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Beach Warning Flags

The easiest and most visible way to find out what’s happening at the beach is to look at the colored flag flying from the manned lifeguard tower.

Low Hazard:

Conditions are calm; normal care and caution should be exercised.

Medium Hazard:

Moderate surf and/or currents are present. Examples: shorebreak, along shore or rip current, baitfish, debris, drop off, rock

High Hazard:

Very hazardous rough surf and/or strong currents exist; swimming for experienced ocean swimmers only. Examples: rip currents, powerful shorebreak

Water Closed to Public:

The water and/or beach are closed. Examples: severe currents and/or surf; water pollution, lightning, sharks, heavy machinery on beach

Dangerous Marinelife:

Examples: Man-of-war are present. This flag may be flow with any of the other flags.

 

Download beach warning flags flyer

The ocean is a dynamic, ever changing entity with incredible power. Conditions change daily or even hourly! It is important for beachgoers to be aware of potentially hazardous conditions unique to that particular beach. There may be underwater rocks, holes, boats, jet skis, or surfers that could cause injury and should be avoided. To know what you might expect to encounter, please talk to the lifeguards. They are there to help you. County beaches have condition boards near the beach accesses. The water conditions, tides and hazards for that particular beach are listed daily along with the beach rules.

Palm Beach County Ocean Rescue: Lifesaving and Marine Safety for 40 Years


Snorkeling

Snorkeling

You don’t have to venture far to discover fabulous snorkeling from shore in Palm Beach County.

Some tips for a safe snorkeling adventure:

  • Before snorkeling gather all your equipment. Check your mask, snorkel and fins to be sure they work and are adjusted to fit you properly. Make sure the snorkel is attached firmly to the mask strap with a snorkel keeper.
  • Best time to snorkel is within 2 hours before or after high tide.
  • Decide where to snorkel. If you snorkel in an unguarded area you will need a diver’s flag which can be purchased at any dive shop. The flag is red with a white stripe from the upper left corner to the lower right corner. Attach the flag to a float; inner tubes, boogie boards, surfboards, or small inflatable boats make good surface floats. The flag should stand high above the float so that boater’s can see it. The float can be tied to an anchor or buoy or left to float along the snorkeler in calm water.
  • Check the ocean conditions from a viewpoint. Observe waves, currents, wind, water visibility and weather. If conditions are poor, have an alternate activity planned.
  • If unfamiliar with the area, ask a lifeguard or a local patron about the diving conditions.
  • Know your personal swimming limitations and snorkeling abilities and remain alert to them.
  • Beginners should practice clearing their snorkel in shallow water.
  • Decide on entry and exit points
  • Always snorkel with a buddy! It’s more fun to share awesome experiences and if something unpredictable happens, you have somebody to help you.
  • Stay relaxed in the water.=
  • Be aware of changing conditions and your buddy at all times.
  • Exit at the decided exit point.

Underwater Snorkeling Trail at Phil Foster, Riviera Beach

Phil Foster Park has become internationally recognized by scientists, scuba divers, underwater photographers, and snorkelers for its abundance of unique marine life. Squid, octopus, spotted rays, and starfish are regularly seen. A snorkel trail made of limestone boulders and prefabricated reef modules was recently completed and spans a two-acre area in 6 to 10 feet of water. 600 tons of rock were used to build this artificial reef!

Snorkeling Trail Project Overview

Excellent snorkeling is also available within the lifeguard protected swimming areas of the following Palm Beach County beaches:


Surfing

Surfing

Unless otherwise posted, surfing is permitted outside the guarded swimming areas of County beach parks.

Surfing Safety Tips

  • Check with lifeguards first about where to surf.
  • Always wear a leash.
  • Never surf around swimmers or fishermen.
  • Always surf with a buddy.
  • Obey lifeguard instructions.
  • Be aware of and avoid all fishing lines.
  • Stay away from schools of bait fish.
  • Stay with your board if you get caught in a rip current.
  • Novice surfers should stay well clear of intermediate and advanced surfers and packs of surfers.
  • Surf away from a pier.
  • Don’t surf through a pier.
  • Be aware of color of the condition flag being flown from the lifeguard tower. At Juno Beach, surf in the guarded area only when the orange and white checkered surfing flag is flying. 

Seaweed

Seaweed

Did you know that those clumps of seaweed have a name?

It’s called beach wrack, and it’s “a pivotal part of the beach ecosystem,” says the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It drifts near the Gulf Stream and provides vital food for young sea turtles. While maintenance staff regularly removes litter and hazardous debris that wash ashore, beach wrack is typically left behind and serves as fodder for crabs, beetles, and other small creatures, which in turn are food for shorebirds. It is also important for collecting wind-blown sand and encouraging plants, which help hold dunes in place to protect property.

Seaweed is constantly present in the Atlantic Ocean and is washed ashore more frequently during sustained onshore winds combined with seasonal shifts in the Gulf Stream, particularly when the Gulf Stream nudges closer to the coast in the summer. While it may give off an odor as it dries, beach wrack does not create a health risk to beachgoers.

Occasionally, weather conditions exist in which an unusual amount of beach wrack is washed ashore continuously over a period of time. Check the beach conditions page for locations where concentrations may be heavy. North County Beach Conditions and South County Beach Counditions.

 


Shoreline Enhancement Program

Shoreline Enhancement Program

Palm Beach County’s 45-mile coastline is a playground for millions of residents and tourists every year. Our beaches serve as one of the best defenses against wave damage caused by winter storms and hurricanes. However, the constant erosion of our beaches is an undeniable reality.

Help Preserver Your Palm Beach Couty Beaches

Dunes are accumulations of wind-blown sand behind the beach. They are stabilized by salt tolerant native plants that have deeply-penetrating, extensive root systems. As the plants become buried, new roots develop on the recently buried stems while new stems emerge from the sand.

Palm Beach County’s Solutions

The Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management, through its Shoreline Enhancement and Restoration Program, builds environmentally-sensitive, cost effective projects to protect and restore the natural function of beaches and dunes. The Department encourages improved sand management practices at inlets and promotes the removal of non-native vegetation from sand dunes.

Since 1989, Palm Beach County has participated in or constructed over 22 miles of beach and dune restoration projects for the benefit of tourists, residents and coastal property owners.

How Beach Nourishment Works

Beach nourishment - pumping or trucking sand onto the beach to rebuild an eroding shoreline - is the most natural beach restoration solution. In addition to the aesthetic enhancements, wider beaches enhance recreation, provide storm protection for roads and buildings, and potentially improve sea turtle nesting habitats.

Although beach quality sand is occasionally obtained from inland sources like sand mines, the sand used for nourishment projects typically comes from offshore sand deposits or inlet shoals.

Inlet Management

Sand along our coastline moves north or south depending on the wave climate, but the predominant movement is to the south. This natural movement is disrupted by inlets which may trap the sand on their north sides.

Lake worth Inlet and Boynton Inlet have sand transfer plants that bypass sand from the north to south across the inlets. PBC strongly encourages the development and implementation of inlet management plans that promote more natural sand movement.

Jupiter Inlet and Boca Inlet were natural inlets that have been altered over the years primarily to serve boaters. Both are routinely dredged to maintain navigable depths, and the sand is placed on adjacent beaches.


Beach Ecology

Beach Ecology

What is Beach Erosion?

Dunes are accumulations of wind-blown sand behind the beach. They are stabilized by salt tolerant native plants that have deeply-penetrating, extensive root systems. As the plants become buried, new roots develop on the recently buried stems while new stems emerge from the sand.

The grassy sea oat is one of several plants in the dune that help beautify Florida's beaches. The attractive flowers of the sea oats become seeds in the fall that provide more plants to help protect the dunes. Because of its importance, the sea oat plant is a protected species. State laws prohibit the picking of sea oat flowers or seeds.

Sea grapes, which grow on the back dune and have large ping-pong paddle-shaped leaves, act as a highly efficient barrier to blowing sand. They also block light on the street from shining on the beach where it could otherwise interfere with sea turtle nesting and disorient emerging hatchlings.

A dense stand of sea oats and sea grapes can greatly minimize erosion during high tides and storms. People often forget the importance of sand dunes and its vegetation.

Here's how you can help:

  • Use the designated boardwalks.

    A few extra steps may be all it takes to protect the plants that hold the dune in place. Pedestrian traffic or dragged objects across the dune makes weak points in the dune line, which can be rapidly eroded by storm waters.

  • Pick up your trash.

    Dispose of all trash properly, particularly plastic objects, fish netting, and other materials that may entangle sea turtles and water fowl. Remember: runaway balloons can end up in the ocean, and to a sea turtle they look like food.

  • Leave seaweed in place. It's a natural fertilizer. 

    Seaweed is important in the beach building cycle, and it helps beach and dune plants to grow.