Nature’s Wonder – The Indian River Lagoon

The Indian River Lagoon is one of Florida’s natural wonders and its northern end begins at Volusia County’s Ponce de Leon Inlet. The Lagoon stretches 156 miles to the south where it ends at Jupiter Inlet. This place where fresh water mixes with sea water is known as “the ocean’s cradle,” an “underwater rainforest” and “North America’s most diverse estuary.” 

It is home to more than 4,000 species of plants and animals including sea turtles, seahorses, manatees and a bottle nosed dolphin that lives only in the Indian River Lagoon.

The Lagoon’s many seagrass beds and mangrove mud flats are home also to numerous sea creatures — oysters, clams, shrimp, crabs and fish — who depend on the
nurture of this rich and fragile habitat. The lagoon holds one-third of the United States’ manatee population and more than 50 other endangered or threatened species. That and other reasons caused the federal government to name it an Estuary of National Significance.

The IRL is not really a river; rather it is an estuary; a body of water between a strip of ocean-facing outer islands and the mainland where rivers, creeks and stormwater run to meet the flushing tidal waters from the ocean inlet. Here in Volusia County the temperate climate meets the tropical climate combining that mix of wildlife and plant species in the rich waters of an estuarine environment creats a tremendous diversity of life. The Lagoon is a place where the roseate spoonbill meets the oyster catcher, where the brown pelican roosts near the snowy egret.

Volusia County’s portion of the IRL is a spectacular part of the Lagoon. From its natural inlet shouldered by the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse and park on the north and Dunes Park on the south, to the end of the Mosquito Lagoon where the Canaveral National Seashore meets the Kennedy Space Center, this portion of the IRL is the least impacted by urban sprawl. The Mosquito Lagoon is also home to a large portion of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, the state’s Mosquito Lagoon Aquatic Preserve and New Smyrna Beach’s newest park, the Indian River Lagoon Preserve. It’s an amazing unbroken stretch of aquatic preserve from the heart of the City of New Smyrna Beach to the Haulover Canal near Titusville —some of the most pristine marine estuarine environment in Florida.

The estuary is vital to us, because it’s the place where so much of our fishery is generated. Without an estuary you can’t spawn and raise as much fish of all kinds – shellfish, sport fish, and so on. Some of the inhabitants just stay right here in the lagoon. Others come here to spawn and end up repopulating the ocean. An estuary is critically important to the overall health of the environment.

Having a healthy fishery from a commercial stand point also adds to the economy. Tourism, fisheries and other commercial activities thrive. Within Volusia County’s portion of the IRL you will find the Intracoastal Waterway, harbors, industry, and a home to commercial and recreational fisheries. Boating, tourism and other
recreational facilities also support economic activity that would be greatly diminished if we fail to maintain a
beautiful and healthy Indian River Lagoon.

Several local organizations, the Marine Discovery Center, the Marine Science Center, Volusia County Environmental Management, Audubon Society, Ponce Inlet Port Authority and ECHO among them, all work to keep our portion of the IRL healthy and attractive. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission plans a new $20 million Ecocenter and fish hatchery at the former site of the New Smyrna Beach high school. Several local organizations including the Marine Discovery Center will locate programs at the Ecocenter.

At the Marine Discovery Center a big part of our mission to preserve and protect the IRL involves  educating the public about the wonders of our estuary and why it is in our self interest to keep it healthy. Taking an MDC kayak Ecotour, for example, brings not only an up close and personal knowledge of this vital environment but a renewal to the soul as well. Toward the end of 2008 MDC will be offering kayak tours from New Smyrna Beach’s 192 acre Indian River Lagoon Preserve located beachside off Saxon Drive at the end of Sandpiper Street. Or, you can take the Water Taxi to New Smyrna Beach from Ponce Inlet and see a beautiful stretch of the estuary along the way.

If you haven’t investigated the creatures of the lagoon in Volusia County I recommend you do so — it’s a very special place right here in our part of the world. Contact the Marine Discovery Center at 386 428-4828 for more information on activities in and around the lagoon.


State of the Indian River Lagoon
Aquatic Sports and Adventures
Welcome EcoTourists to Our Nature
A Word With Surf Guru – Jimmy Lane
Directory of Activities
Directory od Merchant Sponsors