DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — More than 7 million people flocked to the white sand beaches of Okaloosa County in 2021.

Any new visitor or longtime tourist comes across the same question, ‘Why are the beaches here different than anywhere else?’

The pure white, snow-like sand along Northwest Florida beaches is purely ground quartz mineral. The sand can be seen, felt and heard from Panama City Beach to Pensacola Bay.

Harley Peters with the Emerald Coast Science Center gave WKRG News 5 an explanation behind how it got here:

“So basically all of our sand is like a bunch of like small quartz particles,” said Peters. “And this came down from the Appalachian Mountains and the Apalachicola River about like 20,000 years ago. So at the end of the very, very last Ice Age, the world temperatures started warming up. And then the ice caps started melting and so those large volumes of water started coming down, which carried in those little coral quartz crystals, to the Apalachicola River. Which starts in the Appalachians, carried water to the Gulf of Mexico, and they still do it today. “

The beaches can make a high-pitched squeak when you walk on them. Peters said the mineral on mineral scratching of finely ground quartz makes the sound.

What does the quartz do in the water?

“Because of the quartz coming down and not being normal sand, that’s going to reflect in the sunlight a little bit differently,” said Peters. “Therefore, it’s going to make when we look at the water reflect nicely to our eyes, which is gonna make it the nice emerald color. Whereas like you get down towards Pensacola and then in Texas the sand is not as pretty ’cause it’s not made of quartz. So when it reflects in the water, it’s going to reflect like brownish, a darker green.”

The white quartz sand comes to a natural end at the Pensacola Pass. According to the Destin Chamber, the quartz formed the shoreline of Destin and the pass when sea levels rose thousand of years ago.

Beaches In Alabama and West have runoff from the Mississippi River Delta leaving pebble-like sand behind.