As experienced at our human-scale on a regular, day-to-day basis, the topography of Miami is perceived as generally flat and undifferentiated. We have no great rolling hills or valleys or waterfalls . . . or do we?
Well, not quite; but if you talk to some geologists in the region, you might hear terms like the ‘Miami Rock Ridge’ or ‘coastal ridge’.
I recently heard a geologist friend of mine refer to the basin of the Miami River as the ‘Miami River Valley’ (not to be confused with the one in Ohio, of course).
But what could he have meant by the ‘Miami River Valley’?
We certainly have the Miami River, but where’s the valley?
To get a better grasp of what was meant by this seemingly delusional scientist, let’s take a look at this 5-ft resolution digital elevation model (DEM), extracted for the City of Miami.
Displayed with a vertical exaggeration of 50 times the actual elevation, the DEM allows us to view those signature features defining Miami’s physiographic structure.
Mind you: the manipulation is applied to the visualization of the data, not the data values themselves; those were left un-modified.
Yellows and oranges represent the lower elevations, which go as far down as nearly 7.5 feet below sea level.
Elevation values increase as the color ramp moves through reds, violets, and, ultimately, blues, where one can find elevations in the City of Miami getting as high as nearly 50 feet above sea level.
The de facto ‘Miami River Valley’ actually becomes quite distinct, with both the northern and southern banks of the river marking some of the lowest surfaces in the city, except perhaps for some coastal areas.
One also finds the relatively high elevation (purple-blue) Miami Rock Ridge running parallel along the coast, persistently representing, to this day, some of the most habitable (and thus desirable) real estate in the entire Southeast Florida region, just as it was for the Tequesta natives thousands of years ago.
So next time somebody tells you something like “Miami has no topography”, kindly send them over here to Miami Geographic so that they can see for themselves just how topographic Miami can be, if seen from a slightly more macroscopic vantage point.
Perhaps that geologist wasn’t delusional after all . . .