The first undersea park in the United States, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and the adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, cover approximately 178 nautical square miles of coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove swamps. The park extends 3 miles into the Atlantic Ocean and is approximately 25 miles in length. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
The park is named for the late John D. Pennekamp, a Miami newspaper editor, whose efforts contributed to the establishment of Everglades National Park and the preservation of what would become John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
Where in the world can a camper slip out of his or her RV at daybreak, walk 50 feet and catch a prized bonefish? For starters, try Long Key State Park southwest of Islamorada in the Florida Keys.
Sure, there are spots in the Bahamas, or even more remote locations like Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean where bonefish all but knock at your door. But we’re talking about a place less than 100 yards off U.S. 1 and a 4-hour drive from Brevard County where your campsite sits literally on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
To some of the more than 2 1/2 million annual visitors to the Keys it is Margarittaville, while others know it as America’s outpost in the Caribbean and home to this nation’s only living barrier coral reef. Perhaps some visitors simply see it as the southernmost point that they can reach by car in the continental United States, or the only “frost-free” community in North America. Regardless of why people are attracted to the Keys, it all serves to remind us how special the Keys really are and adds to the uniqueness of the area.
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which took effect July 1, 1997, protects America’s only living barrier coral reef and thousands of acres of seagrass.
With the exception of four research only areas, fishing, boating, swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving are encouraged throughout the Sanctuary. Designated Sanctuary Preservation Areas and the Sambo Ecological Reserve are protected from most harvesting of marine life. These may be particularly attractive areas for those snorkeling/diving activities within the Sanctuary. The research areas total less than 1 square mile and require a scientific/monitoring research permit for access.
When most people think of Everglades National Park, established December 6, 1947, they think of the “River of Grass” on the mainland of South Florida. There is more to the Park. Approximately 85% of Florida Bay lies within Everglades National Park. I live in Key Largo and just have to travel a mile west and I am in the park.
As with all National Parks, there are many rules and regulations. Please check out the link above for more information. Below are a couple of rules many don’t consider but are definitely enforced.
Boating Impacts: Propeller damage to seagrass beds is harmful to the marine environment. Be extremely careful when navigating in shallow waters. (BIG Fines)
Water Skis: The towing of persons by vessels utilizing water skis, hydra slides, knee boards or other similar types of equipment is prohibited so that manatees, crocodiles, and nesting birds will not be disturbed.
Personal Watercraft: The operation of “personal watercraft” also known as “wet bikes®”, “jet skis®”, and other trade names, is prohibited.
Check out this Map for park boundaries.
Campground on Dry Tortugas, closed since June 2002, reopens
DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK, Fla. – The campground on this cluster of small islands near the Florida Keys has been reopened after a 1 1/2-year hiatus, an official said.
The campsite on Garden Key had been closed since June 2002 after heavy rains caused a malfunction in the septic tanks, but the park remained open for day visits, park spokesman Rick Cook said.
The National Park Service reopened the campsite Monday 12-29-03, complete with new toilets in the visitors’ restroom, plus new grills for cookouts and a walkway for the disabled, Cook said.