Collier County is globally known for its extraordinary number of pristine waterways. Our major water landmarks include Rookery Bay, Gordon River, Naples Bay, Wiggins and Gordon Pass, Big Cypress, Marco Island, Keewaydin Island, and 10,000 Islands. These waterways are home to some of the most diverse ecosystems in the state of Florida.
Rookery Bay extends beyond the north bay of Marco Island and includes the intercoastal waterways behind Keewaydin. This is a massive mangrove forest that is home to many endangered animals from the florida panther to the snail kite.
Gordon Pass leads to Naples bay which stems from the Gordon River. It is at the end of the Port Royal community in Naples. There are currently water, electric and sewer lines going under the pass to Keewaydin Island.
Gordon River starts deep within the mangroves juist east of Naples. It eventually flows into Naples Bay. Due to the efforts of the Conservancy, whose campus sits on the river, a natural water filter was installed to filter the water runoff from Coastland Mall. The filter transformed the Gordon River’s start back to a thriving ecosystem.
Marco Island sits as one of the last real outpost before the 10,000 islands. Off its coast is a mass breeding ground for sharks, stingrays, and dolphins.
Keewaydin Island is seven miles long located between Naples and Marco Island. It is a natural barrier protecting the intercoastal waterways know as Rookery Bay. The eastern side of the islands is mangrove forests, while its western facing side is a white sand beach. At the very southern tip, only accessible by boat, is a massive sand bar where you can camp. There was an attempt to build the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” to connect Keewaydin to Naples, but it was stopped by the efforts of the Conservancy.
10,000 Islands make up a chain of islands and mangrove inlets spanning from Monroe to Collier County. This roughly 100 mile stretch of small mangrove islands consist of mud, organic debris, and oyster bars. The Picayune Strand State Forest has built three canals within it through Goodland, Collier County, and Port of Islands, which all join together to flow south into the southern 10,000 islands and West Everglades. The mud and debris accumulated within 10,000 islands helps to prevent erosion, and the islands are anchored with mangrove roots, which can cause the islands to safely grow larger over time.
Big Cypress is a national park consisting of over 700,000 acres of protected swamp land. It is essential to the health of the neighboring Everglades and supports the rich marine estuaries along Florida's southwest coast. For years, sugar farming waste north of Lake Okeechobee has caused the over-nutrientation of the waterways with phosphorus, which promotes the growth of cattails in the low nutrient watershed. The phosphorus pollution from big sugar has the potential to change the landscape of Big Cypress by impacting the diversified plant life that thrive at different depths of the microtopography. Cattails, or typha, can grow at all depths and will completely take over Big Cypress if the flow of phosphorus isn’t diverted.