Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Point of Rocks Snorkeling Update

Today I took a trip down to Siesta Key just to see what's going on. Last time I visited Point of Rocks was back in June. The water in June was full of algae and so was the beach. It wasn't too pleasant. Recently there have been media reports of heavy algae, high concentrations of bacteria, and a foul smell in the water at Siesta beach. On this trip, conditions were much improved. I found no seaweed piled up on the beach, and the water smelled ok, just a little murky.

I'll be putting up some video of my trip in the next week or so. It will be very helpful to anyone who has never been to Point of Rocks and is thinking about coming here for some snorkeling. I'll make a blog post announcing it when the video is up.

The closest parking to Point of Rocks is access #12. It's a narrow alley at the end of Old Stickney Point Road, pictured below:

When I stepped out onto the beach the first thing I noticed is that the water close to shore seemed a bit discolored and slightly murky, but the deeper water looked much clearer. Looking south toward Point of Rocks you can see the seawall that sticks out into the Gulf where the rocks are:

The water around the rocks was somewhat murky but there were a lot of fish in the water, a dolphin was playing in the area, and there was a group of fishermen further up the beach. I saw a few people snorkeling, so I decided to go in as well. The water is still about 82 degrees, so it is very comfortable. Here is where I went in:

Visibility underwater was about 3 or 4 feet. There was plenty of microscopic algae in the water, which significantly affected the clarity. Still, I saw lots of baitfish, a school of young permit fish, quite a few small snappers, and plenty of healthy seaweeds of all kinds growing on the rocks. There was also a lot of bright red boring sponge on the rocks, which looks and feels like red coral. Very pretty. Despite the limited visibility, I had fun and promised myself that I'd come back again as soon as the water clears up.

After leaving Point of Rocks I drove south to Turtle Beach. I found the water here MUCH clearer and I went right in. Although there aren't any rocks here, I enjoyed snorkeling in the clean water where visibility was about 10 feet. The sand here is different too, much coarser and darker, with lots of crushed shell. It is very soft to walk in when you are in the water.

The beach is steeper at Turtle Beach than at beaches north of Point of Rocks. Twenty feet from dry sand I'm already in waist to chest deep water. Further north I'd still only be ankle deep. After the initial drop off though, it levels off.

Below photo was taken about 25 feet from shore at Turtle Beach:

After I left Turtle Beach I drove back north to Siesta Beach and parked at access #7, about halfway between the public beach and the Village. I just wanted to check the water conditions. The water was much cleaner here than at Point of Rocks, but there were still patches of ruddy, discolored water here and there. No unusual amounts of seaweed on the beach. In the photo below you can see a patch of slightly brownish/reddish colored water surrounded by clearer, cleaner water. Looks like patches of microscopic algal bloom seem to be hugging the coast.

No one knows why the algae is blooming so heavily this year, but some speculate thats that heavy rains after a dry spell send heavy nutrients into the waters, feeding the bloom. I think it is more complex than that. One thing for sure is that it is nature's way of trying to get back in balance.
More Florida Beaches

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Jason said...

I made a short video from POR for International Rock-Flipping Day. Also a short audio sound seeing tour is featured in episode #5 and a couple of Flickr photos.

10:13 PM  
David McRee, --BeachHunter said...

Thanks for commenting and leaving the links, Jason. The video does give a nice teasing glimpse of what can be found living on and among the rocks at POR. Nice quality video on a day with good water clarity. The scientific paper on the rock formations at POR is also an interesting read. I've come across this paper before, but I'd forgotten about it. The Flickr photos are great too. I always get drawn into Flickr photos and pretty soon an hour has gone by...

8:13 AM  

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