Sanibel and Captiva Islands
Blind Pass, Sanibel Island - Southwest Florida Beauty
By Mark M Washburn
Blind Pass is one of the best kept secrets in Southwest Florida, a rare jewel that is open to anyone lucky enough to live or be visiting near the barrier reef islands of Captiva and Sanibel. Until recently, Blind Pass was a naturally occurring channel of water that separated the two islands. Because it connects the bay with the gulf, Blind Pass is one of the best shelling spots in Florida. Its waters yield seashells that inhabit both the bay and gulf in one consolidated location. After a fierce storm, Turner Beach, the beach adjoining the Pass, is frequently covered with a bounty of shells from Olives to Fighting Whelks to the more common Conchs. The fishing is also renowned with sharks in the summer, tailing redfish on the bayside flats and snook under and off the Blind Pass bridge. Because Turner Beach faces Westward, the sunsets are spectacular and a popular viewing point for residents and visitors alike.
For many first-time visitors, the experience of driving over the Blind Pass bridge from Sanibel to Captiva is like driving from one fantasy to another. The first Blind Pass bridge was built in 1918. Before then a county ferry crossed the pass in 1911. Today, a new modern bridge built in the 1980s, spans the narrow pass. Parking lots on both sides of the bridge facilitate casual outings, including fishing and picnics.
While Blind Pass is still a popular spot, it has changed dramatically in the last 15 years. Back in the 1990s, Blind Pass began to fill with sand and finally closed completely, so that the South end of Captiva was physically joined with Sanibel. Immediately, the local environment began to deteriorate although the beauty of the spot remains singular. The gamefish that previously thrived in the Pass, such as snook, sea trout and redfish, slowly abandoned the waters of the Pass, leaving only mullet. Vast swaths of sea grass died from the accumulating sediments that buried the grass. An attempt to simply dredge an opening through the sand failed when the new opening sanded in within 10 days. Engineers and casual observers agreed that one of the primary reasons the Pass filled in so quickly was the tremendous backlog of sand East of the bridge. Accordingly, any new attempt to re-open the Bridge would have to allow for the more daunting task of removing these sands.
Initially the dredging project was estimated to be completed in 2004 but is now scheduled for completion in May 2009. The restoration consists of removing approximately 127,000 cubic yards of materials from the Pass and interior waters to re-establish a connection to the Gulf of Mexico. Long-term goals include improvement of the habitat for mangroves, seagrasses, shorebirds, and fisheries with a maintenance program to maintain the Pass and its accompanying ecosystem for the foreseeable future. In addition to cleaner waters, a restored Pass lends itself to more recreational activities for locals and tourists, as well as shoring up real estate.
An unplanned side effect of the dredging project is an increase in reported shark sightings -- especially in the early morning and early evening hours. Because the dredging is stirring up the waters, food sources are easier to get to for the organisms that attract the smaller fish that sharks feed upon. While the City of Sanibel has issued an advisory, coastal engineers maintain that the sharks that are moving in are sand sharks, which are not known to attack humans. In fact, the Lee County Division of Natural Resource believes it's a great opportunity to observe sharks up-close. A more benign consequence has been the appearance of many birds who are waiting around for food and appear to be unfazed by the people watching them and the sharks.
Mark Washburn is a real estate agent serving the Greater Fort Myers area. Mark and his team can assist clients in communities throughout Southwest Florida including Fort Myers, Estero, Sanibel, Captiva, Cape Coral and Bonita Springs.
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