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Barrier Islands

land-boom-and-bust-hilite-1.jpgFlorida has more barrier islands than any other state. In Palm Beach County, a number of low, narrow barrier islands separate the mainland from the Atlantic Ocean and help protect it from erosion caused by the pounding waves and harsh winds of storms. Barrier islands are formed when heaps of sand, soil, and shells are swept up from the ocean floor by massive storm waves. As the waves retreat, they leave behind a ridge of sand. There are remnants of seven of these islands in Palm Beach County.

Plants take root and trap sand blown inland by the special plants whose roots form an invisible network of underground strength, weaving horizontally, vertically, and diagonally to stabilize the island. Some barrier islands have an ancient coral reef at their base, covered by only three to six feet of sand. Only grasses and scrubby vegetation can eke out a living in these sandy soils. But within the layers formed over time, these islands preserve artifacts from earlier cultures and the remains of animals that once lived here.

Scientists have found evidence that the high sand ridges to the west of the present barrier island/lagoon system were once part of another such system, complete with its own inlets, when water levels were higher.

Palm Beach County’s northernmost barrier island extends into Martin County. The county border cuts across Jupiter Island about midway between Coral Cove Park and Blowing Rocks Preserve. To the south is Singer Island, separated from Palm Beach by the Lake Worth Inlet. Palm Beach has a large Ridge of coral reef limestone as its spine and was not an island until the South Lake Worth (or Boynton) Inlet was cut in 1926-1927. Another cut, made through this rock long ago for Country Club Road, is said to be the deepest road cut in Florida.

The long stretch from the Lake Worth Inlet to the South Lake Worth Inlet includes the communities of Palm Beach, South Palm Beach, Manalapan, Ocean Ridge, Gulfstream, and part of Boynton Beach.
The southernmost barrier island in Palm Beach County was formed when the Florida East Coast Canal (now the Intracoastal Waterway) was dug in the 1890s. Between the South Lake Worth and Boca Raton inlets, the municipalities of Delray Beach, Highland Beach, and Boca Raton have been
Developed on the island. South Lake Worth Inlet includes the communities of Palm Beach, South Palm Beach, Manalapan, Ocean Ridge, Gulfstream, and part of Boynton Beach.

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