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Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park








Description of Biscayne National Park

Location: Miami, Florida Map

Area: 172,971 acres (699.99 kmĀ²)

Fees and permits
There are no entrance fees. See the Camping section for fees for sites. For any boats docked after 6PM, a $25 overnight docking fee is charged at Boca Chita and Elliott Key harbors from November through April. There are no docking or camping fees May through October.


Biscayne National Park is a National Park located in South Florida, south of Miami. The park preserves Biscayne Bay and its coral reefs on the high seas. 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 the Elliott Cay, the largest island in the park and the first of the true Florida Keys, formed from fossilized coral reefs. The islands further north in the park are transition islands of coral and sand. The part of the park's coastline includes the northernmost region of the Florida Reefs, one of the largest coral reefs in the world.

The Biscayne National Park protects four different ecosystems: the coastal mangrove swamp, the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay, the coral limestone cays and the Florida coastal reef. The marshes of the coast on the mainland and on the margins of the island provide a nursery for fish larvae and young fish, molluscs and crustaceans. The waters of the bay house immature and adult fish, seagrass meadows, sponges, soft corals and manatees. The cays are covered with tropical vegetation including cactus and palm trees in danger of extinction, and their beaches offer nesting zones for marine turtles in danger of extinction. The reefs and waters harbor more than 200 species of fish, pelagic birds, whales and hard corals. Sixteen species in danger of extinction, including Schaus butterflies, swallowtail, sawfish, manatees and green and hawksbill sea turtles can be observed in the park. Biscayne also has a small population of threatened American crocodiles and some American lizards.

People of the Glades culture inhabited the Biscayne Bay region about 10,000 years ago before sea level rise filled the bay. The town of Tequesta occupied the islands and the coast from about 4,000 years before the present to the sixteenth century when the Spaniards took possession of Florida. The reefs insure ships from the time of the Spanish through the twentieth century, with more than 40 shipwrecks documented within the boundaries of the park. While the islands of the park were cultivated during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, its rocky soil and periodic hurricanes made agriculture difficult to sustain. In the twentieth century, the islands became isolated destinations for wealthy Miamians who built getaway houses and social clubs. The Mark C. Honeywell Guesthouse on the Boca Chita Key was more the private and more elaborate shelter in the area, with a mock lighthouse. Cay Club Cocolobo was on several occasions owned by Miami developer Carl G. Fisher, navigator Garfield Wood, and President Richard Nixon's friend Bebe Rebozo, and was visited by four US presidents. The amphibian community of Stiltsville was established in the 1930s on the sandbars north of Biscayne Bay, taking advantage of its remoteness from the land to offer offshore betting games and alcohol during Prohibition. After the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the Elliott Key was used as a training ground for the infiltrators in Fidel Castro's Cuba by the Central Intelligence Agency and by groups of Cuban exiles.

Originally proposed for inclusion in the Everglades National Park, Biscayne Bay was cut from the proposed park to ensure the establishment of the Everglades. It remained undeveloped until the 1960s, when a series of proposals were made for the development of reefs in the manner of Miami Beach, and to build a deep-water port for bulk cargo, along with the refinery and facilities petrochemicals on the continental coast of Biscayne Bay. Through the 1960s and 1970s, two fossil-fuel power plants and the two nuclear power plants were built on the banks of the bay. A reaction against development led to the designation of the Biscayne National Monument in 1968. The protected area was extended by its redesignation of 1980 as Biscayne National Park. The park is widely used by boaters, and apart from the park's visitor center on the mainland, its land and sea areas are accessible only by boat.




The water portion of Biscayne National Park is open 24 hours a day. Adams Key (accessible only by boat or swimming) is a day use area only. Convoy Point, on the mainland, is the location of the park's headquarters and visitor center, and is open daily from 7AM-5:30PM. The Dante Fascell Visitor Center is open daily from 9AM-5PM. Audiovisual programs are closed-captioned and available in both English and Spanish.




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