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Archaeological Features

The Florida Department of State's Division of Historical Resources Master Site File indicates there are scores of historical sites adjacent to the Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves (IRLAP) System. Archaeological sites date from 10,000 BC to 1700 AD and include Spanish Fleet Survivors and Salvors Camp, Jungle Trail, and Mount Elizabeth. Historical sites include architectural, military, social, transportation, commerce and conservation sites. Many of the aboriginal shell mounds along the IRLAP System were destroyed for roadfill for U.S. highways 1 and A1A, and other highways and train beds.

Black mangrove on oyster shell

Natural Communities

The Indian River Lagoon is a coastal estuary defined by its seagrass-based ecology. Other important natural communities include mangrove swamps, algal beds, and unconsolidated substrate.


Two roseate spoonbills

Wildlife and Plants

The IRL contains one of the richest and most productive estuarine faunas in the continental United States. The IRLAP System straddles the boundary between subtropical and temperate systems. As a result, the IRLAP System represents a latitudinal ecotone where flora and fauna from each province overlap. Many tropical and temperate species reach their north/south distribution limit within the IRLAP System. Due to the geographic location, tidal connectivity through inlets, and freshwater tributaries, the IRLAP System is teeming with a unique combination of temperate and tropical species that tolerate a wide salinity range (fresh to estuarine). To date, more than 1,000 native species, including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, invertebrates and plants, have been located and identified within the IRLAP System and adjacent floodplain.

Spoil islands

Physical Features

The eastern side of the IRLAP System consists of barrier islands that extend south of two unique land features, Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island. Historically, narrow points of the barrier islands have been breached during storms. The temporary shallow inlets, which formed, later closed due to siltation. Man's intervention through dredging and stabilization has allowed saline water from the Atlantic Ocean to mix with fresh water creating the lagoon environment that is found today. The Canaveral Lock, Sebastian Inlet, Ft. Pierce Inlet, St. Lucie Inlet and Jupiter Inlet are the only connections between the IRLAP System and the Atlantic Ocean. Of these, only the Jupiter Inlet is a natural connection to the ocean.

Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves

Last updated: November 10, 2016

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