“home to one of only three underwater trails in the U.S.”
Buck Island Reef National Monument was established by Presidential proclamation in 1961, and expanded in 2001, in order to preserve "one of the finest marine gardens in the Caribbean Sea." The park is now one of only a few fully marine protected areas in the National Park System. The 176-acre island and surrounding coral reef ecosystem support a large variety of native flora and fauna, including several endangered and threatened species such as hawksbill turtles and brown pelicans. The elkhorn coral barrier reef that surrounds two-thirds of the island has extraordinary coral formations, deep grottoes, abundant reef fishes, sea fans and gorgonians. Although mainly known for its coral reef and nesting sites for turtles and birds, Buck Island has a rich cultural history as well. Buck Island Reef National Monument, or just Buck Island is a small, uninhabited, 176 acre (712,000 m²) island about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) north of the northeast coast of Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. It was first established as a protected area by the U.S. Government in 1948, with the intention of preserving “one of the finest marine gardens in the Caribbean Sea.” The U.S. National Monument was created in 1961 by John F. Kennedy and greatly expanded in 2001 by Bill Clinton, over the bitter opposition of local fishermen. Most of the Monument area, which is administered by the National Park Service, is underwater and attracts around 50,000 visitors a year. With its 4,554-acre (18.43 km2) long reef there is plenty to explore and experience in the water. Snorkelers can follow an underwater marked trail on the eastern tip. It is one of only three underwater trails in the United States. Along the trail are plaques denoting information about marine flora and fauna commonly found in the area. Two thirds of the island is surrounded by an elkhorn coral barrier reef, providing an ecosystem for over 250 fish species and a variety of other marine life including spotted eagle rays, nurse sharks and lemon sharks, and juvenile Blacktip reef sharks and Whitetip reef sharks. In the spring endangered Leatherback turtles come onto the beach to nest while Green turtles and Hawksbill turtles nest during the summer months. Turtle Beach on the western edge of the island features a pristine white sand beach and has been voted one of the world's most beautiful beaches by National Geographic.
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Buck Island Reef National Monument
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