Beach Lightning © Harry Purcell


Barrier islands are unique coastal features. Being surrounded completely by water lends itself to lots of opportunities for recreational pursuits in and on the water. The waters surrounding Pensacola Beach have some of the most diverse and plentiful reefs you will find anywhere.
The process of becoming an island is believed to go back millions of years as quartz eroded from the Appalachian Mountains and was deposited by river into the Gulf. The sand migrated westward with currents and vegetation took root. Santa Rosa Island stabilized into a land mass that continues to shift and reshape. Dunes and the wrack line along the shore are ecologically important aspects of a barrier island.

Coastal Barrier Island Nav

Artificial Reefs

Barrier Island Formation Nav

Barrier Island Formation

Dunes Nav

Dunes & Transitions

Barrier islands are vulnerable to impacts from sea level rise and invasive plant and animal species. This section ends with an introduction to citizen science and an invitation to contribute to a better understanding of this unique environment.

Invasive Nav

Invasive Species

Sea Level Nav

Sea Level Rise

Citizen Science Nav

Citizen Science

Content for this section was provided by Rick O’Connor and Carrie Stevenson through the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (UF/IFAS) partnership with Escambia County. Content for the artificial reef topic was developed with the assistance of Robert Turpin, Manager of the Escambia County Marine Resources Division.