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Boca Chica Beach: Manmade Beaches vs. Rocky Shores

May 22, 2011

Key West’s beaches are  man-made with imported sand.

Dead sea grass washes up onto Key West's sandy beaches. The decomposing piles of vegetation smell like rotting eggs.

Manmade beaches are meant to attract tourists, not wildlife, but sea turtles do make use of Key West’s beaches for egg laying every summer. Unfortunately, the area where imported sand meets the sea becomes a wasteland in which no corals, sponges or seagrass beds thrive.

To see what the shores of the Lower Keys looked like before tourism, drive to the end of Boca Chica Road at Mile Marker 10 in Geiger Key.  Follow the footroad past the shallow, sandy beach to a stretch of gorgeous, rocky shoreline.

Artistically piled rocks on the shore.

This is a fun place to look at small critters trapped  in tide pools.  Calerpa, sponge, and even some coral polyps grow in the submerged rock ledge. Just off the ledge wave acres of thriving seagrass beds. Seagrass beds house imperiled seahorses (and many other creatures) and feed endangered manatee (and more.) Seagrass also acts as a filtration system within the ecosystem, helping maintain water clarity and health.

A shrine to a sea-goddess?

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