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Biscayne National Park  


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Park History

Convoy Point

Biscayne Bay

Birds

Black Point

The Keys

Atlantic Ocean

Vegetation

References


Although most people probably think of the Everglades when they think of national parks in south Florida, there is another national park only a few miles away. Biscayne National Park is located just south of Miami along the extreme southeastern coast of Florida. The 181,500 acres of the park contain a stretch of the mainland, much of Biscayne Bay, and a large number of small barrier islands off the coast.





Biscayne National Park is noted for many features, including the blue waters of the bay itself, extensive coral reefs, fish and other marine animals, many different varieties of sea birds, subtropical vegetation, and trails on the islands and the mainland. This park, only 30 miles from downtown Miami, contains the longest undeveloped shoreline on Florida's east coast.



Park History

Before the arrival of the Spanish the Biscayne area was inhabited by the Tequestas Indians, who lived comfortably on the bounty of the sea surrounding land. The Tequestas were particularly fond of conch and left middens which can still be seen in various locations in the park. The first Spaniard, Ponce de Leon, visited in 1513, taking on fresh water near Biscayne Bay. Unfortunately, the diseases introduced by the Spaniards had virtually eliminated the Tequestas by the mid 1700's.

By the early 1800's the park area had become a haven for pirates and buccaneers, like the famous "Black Caesar." In 1819 Florida was acquired by the United States, and in the 1820's the pirates were cleared from the park area.

The area was used for a number of purposes in the 1800's, including the gathering of sponges. The islands of the park were also farmed, although a large hurricane in 1906 ended much of this activity. Subsequently, the main activities in the park area were rum smuggling and guiding of tourists who came to experience the sun and sea.

However, as the 20th century advanced development pressure which affected much of Florida began to be felt on the Biscayne area.The traditional solitude which protected the barrier islands was threatened by a planned bridge and subsequent resorts and subdivisions (the "Islandia" development). To protect the resources of the area Biscayne Bay was first created as a national monument in 1968. Much credit for preservation of the area is accorded Florida Congressman Danta Fascell. Additional acquisitions were added to the monument in 1974, and it was finally made a national park on June 28, 1980.


Convoy Point

The main portion of the park on the mainland is at Convoy Point approximately 10 miles west of Homestead, Florida. This section of the park contains a picnic area, shown below.



It also contains a boat dock for trips out onto the bay, a visitor's center, and other visitor's services.



Convoy Point also provides beautiful views of Biscayne Bay, some small islands off the shore in the area.



There is also a pleasant boardwalk along the waterfront, part of which is shown below. Biscayne Bay, centerpiece of the park, is visible in the background.



The walk also provides views toward the north along the coastline.



Looking inland from the boardwalk provides a view of the tranquil water of the inlet and the mangroves which line the coast.



The boardwalk area gives way to an unpaved path, and eventually to a dock which leads out into Biscayne Bay.



The dock can be seen below.



Fishing on the waterfront (below) is permitted and is a popular activity.



The Convoy Point area also features a number of small mangrove covered islands.



Convoy Point is the site of a brand new visitor's center, shown under construction below. The area has been devastated on a number of occasions by the powerful hurricanes which periodically pound the south Florida area.



A different perspective of the Convoy Point area is apparent from out in Biscayne Bay. The portion of the park featuring the visitor's center, dock, and other visitor services is visible in the center of the picture.



Although a beautiful national park, it's difficult to forget that Biscayne National Park is located near one of the United States' major metropolitan areas. A short distance to the north of Convoy Point is the city of Miami, which can be seen on the horizon 15 miles to the north below.



North of Convoy Pint, near the park's Black Point area, is a landfill not so affectionately nicknamed "Mt. Trashmore." This landfill is 150 feet in height and is, ironically, the highest point in Florida's Dade County.



South of Convoy Point the area is dominated by another man-made installation--the Turkey Point nuclear plant, shown below. This facility has one unexpected beneficial effect: American crocodiles, an endangered species, flourish in its cooling ponds.



A small inlet (shown below) lined with mangrove trees separates the national park at Convoy Point from the county's Homestead Bayfront Park which also provides access to and good views of the southern section of Biscayne Bay.



The picture below looks out into the bay from the Homestead Bayfront Park.



Biscayne Bay

The centerpiece of the park is Biscayne Bay itself; in fact, only 4% of the surface area of the park is land. The bay is enclosed by the barrier islands on the east, which separate it from the Gulf Stream and the Atlantic Ocean, and the southeast coast of Florida to the west.



Biscayne Bay is also a favorite recreation area for people in the Miami area, including for the many who enjoy boating and other aquatic activities. Florida's Intracoastal Waterway runs through the center of Biscayne Bay.



Although the coast areas and the islands of the park are very interesting, 95% of the area of Biscayne National Park is water.



Many views across the water feature a narrow stripe of lthe very ow lying land.



The blue green waters of the bay are exceptionally beautiful against the mangrove lined shores and the blue skies.



Although expansive the bay is quite shallow and the water very clear. The bay is only about 13 feet deep at its maximum point and usually ranges from only about 4 to 10. As in the picture below, taken well out into the bay, it's usually easy to see the bottom.



In most places the edge of the bay is surrounded by tropical vegetation. As indicated above, the bay is actually quite shallow, and the waters in the bay are relatively warm due to the effects of the Gulf Stream. As a result, the coral reefs contained within park boundaries are the northernmost living reefs on the coast of the continental U.S.






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  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

  • Commercial use of the images contained in this document without express written consent is strictly prohibited.

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