Sarasota Bay with Ringling Bridge

Sarasota Bay

Sarasota Bay is a subtropical coastal lagoon formed 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.



Sarasota Bay By the Numbers

Watershed area: 455 square miles
Watershed length: 56 miles
Average depth: 6.5 feet
Deepest point: 27 feet
Widest point: 4.5 miles
Narrowest point: 300 feet
Population: approximately 600,000 people
Average annual rainfall: 54.6 inches



Sarasota Bay is composed of a series of smaller embayments including Palma Sola Bay, Sarasota Bay proper, Roberts Bay, Little Sarasota Bay, and Blackburn Bay. Each embayment is unique. They differ in overall
size, shape, water depth, shoreline features, habitat, and sediment characteristics. This leads to differences in water circulation, freshwater inputs, nutrient loads, and other variables impacting on the Bay’s health and vitality. Because of these differences, each embayment must be analyzed and managed independently as well as in the watershed context.


Tributaries are creeks or streams that direct stormwater from the adjacent lands (watershed) and discharge it into a particular embayment. The primary tributaries include Bowlees Creek, Whitaker Bayou and Hudson Bayou (Sarasota Bay proper), Phillippi Creek (Roberts Bay), Catfish Creek and North Creek (Little Sarasota Bay), and South Creek (Blackburn Bay).


Currents in the bay are tide- and wind-dominated and range from 0.3 feet per second in open bay areas to 1.5 feet per second within inlets. Areas of minimal water circulation are found in the middle of both Sarasota Bay and Little Sarasota Bay. The amount of time required for a total exchange of water within the bay is estimated to be between two and fifteen days.

One to four tide changes occur in Sarasota Bay during each 24-hour period, with an average tidal range of 2.1 feet. Average wave height in Sarasota Bay is less than one foot.

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.