)

fine sand

up to 26 in.

10 %

< 1 - 4 %

3.6 - 5.0

Chaires (7.2%)

fine sand

up to 29 in.

3 %

< 1 - 3 %

3.6 - 5.5

Fuquay (6.3%)

fine sand

up to 37 in.

1 - 7 %

0.5 - 2 %

4.5 - 6.0

Albany (4.1%)

fine sand

up to 55 in.

1 - 10 %

1 - 2 %

3.6 - 6.5

1 this soil type as % of total land in Jefferson County | 2 depth of surface horizon, inches
3 range of percent clay | 4 range of percent organic matter | 5 range of soil reaction

Ground and Surface Water
Ground Water: The Floridan Aquifer is the principal water-bearing unit in Jefferson County. It includes all of Middle Eocene to Early Miocene formations. This aquifer is believed to be recharged by Lake Miccosukee through sinkholes in addition to recharge along the Aucilla River. In the northeastern part of the county, leakage occurs from swamp areas through the overlying sediment of the Hawthorn and Miccosukee formations. Secondary artesian aquifers are in northern Jefferson County. These aquifers occur within discontinuous units of limestone, dolomite, and sand that formed the Hawthorn Formation. The amount of water obtained from the secondary aquifers is minimal in comparison to the underlying Floridan Aquifer but may be sufficient for small domestic supplies. In addition, the quality of water is diminished relative to the Floridan Aquifer by the presence of more dissolved solids. Other sources of water within the county include water table aquifers that occur within the surficial sand deposits at higher elevations. These aquifers receive recharge primarily from rainfall or through upward percolation of underlying aquifers when their potentiometric surfaces are higher than that of the water table. Water quality in these aquifers is diminished because of the high concentration of iron. Groundwater in the Jefferson County area has a relatively high pH. In 1984, water samples from 50 wells in the county were analyzed by the County Extension Service and the IFAS soil and water testing lab. pH is a measure of alkalinity, or hardness. Samples averaged pH 7.6, and ranged from 6.3 to over 8.0. Hardness, calculated from calcium and magnesium levels, averaged 151 parts per million (ppm). Most water samples would be classified "hard" to "very hard." Three wells sampled over a six-year period, 1976-81, by the US Geologic Survey and the Water Management Districts averaged pH 7.40, 7.62 and 7.37 with measured alkalinity of 128-152 ppm. In the 50 samples taken in 1984, iron levels were seldom above the 0.1-0.3 ppm range. Some staining can be caused by as little as 0.3 ppm of iron. The water used as irrigation may cause yellowing (iron chlorosis) and poor growth of azaleas, blueberries, pines, centipede grass and other "acid loving" plants. Wells provide the water supply for most of the homes and irrigated crops throughout the county. The wells are dug into the underlying limestone to the aquifer and cased to the limestone. Surface Water: Lake Miccosukee, Ward Creek, Lloyd Creek, the Aucilla River and the Wacissa River are significant surface water features in the county. The rolling topography and karst features associated with underlying limerock make preservation of surface water quality a prime concern in agriculture and other land use or development. The boundary between the North West Florida and the Suwannee River Water Management Districts divides the county about midway across the county, from North to South. Districts are set by watershed, with the Aucilla/Wacissa River to the east in Suwannee and the St. Marks River to the west in North West. Contact the districts directly, or check with the USDA NRCS, the County Extension Service or the Planning Department for water use restrictions, flood prone areas, wetlands and other water questions.

Geographic Information System (GIS)
Digitized soil survey information is incorporated in the Jefferson County Geographic Information System (GIS). The GIS project is a collaboration of the County Planning Department and the Cooperative Extension Service. GIS services are available through the Extension Service. In addition to soils coverages, the system includes topography, hydrography, Property Appraiser land ownership and tax roll data, landcover (1987 Landsat), and USGS Digital Line Graph (DLG) roads, USPLS township/range/section quad sheet information. Census data for 1990 with TIGER files are also incorporated in the system. Development of the system has been facilitated by generous technical support from the Suwannee River Water Management District.

Jefferson County has a moderate climate. Summers are long, warm and humid. Winters are mild to cool. The Gulf of Mexico moderates maximum and minimum temperatures. Annual rainfall in the county averages about 55 inches. Rainfall is heaviest from June to September; about 44 percent of the annual rainfall occurs during this period. Moderately intense rains of long duration occur in the spring. October and November are the driest months. The remainder of the rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the rest of the year. Most summer rainfall comes from afternoon or early evening local thundershowers. During June, July, August, and September, measurable rainfall can be expected every other day. Summer showers are sometimes heavy; 2 or 3 inches of rainfall can occur in an hour or two. Daylong rains in summer are rare and are almost always associated with tropical storms. Winter and spring rains are generally associated with large scale, continental weather developments. They are of longer duration, with some lasting for 24 hours or longer. These storms are generally not as intense as the thundershowers, but occasionally they do release large amounts of rainfall over large areas. A 24-hour rainfall of 7 inches or more falls about 1 year in 10. Hail occurs at irregular intervals in thundershowers. Snow is very rare in the area and usually melts as it hits the ground. Tropical storms can affect the area at any time from early June through mid-November. These storms diminish in intensity quite rapidly as they move inland. The likelihood of a hurricane in Jefferson County is about once every 13 years, but fringe effects are felt about once every 5 years. Extended periods of dry weather or droughts can occur in any season, but they are most common in spring and fall. Droughts or dry periods in April and May, although generally of shorter duration than those in fall, are intensified by higher temperatures.

June through November is Hurricane Season. Refer to the Florida Emergency Management Office for storm tracking and information on preparing for and recovering from storms.

As cold, continental air flows eastward across the Florida panhandle toward Jefferson County, the cold is appreciably modified. The coldest weather is generally the second night after the arrival of the cold front after heat is lost through radiation. The average date of the first freezing temperature is about November 23. The average date of the last freezing temperature is about March 3. Frost has occurred, however, as early as November 1 and as late as April 15. Summer temperatures are moderated by the Gulf breeze and by cumulus clouds that frequently shade the land without completely obscuring the sun. Mean average temperature in June, July, August, and September is about 78 degrees F. Temperatures of 86 degrees or higher have occurred in May, June, July, August, and September, but 100 degrees is reached only rarely. In June, July, and August, the warmest months, the average maximum temperature is 90 degrees. Temperatures above 95 degrees occur on fewer than 22 days. Fog occurs on an average of 6 mornings a month in winter and spring and almost never in summer and fall. Prevailing winds are generally from the south in spring and summer. In October, November, December, and January, winds blow from the north. Annual mean wind speed is 7.3 miles per hour. The lowest monthly mean wind speed, 5.8 miles per hour, occurs in August. The highest, 9 miles per hour, occurs in March. Stone fruits such as peaches, nectarines and plums require winter chilling for dormancy. Trees must be subjected to periods of low temperature if they are to bloom and grow satisfactorily in the spring. The required length of cold depends on the variety or cultivar. Chilling hours are recorded at the University of Florida IFAS Agricultural Research Center in Monticello, from November 1 through February 15. Roughly two years in 10, the total season accumulated chill will be between 300 and 550 hours. Two years in 10 will fall from 550 to 650 hours and two years in ten from 650 to 750 hours. Four years in ten, the chill hours will be greater than 750. In 40 years of records, the average chill is 700, with a low of 320 and a high of 1150 hours.

In 1994-95, people in Florida generated a staggering 24 million tons of solid waste, over 9.5 pounds per day for every resident of the state. Jefferson County residents averaged 4 pounds each per day. The 1989 Florida Legislature requires all counties to reduce solid waste entering landfills. To meet the mandate and to reduce the cost of landfill operations, Jefferson County recycles. Aluminum, newspaper, cardboard, HDPE plastic, glass and steel (tin) cans are collected at "dumpster" sites throughout the county, and through curbside pick up in Monticello. In FY95, 88% of white goods (appliances), 92% of tires, 37% of newspaper, 27% of aluminum cans and 14% of glass collected was recycled, contributing to a 12% reduction through recycling. You may deliver recyclable materials to the Recycling Center, US 19 and Waukeenah Street, south of Monticello from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, Monday through Saturday. Contact the Recycling Center for information about recycling used oil, car batteries, tires and other items. Recycle yard trash by composting. Let the "clips fall where they may;" don't bag grass clippings when you mow.