People visit most national parks to see and enjoy the beauty of the land, whether majestic mountains, huge expanses of sand, or emerald forests dominate the landscape. But the most interesting parts of Biscayne National Park in Florida are underwater.
On a March visit to Fort Lauderdale, Larry and I decided to take a day trip to this unusual park. Since it was early spring, we realized our visit would primarily involve exploration from a boat, as the bits of low-lying land included in the park seemed remote and insignificant. Indeed, after driving almost an hour and a half to get there, we felt eons away from civilization.
There’s beauty to be appreciated in the clear blue water, mangrove shoreline, and dark green woodlands that surround the 173,000 acres of designated park space. It’s a subtropical place where small islands (keys) harbor living coral reefs, a pristine wilderness along the southeast edge of the Florida peninsula.
|Walk the pier at the Visitor Center for an introduction to open water. |
|Sea birds are a common sight on|
the jetty trail.
Since our Heritage of Biscayne boat tour wasn’t
scheduled until early afternoon, we walked along the jetty trail to get a sense
of the landscape. The land is filled with a collection of trees, ferns, vines,
flowers, and shrubs that thrive in the warm, wet climate.
On the boat tour we learned history of this ocean region.
We joined five other people on a wet and wild ride
across the bay, with a couple of stops to explain some of the history of this
region. We heard about Adams Key, the Sterling homestead, and brothers Arthur
and Lancelot Jones, who learned that being a fishing guide was more profitable
than farming. Many legends abound of pirates, buried treasure, shipwrecks, and treacherous
The longest stop on our three and a half hour boat
ride was at Boca Chita, a former party island for wealthy visitors. In fact, a
fake lighthouse was built on the island to help direct partiers to the right
spot. Today, luxury boats can dock for a nightly fee, or people can go this
peaceful place to camp and picnic.
Boca Chita is still a favorite day trip or overnight camping spot.
At the center of Biscayne’s underwater world are the coral reefs that built the Florida Keys. The 150-miles-long chain of coral reefs has created a tropical paradise. If you have time to explore onshore, you can see fossil coral rock on the islands of Biscayne. By having national park status, the crystal waters are now protected from pollutants and construction runoff that threatened the land in the early 1900s.
|Palm trees swaying in the breeze remind you of a tropical paradise.|
Popular with snorkelers and scuba divers, the shallow water reefs are filled with light and life. Brilliantly colored tropical fish and other sea creatures attract people fascinated by the multitude of sea inhabitants.
It’s a different kind of national park, an undersea world that we would like to explore another time. Maybe someday we’ll get back for a summer visit and the opportunity to be dazzled by the wild spectrum of colorful sea life in Biscayne National Park.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier