Last updated: 4/26/2018
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Columbia County is located in northern Florida, sitting between the state capital Tallahassee and the coastal city of Jacksonville. Columbia was established as a county in 1832, with its close to 800 square miles of land area drawn from Alachua and Duval counties south and west of Columbia, respectively.
This county took its name from the Columbia female personification and poetic form in reference to the United States which were popularly used prior to the 1920s. Columbia’s largest city and county seat is Lake City which was earlier known as Alligator Town till it was renamed as so in 1858.
Lake City has the distinction of being called “The Gateway to Florida.” It earned this title because the city is located adjacent to the intersection of Interstate 10 and Interstate 75 highways cutting through the Sunshine State’s territory.
The city has also capitalized on this distinction as portal to Florida when it renamed its NAS Lake City airport to the Lake City Gateway Airport. Lake City is also home to the Florida Gateway College erstwhile known as the Lake City Community College. This state college notably offers high-quality post-secondary courses at affordable fees.
The superb schools in Columbia County are supplemented by similarly top-rated neighboring institutions like the Florida State College with a campus in Jacksonville. Healthcare is widely available in this county, with four hospitals in Lake City alone.
Delights of the Outdoors
A wide variety of outdoor activities available at Columbia further contribute to the quality of living in this county. Camping, fishing and hunting are accessible at the Osceola National Forest the southern wilderness of which spreads within Columbia County.
The county, for good reasons, has come to be known as “Freshwater Recreation Capital of America, given all its lakes and rivers offering spots for not only for swimming and fishing, but also such adventures as water skiing and canoeing. All year round, Columbia’s residents and visitors can also enjoy the many walking, hiking and cycling trails in the county.
In addition to all these, Columbia enjoys proximity to the beaches of the Gulf Coast to the west and the Atlantic Coast to the east. Other big city attractions, such as Orlando’s Disney World, are likewise woven into the lifestyle available in Columbia County.
Urban delights too abound in Columbia, particularly at Lake City which prides itself with a 212,000-square-foot mall filled with retail shops and restaurants. This commercial hub, Lake City Mall, is anchored on locations of JC Penney, T.J. Maxx and Belk, aside from having a motley of other national retailers as tenants. Shopping too has a rural flair in its DeSoto Farmers Market held Saturday mornings at Wilson Park in downtown Lake City between Columbia County Courthouse and the Shands Hospital.
The rich mix of amenities in and around Columbia has made this county a favored U.S. destination for home buyers. Furthermore, the county’s cost of living index, estimated at 82.6, is significantly lower than the national average. The county’s homeownership rate at 72 percent is higher than the U.S. national average of 63.6 percent, another indicator of the strength of the housing sector in Columbia.