50 foot Water Geysars on the Atlantic coast’s largest limestone shoreline
Florida Travel Guide: Blowing Rocks Nature Conservancy Preserve
This 73-acre barrier island sanctuary has the longest Anastasia limestone shoreline on the U.S. Atlantic Coast. At Indian River Lagoon’s southern edge, the restored native coastal habitats at Blowing Rocks Preserve are home to endangered plants and animals, including the rare loggerhead, green and leatherback sea turtles. It’s an area open to wonder, from sea caves large enough to stand in to spectacular views from the shade of a gumbo limbo tree. One-mile long, the craggy shoreline and dune habitat offer a glimpse into how Florida’s barrier islands looked a century ago.
Located on Jupiter Island, approximately 25 miles north of West Palm Beach, this shoreline, carved by wind and waves, is one of Florida’s unique beaches and rare landscapes. Winter is also the best time to visit as it’s during major storms and extreme high tides that waves pound against the limestone shoreline shooting saltwater plumes as high as 50 feet into the air.
Water Plumes and Blowing Rocks
Straddling the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon, Blowing Rocks Preserve was donated to the Nature Conservancy in 1969. Although the rugged shoreline resembles lava flow, it’s a sedimentary rock formed 120,000 years ago that stretches underground from St. Augustine to Boca Raton. What’s unique about this Anastasia limestone, is that it’s above the water surface and visible. Upon close inspection you can find small fossils – clam, oyster and snail shells – along with coral fragments. This is the reason for its “coquina” moniker, Spanish for cockleshell. The most unique sight, are the water geysars that spew from the rocky shelves, pools and blow holes.
Scan the Jupiter Island tide schedule so you can visit during low tide and scramble among the rocks and uncover the many sea caves. It’s the kind of discovery that sparks imagination and wonder in young and old alike. Just make sure that you don’t get caught up in your exploration and forget about the changing tide!
Although the major attractions are the 50-foot geysars, watch osprey dive with outstretched talons or look for the coral bean’s fiery red tubular flowers. Migrating warblers such as the palm and ruby-throated hummingbirds are among the birds that winter in the milder climate.
Flora and Fauna
Along with an impressive water show are native Florida habitats – an intact Florida dune habitat with beach sunflower, sea grape and sea oats; a mangrove swamp with red, black and white mangroves and burgeoning seagrass guarding urchins, blue claw crab and endangered manatees. From endangered sea turtles returning to lay their eggs to fiddler crabs skittering along the shore, from gumbo limbo trees to Jamaica caper, there are unique sights during each season. Walk some of the hiking trails with informative placards to see more of the habitat. Pathways lead through a tunnel of sea grapes, hardwood hammocks and coastal strands.
Since the mid 1980s, wetland and beachside restoration conducted by the Nature Conservancy has revitalized a disappearing Florida landscape. While encroaching development and climate change are of concern, invasive species such as the Australian pine, boat wakes along the lagoon, and soil dumped from 1950s Intracoastal dredging, all contributed to the large-scale restoration work.
Hawley Education Centre
The centre has rotating educational exhibits, programs and lecture series that give people a better understanding of Florida habitats from underwater coral nurseries to Longleaf pine forests, and a deeper appreciation for the The Nature Conservancy’s work to protect Floridian native habitats, plants and animals. Built in 1996, the center is also the headquarters for the Conservancy’s ocean and coastal programs.
Walk along the interpretive trails or through the native plant demonstration garden. Swim, snorkel or scuba dive. Sit under the shade of a gumbo limbo tree and take in the scenery. The center is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, except for major holidays.
Beach access: $2 adults, $1 members, children 12 and under/free.
Annual beach pass $37. Group pass (up to 6) $65.
574 South Beach Road
Hobe Sound, FL 33455-2804