73 of the most interesting and beautiful acres in Florida were donated to the Nature Conservancy by Jupiter Island residents in 1969.
Owned by the Nature Conservancy and operated as a preserve to protect the land as well as the plants and animals that call it home, Blowing Rocks is one of the natural and undeveloped parts of Jupiter Island.
Apart from Blowing Rocks Preserve, the 11 mile long Jupiter Island is home to the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge and St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park. It’s also home to some of the wealthiest Americans in the town of Jupiter Island.
Residents realized that much of the island was in danger of being developed for homes and condos and it’s natural beauty would be lost. Palm Beach County, in which the southern part of the island rests, was being developed very quickly, while Martin County on the north end had enacted restrictions on some levels of development (primarily on building heights and population density). Because of their concerns, some residents donated the property to the Nature Conservancy in 1969. The preserve is located within the town of Jupiter Island and in the Martin County part of the island.
Jupiter Island is a narrow barrier island and the preserve has property on both the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon/Estuary. Both sides are open to the public with the visitors center located on the west side. Blowing Rocks Preserve offers classes and events throughout the year and the visitors center contains displays that explain the different environments that can be experienced in the park.
The preserve’s namesake is the rock formations on the ocean side. Florida may be famous for white sand beaches, but Blowing Rocks is a notable exception. The shore is primarily made up of rock outcroppings that sit up to 10 feet above the surf, depending on the tides. The rock is heavily eroded with both small and large holes that have become tunnels and funnels for the high tide surf to crash into and flow through. When conditions are right, the surf can shoot 20 to 50 feet (6 to 15 meters) high out the top of the rocks.
The rocks are made up of the rarely-visible bedrock that runs along much of the length of Florida’s east coast. Known as the Anastasia Formation, it’s comprised of a type of limestone that is about 2.5 million years old and is typically covered by sand. The limestone is named for the coquina mollusk who’s ancient shells make up the stone. It’s the same rock that has been quarried on Anastasia Island, near St. Augustine for 500 years, and has been used for the construction of many historic buildings, including the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine.
The lagoon side has sandy beaches, of a sort, along a shore that is also partly covered with mangroves trees. There are pathways from the visitors center down to the water that pass through fields of wildflowers, hardwood groves and stands of giant sea grape bushes that sometimes grow over the paths so that it appears that visitors are walking through tunnels of vegetation. From the shore, Jupiter Inlet Light is visible across the Indian River, as well.
The preserve is a great place to witness how plants grow in highly salty conditions as the lagoon has about the same level of salinity as the ocean. In all it’s an enchanting place to visit. The lagoon is a beautiful blue, reflecting the color of the sky, there are often many flowers blooming throughout the site and there are frequently bunches of grapes hanging on the sea grapes. Once they ripen and turn purple they are edible, but a pit makes up about 90% of the fruit. Early settlers used them for making jams.
The Nature Conservancy manages the site beautifully and there is so much to see with in just 73 acres (30 hectares). It’s easily accessible from the Palm Beaches, through the town of Jupiter, as well as the Stuart area by crossing over to the north end of Jupiter Island from Hobe Sound and US Route 1 or Route A1A.
Coming from Hobe Sound is, in itself, a beautiful experience. There is the oak tree-lined drive on SE Bridge Road across the Indian River, gorgeous homes with manicured landscapes and the interesting driveways of the most grand estates (the largest estates aren’t visible from the road, but they’re said to be very impressive too).