Whether you are soaking up the sun on the beaches of Panama City or fishing off the coast of Destin, the Emerald Coast beaches all have a gorgeous trademark in common– powdery white sand and emerald green waters. Every year, millions of visitors from around the world make the journey to the Florida Panhandle to sink their toes into this sugary white sand. While Florida is surrounded by beaches on both the East and West side, what makes the sand on the Emerald Coast so special? Why is the sand so fine and white specifically on the Gulf Coast?
The secret– Quartz Crystal. This silica-composed mineral makes up nearly 97%-98% of our sand.
At the end of the ice age over 20,000 years ago, ice caps around the globe began melting as the Earth’s temperatures started to rise. This process took place in what we now call the Appalachian Mountains. The effect of this process? Large volumes of water melted from the Appalachians began streaming down rivers, straight into the oceans and seas. Specifically, the Apalachicola River began rising and running down to the Gulf of Mexico, carrying Quartz particles from the mountains with it. As sea levels began reaching modern elevations, new shorelines were formed along the coast.
Quartz Crystal Sand
This mineral-based sand is perfect for a barefoot adventure. Visitors are quick to notice a particular squeaky noise with every step they take– this is due to the shape of the grain and the sliding effect that happens with each footprint. The sand also does an impressive job of reflecting the sun’s heat, so take off those sandals and sink your toes! And while it has not been proven, some even believe the quartz sand has healing properties. Perhaps that is why we all feel so good while kicking back on the beaches of the Emerald Coast!
Emerald Green Waters
In addition to the iconic white sand, emerald green waters are also an undeniable trademark here on the Emerald Coast. Quartz crystal sand plays a small role in being a reflective source to the shimmering emerald waters. However, the gorgeous green clear waters ultimately come down to The Mississippi River and plankton living in the waters. The Mississippi River flows into the Gulf, filtering the water with a constant clear stream. Microscopic plankton living in our waters produce chlorophyll, giving off a beautiful green hue when the sun’s light hits the water.
Did you know?
The Apalachicola River continues to run down into the Gulf of Mexico, replenishing the sand along the coast. We are walking on a piece of ancient history every day!