This slender bay is central to the communities of Sarasota, Osprey, Siesta Key and Casey Key. Native people populated the area from at least 4000 years ago. The first settlers, the Webb family, built Spanish Point in 1847 and farmed there for decades. In 1983, the former Midnight Pass was closed, which reduced tidal flushing and changed the ecosystem of the bay. Today the Neville Preserve and Palmer Point Park are peaceful refuges in the vicinity of the former pass.
Several creeks discharge to the bay, including Matheny Creek, Elligraw Bayou, Holiday Bayou, Clower Creek, Catfish Creek, and North Creek. There is a legal discharge of highly purified wastewater in Matheny Creek. Tidal flushing from the bay to the Gulf must go to either Big Sarasota Pass, the Venice Inlet, or both.
North of the Blackburn Point bridge, a Manatee Refuge restricts boat speeds in the ICW channel to less than 25 m.p.h. The bay is within the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program study area and is protected by degradation as an Outstanding Florida Water. It is also a SWIM waterbody.
Bay Conditions Reports give a quick assessment of the water quality in a bay during a particular year by examining three important indicators of nutrient pollution: chlorophyll a, nitrogen and phosphorus.
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