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Florida, southeasternmost state of the United States, on a peninsula that separates the Gulf Of Mexico from the Atlantic Ocean, bordered to the north by Georgia and Alabama.

Land and climate

The Florida panhandle extends to the west along the northern shore of the Gulf of Mexico. The Florida uplands run down from the northwest into the center of the state. They are characterized in the south by rolling hills studded with thousands of lakes, including Lake Okeechobee, the second-largest natural body of fresh water entirely within the United States. The low, level plains along the eastern coast are protected from the Atlantic by a strip of sandbars and islands. Big Cypress Swamp and the Everglades cover much of southern Florida. The small islands called the Florida Keys curve southwestward for 150 mi (241 km) from the tip of the peninsula. Florida's shoreline is 1,350 mi (2,173 km) long, longer than that of any state except Alaska. The average climate is warm and rainy. The extreme south of Florida and Hawaii are the only places in the United States to have a wet and dry tropical climate. Principal cities are Miami, Jacksonville, Tampa, Saint Petersburg, and Fort Lauderdale.


An unrivaled climate, hundreds of miles of sandy beaches, and such attractions as Walt Disney World have made tourism Florida's largest industry. Florida is a major agricultural state, producing winter vegetables, greenhouse and nursery products, and fruits, including two-thirds of the nation's oranges. Major manufactures are electrical equipment and food products. Florida processes nearly all of the orange juice produced in the United States. The state ranks as a leader in commercial fishing. Shrimp, lobster, and scallops are the leading catches. Florida is the most important source of phosphate in the country.


Florida's constitution, ratified in 1969, provides for a governor elected to a 4-year term. The state legislature comprises 40 senators elected for 4-year terms and 120 representatives elected for 2-year terms. Florida is represented by 2 senators and 23 representatives in the U.S. Congress.


Juan Ponce de León discovered and named Florida in 1513 and claimed the territory for Spain. In 1565 Spain founded Saint Augustine, which survives as the oldest city in the United States. In 1819 Spain ceded Florida to the United States. The territory of Florida was established in 1822. Resistance to white settlement by the Seminoles culminated in the second Seminole War (1835–42). Florida seceded from the Union in 1861 and was readmitted in 1868. Major economic growth began late in the 19th century when an expanding railroad system brought on a real estate boom, followed by a second boom in the 1920s. In the 1950s Cape Canaveral became a space and rocket center. Economic expansion has been great since World War II, but the growing population—including more than 100,000 Cuban and Haitian refugees since 1980—has put increasing strains upon social services, public utilities, transportation, and the dwindling tracts of subtropical wilderness.



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