Buck Island Reef National Monument, a is a small, 176-acre island about 1.5 miles north of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, celebrated its golden anniversary this year.
Buck Island Reef National Monument was established as a protected area by the U.S. government in 1948 in order to preserve “one of the finest marine gardens in the Caribbean Sea.” It was set up as a U.S. National Monument by presidential proclamation in 1961 by John F. Kennedy, and expanded in 2001 by Bill Clinton. The park is now one of only a few fully marine protected areas in the National Park System.
The 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. It is home to the famous “Underwater Trail” which hosts over 50,000 visitors per year. Turtle Beach on Buck’s west end has been voted one of the world’s most beautiful beaches by National Geographic. The underwater trail is a snorkelers’ dream come true. Although mainly known for its coral reef and nesting sites for turtles and birds, Buck Island also has a rich cultural history.
For photos of Buck Island, see http://www.cccarto.com/buck_island/