Theme Week Miami – Biscayne National Park

Monday, 24 April 2017 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Miami / South Florida, Palaces, Castles, Manors, Parks

© National Park Service Digital Image Archives

© National Park Service Digital Image Archives

Biscayne National Park is a U.S. National Park located in southern Florida, south of Miami. The park preserves Biscayne Bay and its offshore barrier reefs. Ninety-five percent of the park is water, and the shore of the bay is the location of an extensive mangrove forest. The park covers 172,971 acres (69,999 ha) and includes Elliott Key, the park’s largest island and first of the true Florida Keys, formed from fossilized coral reef. The islands farther north in the park are transitional islands of coral and sand. The offshore portion of the park includes the northernmost region of the Florida Reef, one of the largest coral reefs in the world. Biscayne National Park protects four distinct ecosystems: the shoreline mangrove swamp, the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay, the coral limestone keys and the offshore Florida Reef. The shoreline swamps of the mainland and island margins provide a nursery for larval and juvenile fish, molluscs and crustaceans. The bay waters harbor immature and adult fish, seagrass beds, sponges, soft corals, and manatees. The keys are covered with tropical vegetation including endangered cacti and palms, and their beaches provide nesting grounds for endangered sea turtles. Offshore reefs and waters harbor more than 200 species of fish, pelagic birds, whales and hard corals. Sixteen endangered species including Schaus’ swallowtail butterflies, smalltooth sawfish, manatees, and green and hawksbill sea turtles may be observed in the park. Biscayne also has a small population of threatened American crocodiles and a few American alligators.

The people of the Glades culture inhabited the Biscayne Bay region as early as 10,000 years ago before rising sea levels filled the bay. The Tequesta people occupied the islands and shoreline from about 4,000 years before the present to the 16th century, when the Spanish took possession of Florida. Reefs claimed ships from Spanish times through the 20th century, with more than 40 documented wrecks within the park’s boundaries. While the park’s islands were farmed during the 19th and early 20th centuries, their rocky soil and periodic hurricanes made agriculture difficult to sustain. In the early 20th century the islands became secluded destinations for wealthy Miamians who built getaway homes and social clubs. Mark C. Honeywell‘s guesthouse on Boca Chita Key was the area’s most elaborate private retreat, featuring a mock lighthouse. The Cocolobo Cay Club was at various times owned by Miami developer Carl G. Fisher, yachtsman Garfield Wood, and President Richard Nixon‘s friend Bebe Rebozo, and was visited by four United States presidents. The amphibious community of Stiltsville was established in the 1930s in the shoals of northern Biscayne Bay, taking advantage of its remoteness from land to offer offshore gambling and alcohol during Prohibition. Originally proposed for inclusion in Everglades National Park, Biscayne Bay was cut from the proposed park to ensure Everglades’ establishment. It remained undeveloped until the 1960s, when a series of proposals were made to develop the keys in the manner of Miami Beach, and to construct a deepwater seaport for bulk cargo, along with refinery and petrochemical facilities on the mainland shore of Biscayne Bay. Through the 1960s and 1970s, two fossil-fueled power plants and two nuclear power plants were built on the bay shores. A backlash against development led to the 1968 designation of Biscayne National Monument. The preserved area was expanded by its 1980 re-designation as Biscayne National Park. The park is heavily used by boaters, and apart from the park’s visitor center on the mainland, its land and sea areas are accessible only by boat.

© flickr.com - Bruce Tuten/cc-by-2.0 Biscayne National Park visitor center © Fredlyfish4/cc-by-sa-3.0 © National Park Service Digital Image Archives © National Park Service Digital Image Archives © National Park Service Digital Image Archives © National Park Service Digital Image Archives © National Park Service Digital Image Archives © National Park Service Digital Image Archives
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Biscayne National Park visitor center © Fredlyfish4/cc-by-sa-3.0
Biscayne National Park operates year-round. Camping is most practical in winter months, when mosquitoes are less troublesome on the keys. Private concessioners provide full day tours in the park that include snorkeling, hiking, paddling and sailing from the park headquarters. Boat excursions to Boca Chita and Adams Key are also available. Access to the park from the mainland is limited to the immediate vicinity of the Dante Fascell Visitor Center at Convoy Point. All other portions of the park are reachable only by private or concessioner boats. Activities include boating, fishing, kayaking, windsurfing, snorkeling and scuba diving. Miami-Dade County operates four marina parks near the park. Homestead Bayfront Park is directly adjacent to the park headquarters at Convoy Point. Farther south Black Point Park provides access to Adams and Elliott Keys. Matheson Hammock Park is near the north end of the park, and Crandon Park is on Key Biscayne. Although it is a federally designated park, fishing within Biscayne is governed by the state of Florida. Anglers in Biscayne are required to have a Florida recreational saltwater fishing license. Fishing is limited to designated sport fish, spiny lobster, stone crab, blue crab and shrimp. Tropical reef fish may not be collected, nor may sharks, conch, sea urchins and other marine life. Reef life species such as coral and sponges are also protected from collecting by visitors. Additionally, lobstering is prohibited in the Biscayne Bay-Card Sound Lobster Sanctuary, administered by the state of Florida to protect spiny lobster breeding areas, which overlaps much of Biscayne Bay. A private concessioner provides tours from the Park headquarters into the bay and to the keys. Most tours are operated during the peak winter season from January to April. Personal watercraft are prohibited in Biscayne and most other national parks, but other private powerboats and sailboats are permitted.

Most of Biscayne’s permanent facilities are on the offshore keys. A seasonally staffed ranger station is located on Elliott Key, as well as a campground and 36 boat slips. A single loop trail runs from the harbor to the oceanfront, and a path following the Spite Highway runs the length of the island. Adams Key is a day-use-only area for visitors, although two Park Service residences are on the island. Boca Chita Key is the most-visited island, with a campground and picnic areas. The Boca Chita Lighthouse is occasionally open to visitors when staffing permits. Snorkeling and scuba diving on the offshore reefs are popular activities. The reefs have been the cause of many shipwrecks. A selection of wrecks have been the subjects of ranger-led snorkeling tours and have been organized as the Maritime Heritage Trail, the only underwater archaeological trail in the National Park Service system. The wrecks of the Arratoon Apcar (sank 1878), Erl King (1891), Alicia (1905), Lugano (1913) and Mandalay (1966) are on the trail together with an unknown wreck from the 1800s and the Fowey Rocks Lighthouse. The Alicia, Erl King and Lugano are relatively deep wrecks, best suited for scuba dives. The Mandalay is at a shallower depth and is especially popular for snorkeling.

Although most of Biscayne National Park’s area is water, the islands have a number of protected historical structures and districts. Shipwrecks are also protected within the park, and the park’s offshore waters are a protected historic district. Stiltsville was established by Eddie “Crawfish” Walker in the 1930s as a small community of shacks built on pilings in a shallow section of Biscayne Bay, not far from Key Biscayne. Comprising 27 structures at its height in the 1960s, Stiltsville lost shacks to fires and hurricanes, with only seven surviving in 2012, none of them dating to the 1960s or earlier. The site was incorporated into Biscayne National Park in 1985, when the Park Service agreed to honor existing leases until July 1, 1999. Hurricane Andrew destroyed most of Stiltsville in 1992. The Park Service has undertaken to preserve the community, which is now unoccupied. The community is to be administered by a trust and used as accommodation for overnight camping, educational facilities and researchers. Biscayne National Park includes a number of navigational aids, as well as an ornamental structure built to resemble a lighthouse. The Fowey Rocks Light is a skeleton-frame cast iron structure built in 1878. Already included within the boundaries of the park, the light was acquired by the Park Service on October 2, 2012. The unmanned Pacific Reef Light is about three miles offshore from Elliott Key. The original 1921 structure was replaced in 2000 and its lantern was placed on display in a park in Islamorada. Industrialist Mark C. Honeywell was a Cocolobo Club member who bought Boca Chita Key in 1937, expanding the facilities to include a small lighthouse. Boca Chita Key was developed with several structures including an imitation lighthouse, built using coral rock and topped with a wire cage resembling a lighthouse lantern, and the end of a jetty on the north side of the key. The key was owned by Honeywell until 1945. Mark and Olive Honeywell also built a chapel, a guesthouse, seawalls and utility buildings on the island. The Boca Chita Key structures are administered as a cultural landscape, interpreting the area’s use as a retreat for the rich. More modest homesteads include the now-abandoned plantations developed by Israel Jones and his sons, and the Sweeting Homestead on Elliott Key. The frame structures associated with these plantations, together with those of the Cocolobo Cay Club and frame buildings on Boca Chita Key, have been destroyed by fire and hurricanes.

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Read more on nps.gov – Biscayne National Park and Wikipedia Biscayne National Park (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.








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