The story of Cato’s Bridge beach
Cato’s Bridge beach is not a beach in the true sense of the word. Rather, it is a sandy shoreline, some spots wider than others, along the west side of the Intracoastal Waterway south of the Jupiter Inlet Bridge, which connects Jupiter Island on County Road 707 (Beach Road) to the mainland. The bridge also has been called the CR707 bridge, or the Beach Road Bridge.
Local residents, however, still call it Cato’s Bridge, in honor of Avon Charles Cato who tended the bridge from the late ’40s to 1969, when the current bridge was built. Although his name is no longer attached to the bridge itself, the sandy area near the bridge may always be called Cato’s Bridge beach, unless the Dept. of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management and the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources eliminate the beach to stabilize the shore.
The fond memories of long-time residents throughout south Martin, Tequesta and Jupiter are of rope swings, barbecues in the sand, and swimming in the clear, turquoise waters of the Intracoastal Waterway. The co-mingling of fresh water from the Loxahatchee River and the salt water of the Jupiter Inlet flowing into the Intracoastal along Jupiter Island creates a bio-diverse environment especially attractive to snorkelers, who often recommend the spot on their blogs for fellow swimmers.
“One of the most attractive features of Cato’s Bridge beach is that the area stays beautiful on both cycles of the tide,” says Martin County Commissioner Patrick Hayes, a resident of Tequesta who has often pulled his boat onto the beach for a day of snorkeling. “There just are not too many places like that. You can anchor your boat right there because the bottom drops right off to deep water. Do a little snorkeling, cook a hot dog or two, talk with your friends and neighbors.”
Hayes points to the hundreds of acres of land purchased by the county and the state for preserves and conservation, much of which are shorelines that have been returned to mangrove growth.
“That’s important to do,” Hayes says, “I support that 100%, but it’s also important that public places should also be preserved for people—for their children and for their grandchildren. We should stabilize this shoreline, but there are half a dozen ways we can do that without losing this beach.”