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Resources of Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve Quick Topics

Archaeological Features

There are several major archaeological and historic sites within the boundaries of Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve and the adjacent upland areas. In addition, most of the area has not been surveyed and it is anticipated that additional sites will be located. The sites include both Native American and European encampments and villages, but most are prehistoric shell (kitchen) middens such as Mound Key. Due to sea level rise, the majority of coastal sites from the earliest occupation of the area lie drowned in the bay or further out in the Gulf of Mexico.

Estero River shoreline

Natural Communities

Estero Bay contains several natural community types. Although overlap between the different communities often occurs, they remain distinct community types. The dominant community type in Estero Bay is the mangrove forest, but seagrass beds, salt marshes, tidal flats, oyster bars, and others are also present.

Pelican chicks


The combination of subtropical climate, the lagoon configuration, and vegetation make this estuarine complex one of the most productive in the state. Approximately 40% of the state's endangered and threatened species are found within this area. The estuary also indirectly supports a variety of commercial and sport fisheries by providing nursery area, which substantially adds to the local economy. The estuary is also an important home for bird nesting colonies and a valuable stopover area for migrating birds.

Aerial of Estero Bay

Physical Features

The Estero Bay estuary complex began to form approximately 5,000 years ago when a rise in sea level flooded the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River and the smaller rivers and creeks of the present Estero Bay area. This flooding caused sediments to be deposited at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River and the lesser streams. The sediments from the Caloosahatchee River were carried by the longshore currents south to be deposited as barrier islands bounding the present Estero Bay. The sediments deposited from the smaller rivers and streams in Estero Bay filled in the bay to cause its present shallow depth.

Estero Bay was formed into a lagoonal type estuary by the lack of significant fresh water input and a weak tidal exchange due to the restricted size of its inlets. This lagoonal formation may have been further aggravated by the present bridges and causeways in the area.

Last updated: December 18, 2015

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