Santa Rosa Island – A History

By Jane Johnson

While Santa Rosa Island may be thought of by some as a relaxing place to watch the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Santa Rosa Sound along with a plethora of birds, fish and other wildlife—not to leave out the beautiful heavens above—the Island has been embroiled in historical upheavals from its very formation to current times. This History is not a
scholarly work, but hopefully factual and interesting; it will appear in four or more installments in the Newsletter.

The main sources for this history include Gulf Islands, The Sands of all Time by Jesse Earle Bowden (1994);; Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia; the
original lease of Navarre Beach by Santa Rosa County from Escambia County (1956); excerpts from the 1970 Annual Report of the Okaloosa Island Authority; Chapter 75-456 House Bill No. 2307 abolishing the Okaloosa Island Authority (1975); and the Okaloosa Island Leaseholders Association Newsletter of May 2000.

The very formation of the 45 mile (some say 48 mile) long barrier island from Pensacola Bay to Destin’s East Pass must have been a sight to behold. Geologists believe that barrier islands in general began to form during the end of the last Ice Age about 15,000 years ago as glaciers melted and the sea level rose. It is believed that Santa Rosa Island was formed some 4000 to 5000 years ago by quartzite river sediment coming from the Appalachian Mountains via the Choctawhatchee River providing our beautiful white sand. But this must have been a turbulent time at the end of the ice age with the oceans rising as glaciers melted pushing the Gulf Islands toward the west and north and storms likely undoing thousands of years work, only for the process to continue. Finally an island formed and the ecological process began. Basic plants such as sea oats provided habitats for small animal forms leading to the flora and fauna we see today.

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