The purpose was and is still today, to protect a very rare and spectacularly beautiful piece of Florida’s southeast coast. John D. MacArthur realized this after a university study in the 1970’s revealed the biological treasures in this area.
Situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Lake Worth Lagoon, the Park is 438 acres of natural environments, including seven species of plants and twenty-two species of animals designated as endangered or threatened.
In the early 1900’s, Munyon Island was famous for its lavish resort hotel, “The Hygeia.” Built by Dr, James Munyon, the hotel was destroyed by fire in 1915. Munyon Island is accessible by boat only.
The earliest evidence of human occupation comes from “kitchen middens” left by the Jeaga Indians centuries ago. Fragments of bones, shells and pottery were discarded in refuse piles or middens. Much of the Park is the same as when the Jeaga Indians lived here centuries ago.
Except for Hawaii, Florida contains more kinds of plants and animals than any other state. Plants and animals found living together in the same area form a community. The park contains four main natural communities or habitats. What plants and animals inhabit these communities is determined by many factors such as climate, soil, hydrology and fire frequency. Habitats provide food, water and shelter to the animals that live there.
Hammock is an Indian word that means “shady place”. The maritime hammock includes a thin, intermittent strip of vegetation behind the beach dune and a mature hammock between A-1-A and Lake Worth Cove. The main portion of the hammock includes many large tropical trees like strangler fig and mastic, and some temperate ones like live oak. There are also satinleaf trees, a small fresh water depression with pond apple and a few scattered remnant slash pines. The hammock also contains numerous species of invasive exotic plants, with Brazilian pepper being the biggest threat.
The estuary at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is a small cove off the northern portion of Lake Worth. The water in the estuary is a mixture of salt and fresh water. Conditions in this community are always changing. Water levels rise and fall with the tide. The water temperature changes, as does the salinity. Organisms that can survive the variable conditions of an estuary flourish in the nutrient-rich waters. Some of the inhabitants of this system include oysters, fiddler crabs, mullet, checkered puffers and manatees.
Beach and Dune
The beach and dunes of barrier islands protect the mainland by absorbing the energy of the ocean waves. Sand dunes and beaches are in constant motion always moving with the wave energy. Generally, sand travels along the east coast of the United States from north to south, so the sand you see today on the beach is not the same sand you see tomorrow.
Plants that grow on the dunes usually have thick, waxy or fuzzy leaves to protect themselves from heat, salt, blowing sand and drying winds.
Anastasia Limestone Rock Reef
This community was formed more than 125,000 years ago. The reef is limestone as opposed to those made of coral reefs found mostly south of the park. Many species of marine animals inhabit the reef. Some of the more spectacular are parrotfish, barracuda, damsel fish and loggerhead sea turtles. The reef stretches along the 1.6 miles of beach within the park’s boundary. Unlike many coral reefs in the Florida Keys, the reef is visible from the shoreline and can be easily reached with a mask and snorkel.