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Florida Gulf Coast beach

Ever Changing Sands of the Florida Gulf Coast

Beaches on the move

Clearwater Beach dunes and beachThe beaches along the Florida Gulf Coast are among the best loved beaches in America. The soft white sand is soothing to the feet and glows brightly in the sunshine. The pleasant nature of the sand makes the beaches famous, and the area has become a favorite vacation destination. What visitors to the area might not realize, however, is how much Mother Nature can move around that soft white sands.

 

Effects of Wind and Sea on the Beach

Kiteboarding Clearwater BeachA visit to the beaches of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida will introduce you to the powdery white sands of which we speak. While pushing  your toes through the sands, your feet will tell you how soft the tiny grains are. Some call it “sugar sand” while others compare it to powder. On a day with higher winds, you might feel the sand gently blowing across your ankles. Over time, this can create a considerable effect. In addition to the wind, the weather patterns create different currents offshore. Over time, the effects of wind and water can significantly change the beach landscape.

 

Mangroves and Sand Dunes on the Florida Gulf Coast

Mangrove shores of the Florida Nature CoastWhile you visit the beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast, you will notice two things; mangrove trees and sand dunes. Mangrove trees are easy to identify from their sturdy root systems that lift the trees up over the sand or water. These trees help to clean the water while protecting the shoreline from erosion. While a shore of mangrove trees may not be as appealing to some as a wide-open, sandy beach, the trees are an essential part of the Florida coastline. Mangroves can even withstand the powerful forces of hurricanes, protecting inland areas from many of the storms’ effects. Clearwater Beach sand dunesSand dunes may sometimes block the view of the open sand and sea, but they form an irreplaceable function for the beaches. They store sand for times of greater erosion and help to block the flood waters during storm surges. A beach without dunes is far more vulnerable to erosion than one with a healthy dune system. On your Florida vacation, be sure to treat the mangrove forests and the grasses on the sand dunes with the respect they deserve.

 

History of Shifting Sands on the Florida Gulf Coast

Johns Pass

Johns PassThe most famous story of our changing shoreline comes from a location known as John’s Pass, currently a fun tourist day trip destination. However, the popular boating route and tourist stop of John’s Pass did not always exist. The barrier islands along the coast of what is now Pinellas County continued uninterrupted past the present day channel. According to local history, a storm in 1848 washed away the sands and left an opening in the barrier islands, connecting the Gulf of Mexico and the intra-coastal waterway. The passage is now an essential route for boaters that includes a large drawbridge. Waterfront dining and shops have capitalized on the location, which is a plus for tourists to the Central Gulf Coast.

Dunedin Pass

Clearwater Beach to Caladesi IslandThe second, well-known change in the shoreline was started in 1921 by a hurricane. The water channel known as Dunedin Pass was altered by the storm, and in combination with other forces, caused the sand bar at the north end of Clearwater Beach to migrate northward until the pass closed. It is now possible to walk from Clearwater Beach to Caladesi Island, although locals have not allowed Caladesi’s status as an independent island to fade.

Three Rooker Bar

sand barAnother unique feature of the local coastal landscape shaped by tidal forces is Three Rooker Bar. This land feature began as a sand bar but now is a tiny island supporting both plant and animal life. Thanks to the quickly changing landscape of Three Rooker Bar, you will find it listed online as both an island and a sand bar, depending on where you look. If the forces that made the sand bar continue, not only will the title of island remain, but the island will continue to grow in size.

 

Florida Gulf Coast has a Tradition of Change

Hurricane Pass Dunedin FloridaThe beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast have a tradition of change. While mankind can and does have an effect on preserving beaches, the landscape will continue to shift. You can experience this process for yourself by visiting the channel that runs between Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island. This passage owes its existence to the hurricane of 1921, thus giving it the name Hurricane Pass. You will find long spits of soft, white sand reaching out toward the passage from both islands. You will also see large, areas of sand just beneath the surface, many of which you can walk on during low tides. If you are lucky enough to return to the beaches year after year, you will notice a marked change at Hurricane Pass. The sands on either side of the boating channel are in constant flux. The shape of the beaches changes visibly, while the sand bars move from one location to another.

 

Gulf Coast Beaches

Palm shadows on the beachYour beach holiday on the shores of Florida’s West Coast will surely be amazing. The beaches are renowned for their soft white sands and wonderful weather. You can choose between a manicured public beach or the wild shores of the less-visited barrier islands. In fact, you can visit both during the same day! Keep in mind that the beaches you walk upon might appear the way they do just for you, right at that moment. The next time you visit, you can then see if you recognize the subtle changes in our beaches. Finding the differences can be entertaining so be sure to bring your camera. It might be fun to add the changing sands of the Central Gulf Coast to the list of beautiful sights you will see on your Florida vacation.

 

 

Low tide on Florida Gulf Coast

How Knowing Tidal Schedules Can Make or Break Your Florida Gulf Coast Vacation

Tides of the Florida Central Gulf Coast

Low tide at Honeymoon Island FloridaUnderstanding Tampa Bay tides might help you to enjoy your vacation more. Knowing the water level can help make activities like boating, fishing, and beach combing more enjoyable. The tides of Tampa Bay are more difficult to predict than you might think. Because Tampa Bay is so large, the tides take quite a while to reach the far reaches of the interior bay areas. You will find the tide on one side of the peninsula might be higher or lower than the other. While the interior coastline of Tampa Bay doesn’t have much in the way of beaches, if you are boating on the bay you will definitely want to check the proper charts. Fortunately, area residents know the different tidal areas and charts are available in which you can find the exact area you intend to visit. However, if you are cruising the beaches along the Gulf Coast, you will not find the tidal variations a problem, and you can check a single chart for all the coastal beaches. But why check the charts at all? Let’s take a look at some good reasons to know the tides.

Florida Central Gulf Coast Tides Might Leave You High and Dry

Sailboat at Honeymoon islandBoaters need to know the tides of the Florida Gulf Coast more than anyone. That seems obvious enough but how can that effect your vacation? Well, if you wind up on a boat, it might have quite a big effect. Because the waters of our harbors are so shallow, it is necessary for any boat with a motor to have sonar to detect depth. Running aground in the shallows is a serious danger. If you wind up renting a boat or Jet Ski, you need to be aware of water depth and keep to the marked channels. However, motorized boats aren’t the only craft that need to know how deep the water is. Even a tiny kayak can bottom out in our harbors, inlets and bayous. It is quite common for kayakers to get out and walk across low tide areas. While walking in the waters of the Gulf Coast can be pleasant, it can also be mucky. Planning your trip with the tides in mind is a good idea.

Plan Your Fishing Trip around the Gulf Coast Tides

Fishing the Florida Gulf CoastIf you plan to fish along our coastlines, you should look up the tides. Wading out into the shallows of the Gulf is much more pleasant at high tide when your buoyancy will keep you from sinking into a muddy bottom. You might also find the fish come in at high tide to feed in areas unavailable at low tide. Dolphins sighted fishing the shallows at high tide are proof of that. You can also use the tides to know when the best time is to catch fish in the tidal currents off the ends of the islands and at the mouths of inlets and bayous.

Low Tide is the Best Time to Walk the Gulf Coast Beaches

Clearwater BeachLow tide on the Florida Gulf Coast is one of the best times to walk the beach. The swath of hard packed sand is larger, and you will see many more shells. On the dry, tumbled sand, it is sometimes hard to find any shells at all. You will also find more unbroken shells near the waterline at low tide. You might even catch a glimpse of the live sea life down by the water. It is common to find living sea snails washed onto the shore, as well as live starfish, sand dollars, and clams. It can be interesting to see them in their natural state.

As far as high tide goes, you might find that it is the best time to swim, as the water is not so shallow.

Drying out Live Starfish and Shells

Seashells for salePlease don’t do that. Because we are a popular tourist resort, it is a good idea for visitors to leave live sea animals alone. If each tourist took live starfish or sea snails from the shore, it could have an impact on the sea life. Leave the live animals in place so that the next tourist can experience the pleasure of seeing them too. Gift shops and even the beach Walgreens have shells and starfish for sale that are in perfect condition. Also, store-bought shells and starfish already have the odors removed, which is more difficult to do on your own than you might think. Trust us when we say that odor free mementos make much better souvenirs of your Florida Gulf Coast vacation.

 

Other posts you might like:

Hurricane Pass Tidal Currents

Caladesi Island Kayak Trail

Central Gulf Coast Fishing Secret

 

Pass between Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island, Florida

Hurricane Pass Tidal Currents

Gulf Coast Local Secret # 6

Hurricane Pass, DunedinUnique Gulf Coast Tidal Currents

Hurricane Pass is located between Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island off the Dunedin Causeway in Dunedin Florida. Other locations in the area also have inlets dubbed “hurricane pass,” but this one is accessible on foot along the beaches. The pass was created by a hurricane nearly a hundred years ago and now serves as a great throughway for boat traffic. Because of its location, it is affected by tides from the inland waterways of Saint Joseph Sound on either side of the Dunedin Causeway. When the tides move in and out of the sound, the water is pushed through this narrow channel in great volume and speed.

 

Why Is Hurricane Pass a Gulf Coast Local Secret?

Hurricane Pass

Hurricane Pass Video

While most people know about the pass, what locals have discovered is that visiting the pass during incoming and outgoing tides can be fun! If you are an experienced kayaker, you can play in the tides that pull past the tip of Caladesi Island. On foot, you will see how the nearby city of Clearwater got its name when the crystal clear waters go swishing past your feet on the tip of Honeymoon Island. You might catch a glimpse here of eddies that grow as big as 100 feet across.

 

Play Safe in the Gulf of Mexico

Keep safety in mind when playing in the Gulf of Mexico. Dipping into these powerful currents is not recommended! Avoid stepping near the edge of the shallow ledge of sand that is clearly visible at this location. Keep the kids under good control. Great, safe places to swim are a very short stroll away so use those if you want do dive in. Please enjoy this wonder of nature with a measure of prudence.

Related Links

Caladesi Island Kayak Trail

Beach Troubles Solved

Central Gulf Coast Fishing Secret