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Miami-Dade County (often referred to as simply Miami-Dade, Dade County, or Dade) is a county located in the southeastern part of the state of Floridamarker. The United States Census Bureau estimates that the county population was 2,387,170 in 2007, making it the most populous county in Florida and the ninth most populous county in the United States. It is also Florida's second largest county in terms of land area, with 1,946 square miles. The county's population makes up approximately half of the South Florida metropolitan areamarker population and holds several of the principal cities of South Florida. The county seat is the City of Miamimarker.

The county is home to 35 incorporated cities and many unincorporated areas. The eastern portion of the county is heavily urbanized with many high rises up the coastline, as well as the location of the county's central business district, Downtown Miamimarker. The western portion of the county extends into the Everglades National Parkmarker and is unpopulated. East of the mainland in Biscayne Baymarker is also Biscayne National Parkmarker, making Miami the only metropolitan area in the United States that borders two national parks.


Pre-European contact

The earliest evidence of Native American settlement in the Miami region came from about 12,000 years ago. The first inhabitants settled on the banks of the Miami River, with the main villages on the northern banks.

The inhabitants at the time of first European contact were the Tequesta people, who controlled much of southeastern Florida, including what is now Miami-Dade Countymarker, Broward County, and the southern part of Palm Beach County. The Tequesta Indians fished, hunted, and gathered the fruit and roots of plants for food, but did not practice any form of agriculture. They buried the small bones of the deceased with the rest of the body, and put the larger bones in a box for the village people to see. The Tequesta are credited with making the Miami Circlemarker.

European contact

Juan Ponce de León was the first European to visit the area in 1513 by sailing into Biscayne Baymarker. His journal records that he reached Chequescha, which was Miami's first recorded name. It is unknown whether he came ashore or made contact with the Indians. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and his men made the first recorded landing when they visited the Tequesta settlement in 1566 while looking for Avilés' missing son, shipwrecked a year earlier. Spanish soldiers led by Father Francisco Villarreal built a Jesuit mission at the mouth of the Miami River a year later but it was short-lived. After the Spaniards left, the Tequesta Indians were left to fend themselves from European-introduced diseases like smallpox. By 1711, the Tequesta sent a couple of local chiefs to Havanamarker, Cubamarker, to ask if they could migrate there. The Cubans sent two ships to help them, but Spanish illnesses struck and most of the Indians died.

The first permanent European settlers arrived in the early 1800s. People came from the Bahamasmarker to South Florida and the Keysmarker to hunt for treasure from the ships that ran aground on the treacherous Great Florida reef. Some accepted Spanish land offers along the Miami River. At about the same time, the Seminole Indians arrived, along with a group of runaway slaves. The area was affected by the Second Seminole War, during which Major William S. Harney led several raids against the Indians. Most non-Indian residents were soldiers stationed at Fort Dallasmarker. It was the most devastating Indian war in American history, causing almost a total loss of population in the Miami area.

After the Second Seminole War ended in 1842, William English, re-established a plantation started by his uncle on the Miami River. He charted the “Village of Miami” on the south bank of the Miami River and sold several plots of land. In 1844, Miami became the county seat, and six years later a census reported that there were ninety-six residents living in the area. The Third Seminole War was not as destructive as the second one. Even so, it slowed down the settlement of southeast Florida. At the end of the war, a few of the soldiers stayed.

Birth of Dade County

Dade County was created on January 18, 1836 under the Territorial Act of the United States. The county was named after Major Francis L. Dade, a soldier killed in 1835 in the Second Seminole War, at what has since been named the Dade Battlefieldmarker. At the time of its creation, Dade County included the land that now contains Palm Beachmarker and Browardmarker counties, together with the Florida Keysmarker from Bahia Honda Keymarker north and the land of present day Miami-Dade County. The county seat was originally at Indian Key in the Florida Keys, then in 1844, the County seat was moved to Miamimarker. The Florida Keys from Key Largomarker to Bahia Honda were returned to Monroe Countymarker in 1866. In 1888 the county seat was moved to Juno, near present-day Juno Beach, Floridamarker, returning to Miami in 1899. In 1909, Palm Beach County was formed from the northern portion of what was then Dade County, and then in 1915, Palm Beach County and Dade County contributed nearly equal portions of land to create what is now Broward County. There have been no significant boundary changes to the county since 1915.

The second-costliest natural disaster to occur in the United Statesmarker was Hurricane Andrew, which hit this county early Monday morning on August 24, 1992. It struck the central part of the county from due east, south of Miami and very near Homesteadmarker, Kendallmarker, and Cutler Ridgemarker (now the Town of Cutler Baymarker). Damages numbered over US$25 billion in the county alone, and recovery has taken years in these areas where the destruction was greatest. This was the costliest natural disaster in US history until Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf region in 2005.

After the Cuban Revolution, exiles from Cuba migrated in large numbers to Dade County.

On November 13, 1997 voters changed the name of the county from Dade to Miami-Dade to acknowledge the international name recognition of Miamimarker.


Physical geography

Miami-Dade County is close to sea level in elevation averaging about 6 feet above sea level. It is rather new geologically and located at the eastern edge of the Florida Platform, a carbonate plateau created millions of years ago. Eastern Dade is composed of Oolite limestone while western Dade is composed mostly of Bryozoa. Miami-Dade is among the last areas of Florida to be created and populated with fauna and flora, mostly in the Pleistocene.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,431 square miles (6,297 km²), of which, 1,946 square miles (5,040 km²) of it is land and 485 square miles (1,257 km²) of it (19.96%) is water, most of which is Biscayne Baymarker, with another significant portion in the adjacent waters of the Atlantic Oceanmarker.

The bay is divided from the Atlantic Ocean by the many barrier isles along the coast, one of which is where well-known Miami Beachmarker is located, home to South Beach and the Art Deco district. The Florida Keysmarker, which are also barrier islands are only accessible through Miami-Dade County, but which are otherwise part of neighboring Monroe Countymarker.

Miami is the largest city within Miami-Dade County as well as the county seat, with an estimated population of 424,662. Miami is the only metropolitan area in the United States that borders two national parks. Biscayne National Parkmarker is located east of the mainland, in Biscayne Baymarker, and the western third of Miami-Dade County lies within Everglades National Parkmarker. The northwest portion of the county contains a small part of the Big Cypress National Preservemarker.


Map of the municipalities (colored areas) and unincorporated (grey areas) communities of Miami-Dade County.

Miami-Dade County includes 35 incorporated areas, 38 Census-designated places, and 16 unincorporated regions.

Adjacent counties



2000 U.S. Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 2,253,362 people, 776,774 households, and 548,402 families residing in the county. The population density was 1,158 people per square mile (447/km²). There were 852,278 housing units at an average density of 438 per square mile (169/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 69.7% White (20.7% Non-Hispanic White), 20.3% African American and Black (with a large part being of Caribbeanmarker descent), 0.20% Native American, 1.4% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 4.60% from other races, and 3.80% from two or more races. 57.3% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. In relation to ancestry (excluding the various Hispanic and Latino ancestries), 5% were Haitianmarker, 5% Americanmarker, 2% Italian, 2% Jamaicanmarker, 2% German, 2% Irish, and 2% English ancestry.

1,147,765 of Miami-Dade residents, or 50.9 percent of the total population, were foreign-born, a percentage greater than any other county in the United States (47% of whom were naturalized U.S. citizens), The most common countries of foreign-born residents included Cubamarker (42%), Nicaraguamarker (16%), Colombiamarker (6%), Haitimarker (6%), Dominican Republicmarker (3%), and Jamaicamarker (3%).

There were 776,774 households out of which 33.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.7% were married couples living together, 17.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.4% were non-families. 23.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.84 and the average family size was 3.35.

The age distribution is 24.8% under the age of 18, 9.1% from 18 to 24, 31.0% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 13.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 93.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.2 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $35,966, and the median income for a family was $40,260. Males had a median income of $30,120 versus $24,686 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,497. About 14.5% of families and 18.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.9% of those under age 18 and 18.9% of those age 65 or over.

2008 U.S. Census estimates

U.S. Census Bureau 2008 Ethnic/Race Demographics:

According to the 2008 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, when compared to the 2000 U.S. Census, the Hispanic population grew 5.1%, the Black population dropped 0.8%, the White (non-Hispanic) population dropped 2.9%, and the Asian population grew 0.2%.

Population Miami-Dade
2030 Projection 3,196,805
2025 Projection 3,019,785
2010 Projection 2,551,284
2006 Estimate 2,402,208
2000 Census 2,253,485
1990 Census 1,967,000


As of 2000, 59.25% spoke Spanish as their first language, 32.09% English, 4.12% French Creole, 0.89% French, and 0.67% spoke Portuguese as their mother language. 50.9% of the county residents were born outside the United Statesmarker, while 67.90% of the population speaks a language other than English at home.


Burger King is headquartered in unincorporated Miami-Dade County. Hewlett Packard's main Latin America offices are located in unincorporated Miami-Dade County.

Before its dissolution, National Airlines was headquartered by the airport. Before its dissolution Air Florida was headquartered at the Dade Towers in an unincorporated area.

After Frank Borman became president of Eastern Airlines in 1975, he moved Eastern's headquarters from Rockefeller Centermarker in Midtown Manhattan, New York Citymarker to an unincorporated area in Miami-Dade County Around 1991 the Miami-Dade County lost a few corporations, including Eastern Airlines, which folded in 1991.

Diplomatic missions

Several consulates are located in Miami-Dade County. Those in unincorporated areas within the county are the Consulate-General of Honduras, the Consulate-General of Nicaragua, and the Consulate-General of Panama.

Law and government

Miami-Dade County has operated under a unique metropolitan system of government, a "two-tier federation," since 1957. This was made possible when Floridamarker voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1956 that allowed the people of Dade County (as it was known then) to enact a home rule charter. Prior to this year, home rule did not exist in Floridamarker, and all counties were limited to the same set of powers by the Florida Constitution and state law. Mattie Belle Davis, the first woman from Floridamarker elected to the American Bar Foundation and the second woman to be elected in the US, was the first woman judge of Metropolitan Court of Dade County, Florida.

Division between county and municipality politics

Presidential elections results
Year Republican Democrat
2008 41.6% 358,256 58.1% 497,386
2004 46.6% 361,095 52.9% 409,732
2000 46.3% 289,574 52.6% 328,867
1996 37.9% 209,740 57.3% 317,555
1992 43.2% 235,313 46.7% 254,609
1988 55.3% 270,937 44.3% 216,970
1984 59.2% 144,281 40.8% 223,863
1980 50.7% 265,888 40.2% 210,868
1976 40.5% 211,148 58.1% 303,047
1972 58.9% 256,529 40.8% 177,693
1968 37.0% 135,222 48.4% 176,689
1964 36.0% 117,480 64.0% 208,941
1960 42.3% 134,506 57.7% 183,114

Unlike a consolidated city-county, where the city and county governments merge into a single entity, these two entities remain separate. Instead there are two "tiers", or levels, of government: city and county. There are 35 municipalities in the county, the City of Miamimarker being the largest.

District Commissioner
1st Barbara J. Jordan
2nd Dorrin D. Rolle
3rd Audrey Edmonson
4th Sally A. Heyman
5th Bruno A. Barreiro
6th Rebeca Sosa
7th Carlos A. Gimenez
8th Katy Sorenson
9th Dennis C. Moss, Chairman
10th Javier D. Souto
11th Joe A. Martinez
12th José Pepe Diaz
13th Natacha Seijas
Cities are the "lower tier" of local government, providing police and fire protection, zoning and code enforcement, and other typical city services within their jurisdiction. These services are paid for by city taxes. The County is the "upper tier", and it provides services of a metropolitan nature, such as emergency management, airport and seaport operations, public housing and health care services, transportation, environmental services, solid waste disposal etc. These are funded by county taxes, which are assessed on all incorporated and unincorporated areas.

Of the county's 2.2 million total residents (as of 2000), approximately 52% live in unincorporated areas, the majority of which are heavily urbanized. These residents are part of the Unincorporated Municipal Services Area (UMSA). For these residents, the County fills the role of both lower- and upper-tier government, the County Commission acting as their lower-tier municipal representative body. Residents within UMSA pay a UMSA tax, equivalent to a city tax, which is used to provide County residents with equivalent city services (police, fire, zoning, water and sewer, etc.). Residents of incorporated areas do not pay UMSA tax.

Structure of county government

The Executive Mayor of Miami-Dade County is elected countywide to serve a four-year term. The Mayor is not a member of the County Commission. The Mayor appoints a County Manager, with approval and consent of the Board of County Commissioners, to oversee the operations of the County Departments. The Mayor has veto power over the Commission. The current mayor is Cubanmarker-born Carlos Alvarez.

The Board of County Commissioners is the legislative body, consisting of 13 members elected from single-member districts. Members are elected to serve four-year terms, and elections of members are staggered. The Board chooses a Chairperson, who presides over the Commission, as well as appoints the members of its legislative committees. The Board has a wide array of powers to enact legislation, create departments, and regulate businesses operating within the County. It also has the power to override the Mayor's veto with a two-thirds vote.

The election of Commissioners from single member districts came to be in 1992 after a group led by attorney and City of Miami Commissioner Arthur Teele, Jr. with the support of some African American and Hispanic civic leaders, challenged the at large election system in the courts, arguing that the present system did not allow for the election of minority commissioners, despite the fact that African American Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler had been elected several times. The court, under the ruling of Judge Graham, created the single member district election system.

Floridamarker's Constitution provides for four elected officials to oversee executive and administrative functions for each county (called "Constitutional Officers"): Sheriff, Property Appraiser, Supervisor of Elections, and Tax Collector. However, the current Constitution allows voters in home-rule counties (including Miami-Dade) to abolish the offices and reorganize them as subordinate County departments; Miami-Dade voters chose this option.

The most visible distinction between Miami-Dade and other Florida counties is the title of its law enforcement agency. It is the only county in Florida that does not have an elected sheriff, or an agency titled "Sheriff's Office." Instead the equivalent agency is known as the Miami-Dade Police Department, and its leader is known as the Metropolitan Sheriff and Director of the Miami-Dade Police Department. The judicial offices of Clerk of the Circuit Court, State Attorney, and Public Defender are still branches of State government and are therefore independently elected and not part of County government.

Public services

Fire Rescue

The Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Department is the agency that provides fire protection and emergency medical services for Miami-Dade County, Florida. The department serves 28 municipalities and all unincorporated areas of Miami-Dade County from 60 fire stations. The Department also provides fire protection services for Miami International Airportmarker, Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airportmarker and Opa-Locka Airportmarker.

The communities served are Aventuramarker, Bal Harbourmarker, Bay Harbor Islandsmarker, Biscayne Parkmarker, Doralmarker, El Portalmarker, Florida Citymarker, Golden Beachmarker, Hialeah Gardensmarker, Homesteadmarker, Indian Creekmarker, Islandiamarker, Medleymarker, Miami Lakesmarker, Miami Shoresmarker, Miami Springsmarker, North Bay Villagemarker, North Miamimarker, North Miami Beachmarker, Opa-lockamarker, Palmetto Baymarker, Pinecrestmarker, South Miamimarker, Surfsidemarker, Sweetwater, Sunny Isles Beachmarker, Virginia Gardensmarker, and West Miamimarker.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue is also the home to Urban Search and Rescue Florida Task Force 1 as well as EMS operations consisting of 57 Advanced Life Support units staffed by 760 state-certified paramedics and 640 state-certified emergency medical technicians.

Police Department

A Miami-Dade police car
The Miami-Dade Police Department is full service metropolitan police department serving Miami-Dade Countymarker's unincorporated areas, although they have lenient mutual aid agreements with other municipalities, most often the City of Miami Police Department. The Miami-Dade Police Department is the largest police department in the state of Floridamarker with over 5,000 employees. The Department is still often referred by its former name, the Metro-Dade Police or simply Metro.

The Miami-Dade Police Department operate out of nine districts throughout Miami-Dade County and have two special bureaus. The current director of the Miami-Dade Police Department is Robert Parker, who succeeded Carlos Alvarez, the current mayor of Miami-Dade County. The Department's headquarters are located in Doral, Floridamarker.

Water and Sewer Department

Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department (MDWASD) is one of the largest public utilities in the United States, employing approximately 2,700 employees as of 2007. It provides service to over 2.4 million customers, operating with an annual budget of almost $400 million. Approximately 330 million gallons of water are drawn everyday from the Biscayne Aquifer for consumer use. MDWASD has over 7,100 miles of water lines, a service area of and 14 pump stations. MDWASD has over 3,600 miles of sewage pipes, a service area of and 954 pump stations


In Florida, each county is also a school district. Miami-Dade County Public Schools, is operated by an independently-elected School Board. A professional Superintendent of Schools manages the day-to-day operations of the district, who is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the School Board. The Miami-Dade County Public School District is currently the fourth-largest public school district in the nation with almost 400,000 students in 2007/2008.

The Miami-Dade Public Library is one of the largest public library systems in the country, comprising 42 branch locations, and 8 branch locations currently being built/not officially opened.

Colleges and universities

Miami-Dade County is home to many private and public universities and colleges. Total approximate college/university student enrollment in the county in 2006 was about 245,000, one of the largest number for university students in the USA.



Miami International Airportmarker, located in an unincorporated area in the county, serves as the primary international airport of the Miami Area. One of the busiest international airports in the world, Miami International Airport caters to over 35 million passengers a year. Identifiable locally, as well as several worldwide authorities, as MIA or KMIA, the airport is a major hub and the single largest international gateway for American Airlines, the world’s largest passenger air carrier. Miami International is the United States’ third largest international port of entry for foreign air passengers (behind New York's John F. Kennedy International Airportmarker and Los Angeles International Airportmarker), and is the seventh largest such gateway in the world. The airport’s extensive international route network includes non-stop flights to over seventy international cities in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

General aviation airports in the county include Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airportmarker in an unincorporated area, Opa-Locka Airportmarker in Opa-Lockamarker, and Homestead General Aviation Airportmarker in an unincirporated area west of Homesteadmarker. Homestead Joint Air Reserve Basemarker, east of Homestead in an unincorporated area, serves military traffic.

Public transit

Public transit in Miami-Dade County is served by Miami-Dade Transit, and is the largest public transit in Florida. Miami-Dade Transit operates a heavy rail metro system Metrorail, an elevated people mover in Downtown Miamimarker, Metromover and the bus system, Metrobus. Currently, expansion of Metrorail is underway with the construction of a new Orange Line.

Major expressways

In Florida a Tolled State Road is often (but not always) denoted by having the word "TOLL" printed on the top of the State Road shield.

When a driver passes through a toll plaza without paying the proper toll a digital image of the cars license tag is recorded. Under Florida Law, this image can be used by the Authority to issue a toll violation.

Miami-Dade County has 10 major expressways and 1 minor expressway in Downtown Miamimarker.

Street grid

A street grid stretches from downtown Miami throughout the county. This grid was adopted by the City of Miami following World War I after the United States Post Office threatened to cease mail deliveries in the city because the original system of named streets, with names often changing every few blocks and multiple streets in the city sharing the same name, was too confusing for the mail carriers. The new grid was later extended throughout the county as the population grew west, south, and north of city limits. The grid is laid out with Miami Avenue as the meridian going North-South and Flagler Street the baseline going east-west. The grid is primarily numerical so that, for example, all street addresses north of Flagler and west of Miami Avenue have NW in their address (eg. NW 27th Avenue). Because its point of origin is in downtown Miami which is close to the coast, the NW and SW quadrants are much larger than the SE and NE quadrants. Many roads, especially major ones, are also named, although, with a few notable exceptions, the number is in more common usage among locals. Although this grid is easy to understand once one is oriented to it, it is not universal in the entire county. Hialeah uses its own grid system which is entirely different in its orientation. Coral Gables and Miami Lakes use named streets almost exclusively, and various smaller municipalities such as Florida City and Homestead use their own grid system along with the Miami-Dade grid system adding to the confusion. Miami Beach has its own system of numbered streets without compass directions.

Sites of interest


Culture and wildlife

Other areas and attractions


Sports venues

Miami-Dade County holds the majority of sports arenas, stadiums and complexes in South Floridamarker. Some of these sports facilities are:

Former venues include:

Sister cities

Miami-Dade County has 23 sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International:


External links

Government links

County departments and agencies

Special districts

Judicial branch



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