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Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park

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Biscayne National Park is a U.S. National Park located in southern Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, due east of Homestead
Homestead, Florida
Homestead is a city in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States nestled between Biscayne National Park to the east and Everglades National Park to the west. Homestead is primarily a Miami suburb and a major agricultural area....

. The park preserves Biscayne Bay
Biscayne Bay
Biscayne Bay is a lagoon that is approximately 35 miles long and up to 8 miles wide located on the Atlantic coast of South Florida, United States. It is usually divided for purposes of discussion and analysis into three parts: North Bay, Central Bay, and South Bay. Its area is...

, one of the top scuba diving
Scuba diving
Scuba diving is a form of underwater diving in which a diver uses a scuba set to breathe underwater....

 areas in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Ninety-five percent of the park is water. In addition, the shore of the bay is the location of an extensive mangrove
Mangroves are various kinds of trees up to medium height and shrubs that grow in saline coastal sediment habitats in the tropics and subtropics – mainly between latitudes N and S...

 forest. The park covers 207 mi² (700 km²).

Elliott Key
Elliott Key
Elliott Key is the northernmost of the true Florida Keys , and the largest key north of Key Largo. It is located entirely within Biscayne National Park, in Miami-Dade County, Florida, east of Homestead, Florida...

, the park's largest island, is considered the first of the true Florida Keys being formed from fossilized coral
Corals are marine animals in class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria typically living in compact colonies of many identical individual "polyps". The group includes the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton.A coral "head" is a colony of...

 reef, i.e. Key Largo limestone. The islands farther north in the park are transitional islands of coral and sand.


The earliest European contact occurred when Spanish explorers found the 35-mile-long lagoon
A lagoon is a body of shallow sea water or brackish water separated from the sea by some form of barrier. The EU's habitat directive defines lagoons as "expanses of shallow coastal salt water, of varying salinity or water volume, wholly or partially separated from the sea by sand banks or shingle,...

 in the 16th century, but the first permanent European settlers in the Miami area did not come until the early 19th century. While a few residents lived in the area, the area remained mostly unaffected by humans until more recent years.

As modern communities continued growing in and around Miami, developers looked to South Dade for new projects. In 1961, 13 area landowners voted unanimously to create the City of Islandia on Elliott Key. But without a causeway to the island, holding elections was difficult. There was no infrastructure, and registered voters had to take a boat to vote on the island, along with another boat that carried a 1,000 pound voting machine. The Elliott Key dock would not support the machine, so a derrick was obtained to swing the machine onto the island.

Plans for Seadade, a major industrial seaport, were announced in 1962. SeaDade, supported by billionaire shipping magnate Daniel K. Ludwig, would have located an oil refinery on the bay. In addition to the physical structures, it would have been necessary to dredge a 40-foot-deep channel through the bay for large ships to access the refinery. The channel would have also required cutting through the coral reef to get to the deep water.

Many locals supported SeaDade because it would have created additional jobs, but a group of early environmentalists thought the costs were too high. They fought against development of the bay and formed the Safe Progress Association. They had a different plan to halt development; to create a national park covered by water, protecting not only the islands but the bay to the west and the reef to the east as well.

Islandia, Florida
Islandia is a city in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States, located on Totten Key south of Elliott Key. The population was 18 at the 2010 Census...

, supported by land owners, would have connected the northern Florida Keys - from Key Biscayne to Key Largo – with bridges and created new islands using the fill from the SeaDade channel. Although Ludwig backed out due to the tide of opposition, Islandia’s supporters did not give up as easily. In 1968, when it appeared the area was about to become a national monument, Islandia supporters bulldozed a highway six-lanes wide right down the center of the island, destroying the forest for seven miles. Islandia officials called it Elliott Key Boulevard, but called it Spite Highway privately. It was hoped that since there was so much environmental damage, no one would want it for a national monument. Park proponents were not deterred. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill on October 18, 1968.

Before long, the forest grew back. Today, the only significant hiking trail on Elliott Key follows the path of Elliott Key Boulevard. Twelve years after President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill creating Biscayne National Monument, the boundaries were expanded and the area was redesignated a national park.

Islandia never became a city, but it still exists today, but only on paper. There is no functioning government, and only the Miami-Dade County Commission can "de-corporate" a city, and that has yet to happen.


The major attraction of the park is fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

 the inshore and offshore waters. Scuba diving
Scuba diving
Scuba diving is a form of underwater diving in which a diver uses a scuba set to breathe underwater....

 or snorkeling
Snorkeling is the practice of swimming on or through a body of water while equipped with a diving mask, a shaped tube called a snorkel, and usually swimfins. In cooler waters, a wetsuit may also be worn...

 on the coral reef
Coral reef
Coral reefs are underwater structures made from calcium carbonate secreted by corals. Coral reefs are colonies of tiny living animals found in marine waters that contain few nutrients. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, which in turn consist of polyps that cluster in groups. The polyps...

 ecosystems that are found east of the barrier islands is also a very popular attraction. Other attractions include: canoeing
Canoeing is an outdoor activity that involves a special kind of canoe.Open canoes may be 'poled' , sailed, 'lined and tracked' or even 'gunnel-bobbed'....

, kayaking
Kayaking is the use of a kayak for moving across water. Kayaking and canoeing are also known as paddling. Kayaking is distinguished from canoeing by the sitting position of the paddler and the number of blades on the paddle...

, sailing
Sailing is the propulsion of a vehicle and the control of its movement with large foils called sails. By changing the rigging, rudder, and sometimes the keel or centre board, a sailor manages the force of the wind on the sails in order to move the boat relative to its surrounding medium and...

, or cruising
Cruising (maritime)
Cruising by boat is a lifestyle that involves living for extended time on a boat while traveling from place to place for pleasure. Cruising generally refers to trips of a few days or more, and can extend to round-the-world voyages.- History :...

 the expanse of open waters within the park and camping
Camping is an outdoor recreational activity. The participants leave urban areas, their home region, or civilization and enjoy nature while spending one or several nights outdoors, usually at a campsite. Camping may involve the use of a tent, caravan, motorhome, cabin, a primitive structure, or no...

 on Elliot Key or Boca Chita. Limited services are offered by the Park's concessionaire, so the majority of visitors enter the Park via Black Point or Bayfront boat ramps and explore the area on their own private boats.

Flora and fauna

On April 30 and May 1, the park completed an 'All Taxa, 24-hr BioBlitz'. During this event, 810 species were identified.

Animal Checklist
Lifeforms BioBlitz Found Common Lifeforms
Marine Invertebrates
Plants (trees)

Invasive species
The national park has confirmed the presence of the lionfish
Lionfish may refer to:* genus Pterois, collectively known as the lionfish* Red Lionfish , a significant invasive species off the East Coast of North America and in the Caribbean-Fish:...

 (Pterois volitans and Pterois miles) within the park. Park divers were able to capture one recently. The lionfish is a tropical species from the Indian-Pacific Ocean area. It is known for its voracious appetite and its ability to establish itself in new waters, rapidly replacing other species. It is believed that the introduction of this species occurred during Hurricane Andrew
Hurricane Andrew
Hurricane Andrew was the third Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in the United States, after the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and Hurricane Camille in 1969. Andrew was the first named storm and only major hurricane of the otherwise inactive 1992 Atlantic hurricane season...

in 1992. Sightings in Biscayne Bay at that time, traced the fish back to home aquariums that were destroyed during the Hurricane.

External links