Lake Jackson, Florida, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Florida - Panhandle East -

Also known as:  Jackson Lake

Florida has many special lakes, but none is more unique than Lake Jackson in the Panhandle East region. The 4,500-acre lake is remarkable for trophy largemouth bass, a fact known to many southern anglers. But its most unusual feature is that the lake regularly ‘disappears’ about every 25 years. The lake has no natural outlets on the surface, but holds two sinkholes that act as drainage outlets on the flat sandy bottom. When climate conditions are right, the lake drains into the sinkholes, seemingly overnight. This has likely been happening for hundreds of years, but the first recorded incidence of the lake going dry is in 1848.

Between dry periods, Lake Jackson attracts water sports enthusiasts and nature lovers. A total of 10 public boat launches around the lake offer easy access. An increasing number of homes near the shoreline add private watercraft to the mix, with water skiing, jet skiing, sailing, canoeing and kayaking favored boating activities. The lake is widely known for producing trophy largemouth bass and holds other favorites such as black bass and bream. One fish camp still exists on Lake Jackson, but increasingly the shoreline is either privately owned or in protected status with several different parks and facilities. Located only 10 miles north of the City of Tallahassee, the lake is a favorite among those who visit to unwind after a hard day’s work.

Lake Jackson Mounds Archeological State Park along the southwest shoreline holds several large temple mounds, remnants of a Native American culture from about 1200 AD. There is no camping on-site, but the large park holds hiking and nature trails, interpretive signage, picnic areas and wildlife viewing areas. Several of the public boat landing sites around the lake also provide picnicking facilities. Bordering the eastern shore, the Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park offers 670 acres of trails for hiking, horseback riding, off-road biking, wildlife viewing, educational programs, and outings geared toward nature observation and identification. Other parts of the park owned by the City of Tallahassee contain ball fields, an athletic complex and a soccer complex. Adjacent to Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park, the Alfred B Maclay Gardens State Park provides even more biking and hiking trails, flowering gardens, interpretive exhibits, picnicking and swimming along with fishing on two more small lakes.

Several marshy wetlands along the shore of Lake Jackson offer prime habitat for Florida’s many native birds and amphibians. Many rare or endangered species can be seen here including snowy egret, least tern, round-tailed muskrat, wood stork, bald eagle, little blue heron and American alligator. The variety of wildlife is one of the reasons Lake Jackson has been designated the Lake Jackson Aquatic Preserve. The other primary reason for its Preserve status is the unmodified nature of the self-draining lake. Other lakes in Florida which have the same type of feature have had seawalls constructed around the limestone ‘sinks’ to regulate water levels. Lake Jackson remains natural, although somewhat inconvenient for residents who enjoy boating and fishing.

The reasons for the lake’s self-draining feature are complex, a result of underground aquifer levels and the amount of sediments built up above Lime Sink and Porter Hole Sink, the two sinkholes. When the aquifer is full, a result of adequate rainfall over a period of years, the pressure from below allows sediments to cover the openings and the lake to fill. When prolonged drought arrives, a regular cycle in Florida, the ground water levels lower and the heavy sediments eventually cave in. It may appear that all of the water exits into the sink holes, but experts say that usually a great amount of water has already been lost to evaporation from drought.

In recent years, water quality studies showed that Lake Jackson was beginning to suffer from degraded water quality due to more run-off from impervious surfaces caused by increased development. Additionally, the building of Interstate 10 across one of the long southern arms of the lake and US 27 across a northwest corner had allowed more sediments than previously to enter the lake. The lake was quickly becoming shallower, the sediments were polluted, and the bass weren’t thriving as before.

Cleanup of the Megginnis and Fords Arms sub-basins near I-10 included the use of temporary dams and dredging across the narrow arms. Storm water retention ponds, sand filters, and a constructed marsh were created to filter the run-off problems on the Megginnis Arm. Invasive and nuisance vegetation was removed from the shoreline. In 1999, Lake Jackson drained to nearly dry. This was the moment the experts were waiting for; state and local governments, under the lead of the Northwest Florida Water Management District, stepped in to organize a massive cleanup of the polluted sediments and remediate run-off problems around the lake. Sediments were removed by the truckload, the lake bottom was scraped clear of the muck that had accumulated, and heavy rains soon began to complete the job. Within a few years, Lake Jackson was nearly full once again and cleaner than before with remediation facilities in place to see that it remained so.

One other problem worried nature lovers. When US 27 had been built across the corner of Lake Jackson, a section of the lake had been separated from the main body by the roadway. Called Little Lake Jackson, this was the normal destination for the large numbers of turtles and small amphibians who would invariably begin a mass exodus from Lake Jackson when the water began to recede. Thousands would be killed on the busy roadway as they had no other way to reach Little Lake Jackson. The Lake Jackson Ecopassage Alliance was formed to try to find a solution. The first effort was a low fence to prevent the turtles from reaching the road. Stimulus funding was eventually procured to build a passage culvert underneath US 27. Now, the fencing funnels the turtles and frogs toward the culvert area so they can reach Little Lake Jackson and return safely that same way when conditions warrant.

There are no camping or lodging facilities on Lake Jackson but with two major highways skirting the lake, a large number of lodgings can be found nearby. Both I-10 and US 27 hold a number of hotels, small motels and vacation rentals. Occasionally condos or private homes right on Lake Jackson become available for short-term rental. Real estate can be found, even along the lakefront, with a wide range of prices. With Tallahassee only 10 miles away, there is never a shortage of lodgings or restaurants. Located only a few miles from the Georgia line, Lake Jackson is easy to get to and hard to leave. Will you come and experience unique Lake Jackson?

*Statistics are for the lake at full pool.

Things to do at Lake Jackson FL

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park

Fish species found at Lake Jackson FL

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Largemouth Bass

Lake Jackson FL Photo Gallery

Lake Jackson FL Statistics & Helpful Links

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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