Barrier islands protect the Florida mainland from the harsh effects of storms and provide habitats for shorebirds and other coastal animals. Perdido Key is a 247-acre barrier island near Pensacola on the Gulf of Mexico.
Perdido Key's 1980-era pavilion was roofed with cedar shakes. Wooden crossovers traversed dunes covered in rosemary and coastal bluestem. The dune fields, robust and lushly covered with scrub, lead to the calm blue sea.
This image reflects a busy summer weekend at the east use area in 1980. Dune fields are still intact and have yet to experience the high winds and rising tides of hurricanes Opal in 2000, Ivan in 2004 and Katrina in 2005. Work to rebuild facilities in 2005 was set back by Hurricane Katrina. Unstable migrating dunes and remnants of the remaining dune rosemary may take two decades to recover. More than 500,000 sea oats were planted to stabilize the dunes and provide food for wildlife.
The Perdido Key beach mouse, a subspecies of the oldfield mouse, is found only in Escambia County. These nocturnal mice beat the heat in underground burrows during the day and come out at night to hunt for food.
Surfers wait for a breaking wave. Locate the beach flag warning signs for information on beach safety and rip currents. Winter provides the best opportunity for wave action and surfers should remember that wet suits are needed when temperatures drop below 60 degrees. The west use area is the preferred area of the park for surfing, so load up the gear and head on out.
Cockle shells, Florida jewelbox, sea scallops and quahogs crowd a winter beach after the storm. As wave height decreases, shells are cast ashore for early morning visitors. Remember, hermit crabs may occupy whelks and other shells. Small sand dollars can be found in the spring and early summer months.