Florida Bay

florida bayflorida bayApproximately one-third of Everglades National Park is a very special place called Florida Bay, a marine lagoon that has received international recognition for its superb natural resources. Decades of human intervention have affected the park and Florida Bay, which are dependent upon freshwater flows and a healthy ecosystem to support a diversity of wildlife, including fish important to the local commercial and recreational fishing industry, and the largest preserved mangrove system in the Western Hemisphere.

It is a shallow inner-shelf lagoon located at the southern end of the south Florida watershed. It is an area where fresh water from the everglades mixes with the salty waters from the Gulf of Mexico to form an estuary that is surrounded by mangroves forests and encompasses over 200 mangrove islands.

Its nearly 1,000 square miles of interconnected basins, grassy mud banks, and mangrove islands are nesting, nursery, and/or feeding grounds for a host of marine animals which include the American crocodile, the West Indian manatee, the loggerhead turtle, bottlenose dolphins, a variety of bird species and many gamefish. Parts of the bay are also the nursery grounds for the economically valuable pink shrimp and Caribbean spiny lobster. Florida Bay is also important economically, supporting a 59 million dollar shrimp fishery and 22 million dollar stone crab fishery.

A boat or canoe is needed for exploring Florida Bay. More than 100 keys dot the bay’s shallow waters, which have an average depth of only four to five feet and were built by mangroves whose roots and fallen leaves trapped sediments and organic debris washed in by the tides.

As the sediments collected, an island was born, and it soon became home to a wide range of birds including pelicans, roseate spoonbills, ospreys, white herons, and bald eagles.and many other species of wildlife such as dolphins, sharks, sea turtles, and occasional manatees. Cape Sable is a haven for the loggerhead turtle, a threatened species that lays its eggs in the beach sand. Florida Bay is a vital wildlife sanctuary and docking a boat is only allowed on Bradley Key, Rabbit Key, North Nest Key, and North Sandy Key.

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