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Biscayne National Park

Photo © RoyandIngrid

Travel Guide North America USA Southern United States Florida Biscayne National Park

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Introduction

Biscayne National Park is a U.S. National Park located in southern Florida, south of Miami. The park preserves Biscayne Bay and its offshore barrier reefs. 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 70,00ha and includes Elliott Key, the park's largest island and first of the true Florida Keys, formed from fossilized coral reef. The islands farther north in the park are transitional islands of coral and sand. The offshore portion of the park includes the northernmost region of the Florida Reef, one of the largest coral reefs in the world.

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, soft corals, and 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 Schaus' swallowtail butterflies, 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.

Originally proposed for inclusion in Everglades National Park, Biscayne Bay was cut from the proposed park to ensure Everglades' establishment. It remained undeveloped until the 1960s, when a series of proposals were made to develop the keys in the manner of Miami Beach, and to construct a deepwater seaport for bulk cargo, along with refinery and petrochemical facilities on the mainland shore of Biscayne Bay. Through the 1960s and 1970s, two fossil-fueled power plants and two nuclear power plants were built on the bay shores. A backlash against development led to the 1968 designation of Biscayne National Monument. The preserved area was expanded by its 1980 re-designation as Biscayne National Park. The park is heavily used by boaters, and apart from the park's visitor center on the mainland, its land and sea areas are accessible only by boat.

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Geography

Extending from just south of Key Biscayne southward to just north of Key Largo, the park includes Soldier Key, the Ragged Keys, Sands Key, Elliott Key, Totten Key and Old Rhodes Key, as well as smaller islands that form the northernmost extension of the Florida Keys. A wide shallow opening in the island chain, located between the Ragged Keys and Key Biscayne just north of the park's boundary, is called the Safety Valve, as it allows storm surge water to flow out of the bay after the passage of tropical storms. The park's eastern boundary is the ten-fathom line (18 metres) of water depth in the Atlantic Ocean on the Florida Reef. The park's western boundary is a fringe of property on the mainland, extending a few hundred meters inland between Cutler Ridge and Mangrove Point. The only direct mainland access to the park is at the Convoy Point Visitor Center, adjacent to the park headquarter. The southwestern boundary adjoins the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station and its system of cooling canals.

The southern portion of Biscayne Bay extends between Elliott Key and the mainland, transited by the Intracoastal Waterway. The park abuts the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary on the east and south sides of the park and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park to the south. Only 3,673 ha of the park's area are on land, with the offshore keys comprising 1,720 ha and mainland mangrove swamps account for the remaining 1,953 ha.

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Opening Hours

Dante Fascell Visitor Center is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and January 1st.

The navigable waters are open 24/7.

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Cost

The park has no entrance fees.

A $25 fee is required for each overnight stay in either Elliott Key or Boca Chita Key Harbors. This fee includes the use of the camping area for up to two tents and six people at no extra charge.

A boat is needed in order to get to each remote island. Docking space is available on a first come first served basis. Reservations are not accepted. Any boat in the harbor after 5 PM is required to pay an overnight fee. There is a $30 per night fee for the group campsite on Elliott Key (reservations for the group campsite are available at 786-335-3609). There is no fee for day use. Camping and docking fees are waived from May 1 to September 30.

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Getting There and Around

From the North

  • From the Florida Turnpike take Exit 6 (Speedway Boulevard). Turn left from exit ramp and continue southto SW 328th Street (North Canal Drive). Turn lefton 328th Street and continue for four miles to the end of the road. The park entrance is on the left just before the entrance to Homestead Bayfront Marina.
  • From US-1 drive south to Homestead.Turn left onto SW 137th Avenue (Speedway Boulevard). Continue south for five miles to SW 328th Street (North Canal Drive). Turn left and continue for four miles to the end of the road. The park entrance is on the left just before the entrance to Homestead Bayfront Marina.

From the South

  • From US-1 drive north to Homestead. Turn right on SW 3 44th Street ( Palm Drive , the last lightbefore the Florida Turnpike entrance) . After about four miles the road curves to the north near the Homestead Speedway. Turnrighton SW 328th Street (North Canal Drive) heading east. Continuefor four miles to the end of the road. The park entrance is on the left just before the entrance to Homestead Bayfront Marina.

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Eat/Drink

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Biscayne National Park Travel Helpers

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This is version 1. Last edited at 9:28 on Aug 10, 16 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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