Estero Island is a part of the Gulf Barrier Island chain, which is a system of lagoons and islands formed by the erosion and movement of sand along the shoreline. It was formed by two small mangrove islands coalescing around the year 1000, as dated by optical luminescence in 2015. Our gulf and bay waters are shallow, and for this reason, Fort Myers Beach is one of the finest and safest beaches in the world, with a sub-tropical average temperature of 74 degrees F.
Fort Myers Beach is a 6.5-mile-long barrier island that runs north and south and is bounded by the Gulf of Mexico, Estero Bay, Matanzas Pass, and Big Carlos Pass. At its largest point, it is barely 1.5 miles wide. The elevation is 6.2 feet above sea level. The land mass is 1,466 acres, made up primarily of sand and shore deposits. These sand dunes and ridges, which are ever-changing, are classified as coastal wetlands or uplands. Wetlands consist of mangroves, and they are situated on the bayside. The uplands are mostly on the west side, with native vegetation consisting of cabbage palm, seagrape, gumbo limbo, cactus, and Spanish bayonet.
The coastal dune system of oaks, saltwort, marsh elder, and seagrape dominates above the high tideline. The island and adjacent waters still support some shellfish, a variety of fish, porpoises, manatees, nesting sea turtles, lizards, snakes, gopher tortoises, marsh rabbits, racoons, opossums, spiders, and many species of birds and butterflies. Otters and bears had been recent visitors to the Matanzas Pass Preserve, with an alligator in the adjacent pond. The last burrowing owls vacated their burrows on the island in 1986.
The original surveyed plots on Estero Island ran from the Gulf of Mexico across the island to the back bay. Matanzas Pass Preserve is part of the original plot owned by Dr. Winkler, then Martha Redd, and later visited by famous aviator Charles Lindbergh and his family.
The south end of the island was owned by Koreshan Unity until 1948, when it was bought by Leonard Santini, developer of the first condos and shopping center on the island.
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