The Emerald Coast White Sand Story


Ever wonder why our beaches have the whitest and the most homogenous sands in the world? Well, here's what the experts say ...

The Apalachicola River which is about 110 miles east of Sandestin Beach Resort is possibly the most important factor controlling the special type of sand we find on our beaches today.

About 20,000 years ago the world witnessed the end of the last Ice Age, known as the Late Wisconsin. During the Wisconsin voluminous amounts of water comprising the world's oceans were locked up in the great ice caps on the continents. Therefore, as one might expect, the sea level was at that time hundreds of feet below present-day sea level and the shoreline was displaced many miles offshore.

As the world temperatures began warming the continental ice sheets began melting, thus providing large volumes of water which were subsequently carried by rivers to the world's oceans. The Apalachicola River, rising in the Apalachians, brought vast amounts of water to the Gulf of Mexico (and continues to do so today). Within this large volume of water were billions of small particles chemically weathered and eroded from the parent rock that comprises the Apalachian Mountains. For thousands of years these small quartz particles were deposited offshore in the Gulf of Mexico in a delta, fan-type formation. Sea levels continued to rise rapidly and in doing so reworked these quartz grains across the continental shelf toward our present day shoreline.

This process of reworking continued until around 5,000 years ago, when the rate of sea level rise began to level off. At that time our beaches began to form. the quartz-sand material, delivered to the Gulf of Mexico from the Apalacians by the Apalachicola River, were now being deposited along the shores.

From around 5,000 years ago our island began to extend like an arm from Destin. This extension continues today as these small, white, quartz sands move incessantly to the west.

So that's the story. No wonder the Emerald Coast beaches are so white, our beaches are QUARTZ.