Sarasota Bay

Sarasota Bay

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Sarasota Bay is a subtropical coastal lagoon enclosed by a necklace of barrier islands to the west and the mainland of Manatee and Sarasota Counties to the east. This coastal lagoon, with its unique embayments, tidal tributaries, small creeks, coves, inlets, and passes, is bounded by Anna Maria Sound to the north and the area just north of Venice Inlet to the south.

An estuary is a partially enclosed body of water along the coast where freshwater from land mixes with salt water from the ocean.

The sea has had a heavy hand in shaping Florida's landforms. About 15,000 years ago, during the last glacial period, glaciers began to retreat to the Earth's poles and release large amounts of water, causing global sea levels to rise about 35 meters. This rise inundated the west Florida shelf and gave the Florida peninsula the shape that we recognize today. The barrier islands that enclose Sarasota Bay are quite young - the oldest are estimated to have formed only 3,000 to 5,000 years ago.

Human activity has also changed the physiography of the Sarasota Bay watershed. Evidence of prehistoric cultures in the area dates back to 10,000 B.C.E. Archaeological studies have shown that these civilizations created large shell middens for home sites and lookouts and dredged canals for inland access. More recent human settlers of the watershed continued digging canals for drainage and dredged channels for boat passage.


Sarasota Bay By the Numbers

Watershed area: 455 square miles
Watershed length: 56 miles
Average depth: 6.5 feet
Deepest point: 27 feet (in the Intracoastal Waterway)
Widest point: 4.5 miles
Narrowest point: 300 feet
Watershed population: approximately 600,000 people
Average annual rainfall: 54.6 inches

Bay Boats

Sarasota Bay Economic Valuation Study.

Why protect the Bay?

Sarasota Bay has supported thriving human civilizations and wildlife populations for thousands of years. With proper management and public buy-in, Sarasota Bay will continue to provide habitat for wildlife, and economic and recreational opportunities for residents and visitors. A healthy Sarasota Bay is essential for a thriving local and regional economy.

 

Water Atlas

The Sarasota County Water Atlas and Manatee County Water Atlas websites host information about Sarasota Bay and its neighboring waterbodies. Visit these sites to download water quality data, view historic images and maps, experience the area through virtual watershed tours, and more.

The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program is dedicated to restoring the area's greatest natural asset - Sarasota Bay. We offer special thanks to our partners: Sarasota County, Manatee County, City of Sarasota, City of Bradenton, Town of Longboat Key, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Southwest Florida Water Management District.