Tigertail Lagoon is “one of the best birding sites in Southwest Florida” according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) website. You’ll observe the feeding habits of pelicans, ospreys, Wilson’s, piping and snowy plovers, roseate spoonbills and herons, just to name a few. Migratory birds also depend on the lagoon to feed, rest and gain weight for the other segments of their journey.
The beach’s concession also offers opportunities to rent kayaks, paddleboards and other gear to explore the lagoon’s unique ecology.
The entire lagoon used to be well flushed and navigable in the 1980s, but in the 1990s the south end of the channel closed creating what is now Tigertail Lagoon. The dynamics changed entirely in the early ‘90s when a huge dredging operation took place. Around that time and thereafter, truckloads of sand have been dumped on Hideaway Beach adding more sand to Big Marco Pass, Sand Dollar Beach and along the lagoon.
More recent morphological changes indicate a narrowing and shoaling of the lagoon causing a restriction in its tidal flow from the north end through to the south part of the lagoon.
The dredging of Hideaway Beach at the north end of Sand Dollar Island (2010 & 2016) has helped maintain the tidal exchange to the lagoon. But recent studies commissioned by Hideaway Beach Taxing District in 2018 has shown areas further south have developed shallow choke points in the lagoon system.
Currently, Tigertail is still tidal, but it should be dredged soon.
Zone locations for the lagoon from North to South are as follows:
Zone 1 – the areas from the north end of the lagoon entrance shows water depth greater than 10 feet.
Zone 2 – the area just south of Zone 1 with the lagoon’s northern entrance having water depths between 1 & 2 feet and only at high tide can kayaks and paddleboards make its way through this zone. During low tides, tidal flow to and from the southern end of the lagoon seems to come to a near stand-still.
Zone 3 – Very narrow and shallow and flow is restricted during low tides.
Zone 4 – the southernmost area known as Tigertail Lagoon shows deeper water depths than Zones 2 & 3, usually greater than 3 feet. Flushing seemed problematic where water is slowed by Zones 3 shallowness as the tide flows. It shows a 2 hours lag in tide changes.
Historically, Hideaway Beach, the north end of the lagoon system, has always been the focus of dredging and beach re-nourishment projects. But conditions to the middle of the lagoon system are starting to affect the overall health of the lagoon. According to the recent Ecosystem Study done by Humiston & Moore, Zones 2 & 3 will become shallower and Zone 4, Tigertail Lagoon could be closed off from tidal flow.
What happens if it is left alone? Tigertail Lagoon will become stagnant creating a potential health hazards to swimmers; marine and wildlife will decrease and visitors to Tigertail Lagoon will also decrease. (Last February, the lagoon was closed due to potential health hazard).
According to Andrew Tyler, a concerned Marco resident, “Tigertail Lagoon is heavily used by both residents and visitors. [According to] data provided by Collier County Parks and Recreation for fiscal year 2018 (October – September), Tigertail saw in excess of 520,000 visitors.”
What is the remedy? Tyler having read the 2018 commissioned report has reached out to County Commissioner Donna Fiala, Marco Island City Councilors and various Collier County stakeholders requesting a plan of action for the lagoon.
*Drafts submitted to the City of Marco Island from a study by Humiston & Moore Engineering, commissioned by Hideaway Beach.