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biscayne national park establishment:
Congress established Biscayne National Monument in 1968 “in order to preserve and protect
for the education, inspiration, recreation, and enjoyment of present and future generations a rare
combination of terrestrial, marine, and amphibious life in a tropical setting of great natural
beauty.” The Park was expanded in 1974 and again in 1980, at which time it was redesignated
Biscayne National Park.
biscayne national park establishment essay
Established on June 28, 1980, Biscayne National Park is the largest marine park in the National Park System and protects a rare combination of aquamarine waters, emerald islands, and fish-bejeweled coral reefs. Here too is evidence of 10,000 years of human history, from pirates and shipwrecks to pineapple farmers and presidents. Outdoor enthusiasts can boat,
snorkel, camp, watch wildlife…or simply relax in a rocking chair gazing out over the bay. 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, and featured a mock lighthouse.
During the early 1950s, an era of newfound prosperity, Americans were taking more vacations and moving to Florida. The keys were a popular destination and property values soared. Many people looked at the northernmost keys, the ones bypassed by Henry Flagler’s railroad and within the present day boundaries of the park, and saw them languishing in placid waters. They envisioned hotels,
roads and other developments. Several years later came a plan to dredge up 8,000 acres of bay bottom to create a jetport. In 1961,
13 area landowners voted unanimously to create the City of Islandia. Plans for Seadade, a major industrial seaport, were announced in 1962. The proposal called for the dredging of a 40-foot deep channel through the Bay’s clear, shallow waters. Dade County’s “new frontier” was born, but it never grew beyond the toddler stage.
An initially small, but vocal, group of people had an entirely different vision for these islands; a national park unlike any other. The park would be covered by water, protecting not only the islands but the bay to the west and the reef to the east. It would provide a haven for wildlife and a respite for people tired of cramped city life. The park’s proponents were not extraordinary in the usual sense of the word. They were doctors and pilots, farmers and writers. They were people who knew the area — people who understood new concepts like ecology and environmental preservation.
After a long and bitter political battle, the conservationists prevailed. By this time they realized that bringing Biscayne Bay into the embrace of the National Park System would be the best way to insure the long term preservation of its scenic,ecologic, and historic resources.
Biscayne National Monument was established in 1968. Support for additional protection of coastal resources led to an expansion of the monument in 1974, and in 1980 the monument was redesignated Biscayne National Park and again expanded.
DESCRIPTION OF BISCAYNE NATIONAL PARK
Biscayne National Park comprises approximately 180,000 acres in Dade County, Florida, just
south of Miami. The Park is about 22 miles long, with its northern boundary near Key Biscayne
and its southern boundary near Key Largo. The red mangrove forest of the western shore of
Biscayne Bay delineates the western boundary of the Park, while the eastern boundary follows
the 60-foot-depth contour, for an approximate width of 14 miles.
Biscayne is primarily a marine
park, with 95 percent of its area submerged within either the shallow Biscayne Bay or the more
turbulent waters of the Hawk Channel and the Florida Straits. The park’s land area includes
4,825 acres of largely undeveloped mangrove shoreline and 4,250 acres scattered across forty-
two keys. The only overland access to the Park is at the Convoy Point Visitor Center via
Southwest 328th Street (North Canal Drive).
Biscayne’s Vibrant Wildlife
Renowned for its biodiversity, Biscayne National Park is made up of four ecosystems: coastal mangrove hammocks, Biscayne Bay’s shallow lagoon waters, coral limestone keys and the third-largest offshore reef in the world. These ecosystems sustain thousands of species,
including 20 that are threatened or endangered, such as the manatee, hawksbill sea turtle and American crocodile. Part of the Biscayne Birding Trail, the park also boasts more than 110 species of birds, including the roseate spoonbill, wood stork and the ultra-rare mangrove cuckoo. The area is also home to 600 native fish species.
Native Americans were present in lower Florida 10,000 years ago, when ocean levels were low and Biscayne Bay was comparatively empty of water. Water levels rose from about 4000 years ago and inundated the bay. Archeologists believe any traces left by the peoples of that era are now submerged; none now exist on dry lands in the park.
The Cutler Fossil Site, just to the west of the park, has yielded evidence of human occupation extending to at least 10000 years before the present. The earliest evidence of human presence in Biscayne dates to about 2500 years before the present, with piles of conch and whelk shells left by the Glades culture.
The Glades culture was followed by the Tequesta people, who occupied the shores of Biscayne Bay. The Tequesta were a sedentary community that lived on fish and other sea life, with no significant agricultural activity. A site on Sands Key has yielded potsherds, worked shells and other artifacts indicating occupation from at latest 1000 AD to about 1650, after contact was made with Europeans.
TOURS AND CAMPING
The Dante Fascall visitor center, located on the mainland, is the only portion of the park that is accessible by car. The remainder of the park’s seas and swamps are only accessible by boat or watercraft. The city of Homestead offers a complimentary guided-trolley tour from downtown Homestead to the visitor center during the months of November through April. The visitor center is a phenomenal park resource for ranger-led trips and guided-tours, such as paddle excursions to Jones Lagoon or canoe trips around the fringed-mangrove.
These activities require a reservation and fill up quickly, so you’ll want to check out the events calendar in advance for a complete list.
Preplanning your outdoor activities prior to arrival is highly recommended. Outside of the ranger-led events, there are other authorized tour operators you can book a variety of activities through, such as the Biscayne National Park Institute. Tour operators offer boat excursions to the Boca Chita Key, sailing trips around the Fowey Rocks lighthouse, scuba diving expeditions of 19th century wreckage, fishing trips, kayak and canoe rentals, along with various other water activities.
There are two campgrounds located inside the national park, Boca Chita Key and Elliott Key. Both sites are located on islands and are only accessible by boat. Cold showers and potable water are only available at the Elliott Key campsite and while Boca Chita Key is known for its breathtaking waterfront views and is the most popular island to visit in the entire park.
Canoeing and kayaking
Canoeing and kayaking are ideal ways to explore the mangrove fringed shorelines and shallow bay waters of the park. More experienced kayakers may enjoy crossing the seven mile expanse of Biscayne Bay to Elliott or Boca Chita Keys. Adams Key is a popular launching spot for accessing these areas from the south. Using the islands as a base camp will allow exploration of the lagoons, creeks and channels south of Caesar Creek. Many of these places are too shallow for motorized vessels, so canoeists and kayakers are likely to have these places to themselves.
Shallow Jones Lagoon is a great place to see rays, upside-down jellyfish, schools of fish and wading birds. Be careful not to disturb the bird rookery (stay at least 300 feet away).
Hurricane Creek provides spectacular canoe and kayak opportunities. The creek was named for the fact that old-timers would tie their boats here during big storms. It offers excellent snorkeling beneath mangrove roots to observe sea squirts, crabs, anemones and other marine life.
Launching your own paddlecraft is allowed from the designated area adjacent to the parking lot and is free of charge. Leaving a vehicle in the parking lot overnight is permitted when camping on one of the park islands, but please stop in the visitor center to fill out a free parking permit.
Safe paddling practices
Paddle with a buddy
Have a float plan – let someone know where you’re going,
when you plan on returning and who you’re with
Check the weather – be prepared for wind,
rain and unexpected weather
Carry water, food and sun protection
Paddle within your experience level
Planning a Trip to Biscayne National Park
Located between Miami and the Florida Keys, Biscayne National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, and is completely free to visit — there are no entrance fees or passes required. However, the park’s islands, reefs, and other natural attractions are only accessible by boat. Guided tours are available.