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Florida Keys' State Parks

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Keys Coral Reef
© Photographer Bob Care/Florida Keys News Bureau
Updated May 14, 2012
Some of the finest examples of Florida's award-winning state parks are located in the Florida Keys. The Florida Keys, a chain of islands that extend from South Florida's mainland, are connected by the Overseas Highway. Although the Keys are increasingly touristy and overdeveloped, Florida's state parks have gone a long way to preserve important plant and animal species and the area's rich history.

Here we'll take a look at Florida's state parks located in the Florida Keys beginning with the northernmost Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park and travel south to the southernmost park, Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.

Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park

Once slated for condominium development, this park contains the largest tract of West Indian tropical hardwood hammock in the United States plus 84 protected species of plants and animals. Over six miles of trails offer visitors a chance to see some of these rare species and a multitude of opportunities for bird watchers and photographers.

Surprisingly, most of the park's trail is paved and accessible to both bicycles and wheelchairs. Additional backcountry trails may be explored by completing a backcountry permit at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Ranger Station.

Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, located on Key Largo, is open every day from 8:00 a.m. until sundown. The honor fee is $1.50 per person. The park entrance is located on Monroe County Road 905, approximately one-half mile north of CR 905's intersection with US Highway 1 at Mile Marker 106. For more information, please call 305-451-1202.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

As the first underwater park in the United States, John Pennekamp encompasses approximately 70 nautical square miles. Its coral reefs and associated marine life continues to draw visitors to the park to snorkel or scuba dive. If you prefer to keep dry, enjoy the view of the reef from a glass bottom boat or visit the 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium and theater showing nature videos. In addition, there are the nature trails, canoe and kayak trails, beaches on Largo Sound, a playground and a campground.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, located on U.S. 1 at Mile Marker 102.5 in Key Largo, is open 8:00 a.m. until sundown 365 days a year. Entrance fees are $1.50 per pedestrian or bicyclist, $3.50 per single-occupant vehicle, $6.00 per double-occupant vehicle and $.50 for each additional occupant up to 8 people. There is a $10.00 per day boat ramp fee. Pavilion rentals are available. Reservations for camping may be made online, up to 11 months in advance, at ReserveAmerica.com Parking is not guaranteed once the parking capacity is reached. Call 305-451-1202 for more information.

Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

This land, originally sold to the Florida East Coast Railroad, used the stone to build Henry Flagler's Overseas Railroad in the early 1900s. After the railroad was completed, the stone quarry was used until the 1960s to produce decorative stone called Keystone. Visitors today can walk along the eight-foot-high quarry walls and learn about the quarry and its operation. Some quarry machinery has been preserved at the park.

Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park is located on Windley Key at Mile Marker 85.5 near Islamorada. The Visitor Center is open Friday through Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Self-guided trails are $1.50 per person and ranger-guided tours of the trails are offered at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., Thursday through Monday, for $2.50 per person. Picnic tables are available. Please call the park at 305-664-2540 for further information.

Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park

The hideaway caretaker's home built by William J. Matheson, a wealthy Miami chemist, in 1919, today serves as the Lignumvitae Key visitor center. Virgin West Indian hardwood hammock thrives on the 280-acre island. No self-guided tours of the island are allowed. Ranger-guided tours are offered twice daily.

Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park is located one mile west of U.S.1 at Mile Marker 78.5 on Islamorada. Access is limited to private boat, canoe or kayak or charter boats from nearby marinas. Tour boat services are available by calling Robbie's Marina at 305-664-9814. The park is open Thursday through Monday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Ranger-guided tours are available twice daily — Thursday through Monday at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. There are no self-guided tours of the island. For further information call 305-664-2540.

Indian Key Historic State Park

Presently public access to the island is available only by canoe or kayak because of damage to the dock caused by past storms. Smaller boats may anchor offshore and wade in or pull smaller kayaks and canoes into shallow areas around the island. The official reopening is scheduled for October 4, 2008.

Indian Key became the first county seat for Dade County in 1835. The tiny island was the site of a lucrative business that salvaged cargo from shipwrecks in the Florida Keys. Today, visitors come to swim, sunbathe and hike.

Indian Key Historic State Park is located on the ocean side of U.S. 1 at M.M. 78.5 in Islamorda. It is accessible only by private boat, canoe, kayak or charter boats available at nearby marinas. The park is open every day, 8:00 a.m. until sundown. Call 305-664-2540 for further information and admission fees.

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