Biscayne National Park   Leave a comment

Biscayne NP 00Where Is It: Convoy Point, with a Visitor’s Center, is on the mainland, 10 miles west of Homestead, FL.

The Birth: From the Biscayne National Park Information Guide:

The park, located just 21 miles east of Everglades National Park, was established as a national monument in 1968. In 1980 it was enlarged to 181,500 acres and designated as a national park to protect a rare combination of terrestrial and undersea life, to preserve a scenic subtropical setting, and to provide an outstanding spot for recreation and relaxation.

Set apart as Biscayne National Monument in 1968. Designated a National Park by Congress and signed by President Jimmy Carter on 28 Jun 1980.

It Happened Here: From ParkVision:

Before the arrival of the Spanish the Biscayne area was inhabited by the Tequestas Indians, who lived comfortably on the bounty of the sea surrounding land. The Tequestas were particularly fond of conch and left middens which can still be seen in various locations in the park. The first Spaniard, Ponce de Leon, visited in 1513, taking on fresh water near Biscayne Bay. Unfortunately, the diseases introduced by the Spaniards had virtually eliminated the Tequestas by the mid 1700’s.

By the early 1800’s the park area had become a haven for pirates and buccaneers, like the famous “Black Caesar.” In 1819 Florida was acquired by the United States, and in the 1820’s the pirates were cleared from the park area.

The area was used for a number of purposes in the 1800’s, including the gathering of sponges. The islands of the park were also farmed, although a large hurricane in 1906 ended much of this activity. Subsequently, the main activities in the park area were rum smuggling and guiding of tourists who came to experience the sun and sea.

Size: 172,971 acres

# Visitors: 487,664 in 2013. November was the least attended month; August had peak attendance.

Flora & Fauna: From Wikipedia:

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 and soft corals, as well as 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 the Schaus’ swallowtail butterfly, 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.

Animals: The Key Largo wood rat is an endangered species, building large stick houses that can be handed down for generations and stand 6′ stlal. They live in mature, tropical hardwood hammocks.

Choices: From NationalGeographic.com:

Unless you have your own boat, plan to see Biscayne on a concessioner-run cruise. You can look underwater on a reef cruise aboard a glass-bottom boat or swim the shallow waters on a snorkeling cruise. There are also scuba cruises to the outer reef for qualified divers. You should make reservations in advance. Cruises may be canceled if there are too few passengers or the weather is inclement. Although this is a water park, a walk around the mangrove shore will give you a chance to examine the coastal edges of the bay’s ecosystem. The Dante Fascell Visitor Center offers a museum, audiovisual programs, and ranger talks.

Fees: There are no entrance fees. There are fees for overnight camping, and for docking fees. See the Park’s website, here.

Staying There: The two campgrounds in the Park are located on two different islands: Boca Chita Key and Elliott Key. The campgrounds are open year round.

Contact Info:

9700 SW 328 Street
Homestead, Florida 33033
 
Visitor Information: 305-230-PARK (305-230-7275)

Current Issues: The Park recently installed shoal markers in an effort to protect seagrass beds and coral shoals from boaters. Read about it, here.

More

National Park Service: Biscayne National Park

PBS.org: Biscayne National Park

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