As one would expect, the species list for our Florida Keys trip is filled with interesting species. It’s not comprehensive and notably lacks plants, but it was worth compiling nonetheless.
All eight of us had spent the morning of November 19, 2016 kayaking in Biscayne Bay and in the mangrove estuaries along its mainland shores. Now it was time for a picnic lunch at Convoy Point. Our time at Biscayne National Park, having only just begun, was also drawing short. And that meant that our whole Florida Keys adventure would soon be concluding.
Looking north from Convoy Point, Miami rose from the ocean like Atlantis.
Biscayne National Park was established in 1980 and protects almost 173,000 acres of the northernmost Florida Keys, coastal Florida south of Miami, and the expanse of Biscayne Bay. It is in good company with Dry Tortugas, Glacier Bay, American Samoa, and Channel Islands as a National Park whose primary function is to protect nautical resources and habitat. Biscayne Bay was originally proposed for protection in the 1940s as part of Everglades National Park, but it was ultimately eliminated from that Park’s boundaries. The mainland areas and keys of Biscayne Bay remained largely undeveloped until the 1960s when proposals emerged to extend the hyper-development of Miami Beach to the Biscayne keys. A proposal to dredge the bay to create a deep-sea port on the mainland activated intense grassroots opposition. In 1968, that opposition led to the establishment by Congress of Biscayne National Monument, which was expanded and upgraded in 1980 to National Park status.
For several years before our visit on November 19, 2016, Biscayne National Park had lacked an official concessionaire. For decades, official partners had offered glass-bottomed boat tours and other activities for exploring the Park. By last November, limited tours were again being offered, but not on a day that made sense for our trip. Lacking a private boat, let alone one in Florida, we focused our day at Biscayne on kayaking.
[Note: It feels strange to be writing about our trip to Dry Tortugas National Park and Biscayne National Park while those Parks are closed and damaged and while Florida is just beginning to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Irma. But these places will reopen and recover, and any part this website plays in encouraging more people to visit these Parks and spend money this winter and in years to come in the Florida Keys will, I hope, help in some small way.
Additionally, at Out in the Parks, where I sell prints of a selection of my photographs of the National Parks, I’m doing a fundraiser: while the four National Parks impacted by Hurricane Irma—Biscayne, Dry Tortugas, Everglades, and Virgin Islands—remain closed, 100% of proceeds from photographs featuring these Parks will benefit their respective affiliated non-profit organizations: Florida National Parks Association, Everglades Association, and Friends of Virgin Islands National Park.]
As 2016 aged, Sean and I reached the conclusion of our aim to calibrate the National Parks that we had visited so that by the end of the National Park Service Centennial year we would have been to the same National Parks. After our descent of the Grand Staircase, Sean had been to twenty-one Parks to my twenty Parks since he had been to Dry Tortugas National Park during a spring break trip to Key West while he was at Michigan State University in the 1990s. He had caught up to Yosemite, Shenandoah, and Grand Canyon, and now it was my turn. We would, logically, add Biscayne National Park to our trip, thereby ending 2016 with our visited-Parks number at a not-too-shabby twenty-two.