HISTORY OF BOCA RATON INLET
Boca Raton Inlet is the southernmost inlet in Palm Beach County.
Originally a natural waterway,
the inlet has changed locations at least three times in the past 200 years (Bream 1990). In the late
1760's, the inlet was located in the northeast corner of the present Lake Boca Raton (figure 5). By
the 1800's, the inlet had closed at its northern location and reopened in the southeast corner of the
lake. Both inlet locations had opened and closed constantly with drifting sands. The Mackay-
Blake map of Florida published in 1840 shows that there was no inlet at Boca Raton at that time
(Austin 1976). When Florida became a state in 1845, the Bruff map included no inlet at Boca
Raton; historical records even as late as 1914 showed no inlet (Austin 1976).
A map from the 1740's named the inlet Rio Seco, or Dry River (Austin 1976). In a map
published in 1775, surveyor Bernard Romans agreed that Rio Seco was in fact this inlet. The
waterway was not called Boca Raton Inlet until after 1838. Another inlet far down the coast at
the north end of Biscayne Bay was named Boca Ratones (or Boca de Ratones) according to
maps by De Brahm in the 1770's. The inlet has been named by the Spaniards, not for rats as is
commonly thought, but for the sharp, submerged rocks found off the Atlantic entrance to the
passage (Chardon 1975). The inlet was closed by 1822 by infilling sand, and by 1838 another
inlet had opened to the south. This new inlet was called Boca Ratones by some, and Narrows
Cut or Norris Cut by others. According to Chardon (1975), the issue was incorrectly resolved by
giving the name Boca Ratones to a third inlet much farther north in present south Palm Beach
Engineering drawings by the Riddle Company in 1925 placed the proposed inlet location about
800 feet north of its former location and oriented east-west, stabilized by 400 foot jetties 200 feet
apart. That site was dredged in 1926 (Boca Raton Historical Society).
The War Department authorized Spanish River Land Company on September 3, 1930 "to
construct jetties and revetment, dredging and filling in Boca Raton Inlet" (Boca Raton Historical
Society) . In 1930-31, local interests financed the construction of two parallel jetties at a cost of
$130,000 in an attempt to solve the beach erosion problem (Strock 1979). From 1940-1945 the
Army Air Force dredged 14,700 cubic yards of material from the channel. In the late 1940's
11,000 cu yd of material was dredged from the inlet and placed on the south beach.
In 1947, a hurricane destroyed the north jetty permitting sand and silt to clog the inlet (Delray
News-Journal 1956). In 1951, Mr. J. M. Schine, then owner of the Boca Raton Hotel, had offered
to donate land to either side of the inlet if the city would agree to repair the jetties. The city had
to decline the offer because of a lack of funds to repair the jetties. Local interests spent $8,000 for
repair of the damaged jetties and maintenance dredging of the inlet (Strock 1979). Repeated
dredging gave only temporary relief until 1956 when new improvements were expected to
remedy the situation. By then the inlet was largely blocked, making navigation hazardous and
polluting the lake and the Intracoastal Waterway. In July 1956, the inlet was widened, and the
inlet and Lake Boca Raton were deepened to 10 feet. Work also included rebuilding the north
side of the jetty and capping the south side (Delray News-Journal 1956).
For nearly 20 years, city agencies had come and gone, the problem of the inlet had been studied
and re-studied, and part-way measures had been taken, but no solution had been found (Boca
Raton News 1966). Early in 1966, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers turned down a proposal for
federal funding of a sand transfer system across the inlet because "benefit would not be sufficient
to justify the costs" (Boca Raton News 1966).
A northeaster plugged the inlet during the 1966 Thanksgiving weekend (Boca Raton News 1966).
Wind had blown sand over the jetty from the adjoining beach, and waves were high enough to
break over the jetty, carrying even more sand directly into the inlet. Sand was also carried into
the mouth of the inlet from the ocean. A sand bar formed all the way across the inlet and three
feet above the high tide mark (Boca Raton News 1966). Weeds and trash were backing up for
hundreds of feet. All flood water had to leave the Intracoastal through Hillsboro Inlet (which was
also partially closed) or South Lake Worth Inlet. Dredging operations successfully reopened the
inlet sometime before Christmas that year, with a small channel three feet deep and 15-20 feet
After the inlet was reopened in December 1966, another storm hit and plugged the inlet.
Following much debated over what to do, city workmen began work to reopen the inlet on
February 1, 1967 (Rifenburg 1968). Water trickled through the inlet during the summer of 1967.
In the winter of 1967, high winds again put a sand bar across the mouth of the passage. After the
Boca Raton News reported that the stagnant waters of Lake Boca Raton were indeed polluted,
the city quickly ordered the inlet opened one more time. It was not, however, dredged to depths
navigable for large boats (Rifenburg 1968).
The first phase of a three phase inlet program would fund the repairs and extension of the north
jetty and dredging. Eventual completion of the program would apparently remedy a situation
that had been a source of irritation for citizens, developers, and city officials for many years
In April 1969, Arvida Corporation dredged the inlet open. It took 11 days to complete the 150
feet wide channel . Again, in February 1970, Arvida dredged the inlet; but this time, because of
stormy weather, it took seven weeks to dig a channel 75 feet wide and six feet deep (Arvida
In 1972, the inlet, its jetties, and maintenance access easements were deeded to the City of Boca
Raton with the stipulation that the inlet be kept navigable (Strock 1979). The city purchased an 8-
inch hydraulic pipeline dredge to maintain the inlet and transfer beach material to the beach south
of the inlet.
The Boca Raton Inlet Tax District was authorized in a bill passed by the Florida State Legislature
April 20, 1972 and was submitted for approval by the people in a referendum July 18, 1972. The
purpose was to have a body set up by law responsible to the public and with powers and duties
clearly defined concerning inlet maintenance (Gallagher 1972). The bill was voted down.
In November 1972, the City purchased its own dredge for $112,000. The City also signed an
agreement with Arvida, which owned the beach north and south of the inlet. The developer
agreed to pay $10,000 per year until 1983 to have the inlet dredged (Rogers 1978). Since regular
maintenance dredging began in 1972, the inlet has remained open (Morrissey 1992).
In 1975, the north jetty was extended 180 feet seaward and the south jetty was reinforced;
flanking of the south jetty began, the horseshoe bar was eliminated, and shoaling in the inlet was
reduced (figure 6). In 1977 and 1978, the city spent $71,300 to dredge the waterway (Rogers
1978). In 1980, a weir section 65 feet long was constructed in the north jetty to allow a portion of
the sand accreting on the north beach to be transported south. The south jetty was extended
landward to prevent flanking. Dredging operations placed 297,000 cubic yards of material on the
south beach in 1985. Most of the sand was taken from the ebb shoal.
Today the entrance channel is approximately
150 feet wide and 10 feet deep. The north
jetty is 650 feet long with a 65 foot weir
section two-thirds of the way seaward. The
south jetty is 800 feet long. The City of Boca
Raton operates a dredge to bypass material
from inside the inlet to the south beach. The
City has transferred an average of 55,000 cubic yards of material per year
to the downdrift beaches since 1980.
Arvida Corporation, 1970, "Inlet report submitted to city", in Arvida Corp. News, v. 2, n. 1, p. 8.,
Boca Raton Historical Society inlet files, Boca Raton, Fl.
Austin, D. F. , 1976, Mangroves as monitors of change in the Spanish River, in Florida
Environmental and Urban Issues, v. 3, n. 3, p. 4-7, 15-16.
Boca Raton Historical Society, Inlet files, Boca Raton, Fl.
Boca Raton News, 1966, "Plugged inlet plagues city: winds, tides close jinxed waterway":
November 27 edition, v. 12, no. 3, Boca Raton, Fl . , Boca Raton Historical Society inlet
files, Boca Raton, Fl.
Bream, J., 1990, "The legends of Boca Raton: first in a series": in Boca Club Life, August issue,
Boca Raton Historical Society inlet files, Boca Raton, Fl.
Chardon, R. E. , 1975, Northern Biscayne Bay in 1776, in Tequesta: journal of the historical
association of southern Florida, Bicentennial History of Miami, vol. XXXV, p. 37-74.
Delray News-Journal, 1956, "Job of dredging Boca lake, inlet expected to start next week", July
19 edition, Delray Beach, Fl . , Boca Raton Historical Society inlet files, Boca Raton, Fl.
Gallagher, J. W., 1972, Boca Raton Inlet, in Fiesta, July issue, Boca Raton, Fl ., Boca Raton
Historical Society inlet files, Boca Raton, Fl.
Morrissey, S., 1992, "Boca captain inlet's guardian angel", in Palm Beach Post, March 15 edition,
West Palm Beach, Fl.
Rifenburg, J., 1968, "Will the inlet move third time?", in Boca Raton News, March 10 edition,
Boca Raton, Fl . , Boca Raton Historical Society inlet files, Boca Raton, Fl.
Rogers, J., 1978, "Inlet subject of rumors, shipwrecks, smuggling: site called 'the rat's mouth' by
early navigators of area", in Ft. Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel, June 25 edition, Ft.
Lauderdale, Fl., Boca Raton Historical Society inlet files, Boca Raton, Fl.
Strock and Associates, 1979, Boca Raton Inlet and adjacent beaches: preliminary report, Boca
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