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Sarasota Bay

Sarasota Bay

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Sarasota Bay is an estuary
Estuary
An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea....

 located off the west coast of Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

.

The bay and its surrounding area appeared on the earliest maps of the area, being named Zarazote on one dating from the early 18th century. Hunting in the area had supported native populations for more than ten thousand years as Florida attracted some of the earliest human settlements in the hemisphere. Following the retreat of the glaciers, ocean levels rose creating the current coastline and the natural bounty of Sarasota Bay provided food for inhabitants for over five thousand years before Europeans began exploration of the area in 1513 and later, establishing settlements along its shores.

Sarasota Bay is one of twenty-eight estuaries in the country that have been named by the U.S. Congress as an estuary of national significance. The bay lies between barrier islands called keys
Cay
A cay , also spelled caye or key, is a small, low-elevation, sandy island formed on the surface of coral reefs. Cays occur in tropical environments throughout the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans , where they provide habitable and agricultural land for hundreds of thousands of people...

, that separate the body of water from the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

 and the Florida mainland. Longboat Key
Longboat Key, Florida
Longboat Key is a town in Manatee and Sarasota counties along the central west coast of the U.S. state of Florida, located on the barrier island of the same name. Longboat Key is south of Anna Maria Island, between Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It is almost equally divided between Manatee...

, Lido Key
Lido Key
Lido Key is a barrier island of the coast of Sarasota, Florida in the United States. The island has sandy beaches that face the Gulf of Mexico. The island has a seasonal nightclub scene, as well as a park called "South Lido Park", which has a beach and a woodland trail...

, Siesta Key, and Casey Key are the major keys that delineate the main bay and its smaller portions.

Since 1921, when Sarasota County was created, the bay lies in areas governed both by Manatee County and Sarasota County. After Florida became an American state in 1845, large counties were carved up from time to time, to form new and smaller counties. From 1855 to 1921 the bay was governed by Manatee County, and from 1834 to 1855 the bay was governed by Hillsborough County. Governance prior to that has been Spanish, French, English, and during the Civil War, Florida was Confederate. The concept of "governance of natural resources" did not exist among the Amerindians who harvested the bounty of Sarasota Bay for thousands of years—without diminishing it.

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