Reading the language of the landscape is time-traveling without the science fiction. Why are there hills in some places and world-class springs in others? Why does the Apalachicola River push up against high bluffs on the east when it could effortlessly roam around the vast, flat playground to the west? Why do Franklin and Gulf counties enjoy postcard-perfect white sandy beaches, while most of Wakulla's coast is an ever-changing pudding of tree islands in seas of marsh grasses and mudflats?
Answering these questions requires time-traveling, and that's what geologists do. They are detectives who give us insights into the current state of the earth by collecting clues from the deep past. They examine surface topography, underground rock formations, and fossils and map the ways in which all of them are woven together, and they study past and present river courses. They shape all these clues into stories that give us insight into why the land is the way it is now.
Although we may not have spectacular mountain ranges, gigantic lakes, or rugged shorelines, we do have some very complicated and intriguing landforms and features. Geologists have named and mapped these landforms, which are known as physiographic regions, based on all that evidence they collect. These clues are products of the past: sea level rising and falling, rivers moving their courses, mountains crumbling, glaciers swelling and shrinking, and zillions of tiny marine animals leaving their carbonate-rich bodies behind.
Take a look at the present moment in the geological story. Forget roads, towns, and county boundaries, and imagine the Apalachicola River and Bay region as a whole. It's flat and sandy along the coast, with a distinct sloping boundary between those coastal lowlands and the higher, rolling hills to the north. The Chipola, Apalachicola, and Ochlockonee rivers and their tributaries have cut their valleys from north to south through both the highlands and the coastal lowlands.
In addition to the coastal lowlands, the hilly uplands, and the slope between, you'll notice a patch of low ground called the Marianna Lowlands in the north half of Jackson County, separated from the slopes and lowlands to the south by the New Hope Ridge. You'll also observe that the Gulf Coastal Lowlands are subdivided into the Woodville Karst Plain on the east and the Apalachicola Coastal Lowlands on the west.
BE AWARE! Geology is a mightily complex and dynamic science, and many more subdivisions have been described in the ARROW region than are discussed in this website. Please consult the Florida Geological Survey's website and excellent publications for more detailed information.