Big Cypress National Preserve (Collier, Miami-Dade)
Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Dry Tortugas National Park
Everglades National Park (Collier, Miami-Dade)
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge
Key West National Wildlife Refuge
National Key Deer Refuge
Naval Air Station Key West
Bays & Inlets
Florida Bay, Whitewater Bay
Rivers & Paddling Trails
Bear Lake Trail, Biscayne Bay Blue Way, Broad River, Everglades “River of Grass,” Florida Keys Paddling Trail, Hells Bay Trail, Joe River, Nine Mile Canoe Trail, North River, Shark River, Snake Sight Trail, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail
Monroe County is two extremes – the vast wilderness of the mainland Everglades, Big Cypress National Preserve and remote Dry Tortugas National Park, and the bustling Florida Keys with 99 percent of the county's residents and a multitude of activities - hiking and paddling trails, fishing, camping and shelling spots, spectacular sailing, sport-fishing, and scuba diving or snorkeling on the coral reefs.
Most of Monroe County is in conservation and covered by water. Its coast is a blend of mangroves, silt, limestone and shell beach. Florida Bay and numerous islets separate the keys from the mainland.
The Everglades fragile ecosystem is one of only three sites in the world designated an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site and a Wetland of International Importance. Each year, more than a million people visit Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. It was dubbed the "River of Grass" by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who redefined the Everglades as an important resource, rather than a valueless swamp.
The Everglades is a mix of sawgrass prairies, mangrove and cypress swamps, pinelands, hardwood hammocks, and marine and estuarine environments. Known for particularly large wading birds – roseate spoonbill, wood stork, great blue heron and egrets - it is also the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles co-exist.
The 2,900 square-nautical-mile Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary encompasses one of the world's largest coral barrier reefs, barrier islands, the Florida Keys, parts of the gulf, the Atlantic and the Dry Tortugas, 70 miles west of Key West. The Dry Tortugas National Park (reached by boat or plane) is a cluster of seven islands with powder-white beaches surrounded by miles of coral reef and warm, pristine water. It features mid-19th century Fort Jefferson on Garden Key.
The Florida Keys are a 126-mile-long, narrow chain of 97 ancient, coral reef islands in an archipelago of 1,700 islands, some barely above water. A single highway connects miles of keys and state parks from the mainland to Key West. The northernmost key, Key Largo, beckons divers to coral reefs and kayakers to paddle across Florida Bay to the Everglades. Upper Key Largo dedicates 6,800 acres to Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge, breeding grounds for the endangered American crocodile. Islamorada, a sport fishing mecca, covers six keys: Plantation, Windley, Upper Matecumbe, Lower Matecumbe, Indian and Lignumvitae.
Marathon, in the Middle Keys, is where many of the county offices can be found. Its seven-mile bridge is the longest of 42 bridges in the keys. Less developed Big Pine Key, in the Lower Keys, is the place to snorkel, dive the coral reef, fish in the back country, troll beyond the reef or bicycle through endangered Key Deer country.
Key West is an urban two-mile by four-mile island that showcases the historic homes of Audubon and Hemingway, art galleries, theater, fine dining, the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, dolphins in the wild, deep-sea fishing and kayaking in the back country.
The Keys boast 10 Florida State Parks from north to southwest.
Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park on Key Largo protects one of the country's largest tracts of West Indian tropical hardwood hammock and many plant and animal species including the endangered American crocodile. Ranger-guided tours and over six miles of paved, nature trails are available.
The country's first undersea park, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo covers 70 nautical square miles. Visitors can view the coral reefs and marine life by snorkeling, scuba diving from glass-bottom boats or at a renovated 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium. Two small sand beach areas provide a playground, place to sunbathe, picnic, swim, fish, camp, hike, canoe or kayak.
Indian Key Historic State Park, also reached only by boat, preserves the maritime history of an 1830s town on Islamorada with old streets, foundations and ruins where shipwrecks were salvaged for cargo. Visitors may swim, sunbathe, hike, boat and kayak at the park.
Long Key State Park is a secluded favorite of campers and nature lovers. Narrow limestone rock and sand beaches are interwoven with a chain of lagoons, calm waters and mangrove forests offering a variety of water birds, tropical nature trails, an observation tower, full-facility campsites and excellent bone fishing.
Curry Hammock State Park, a group of islands in the Middle Keys, is a wetland habitat for tropical wildlife, mangrove swamps, seagrass beds and one of the largest forests of thatch palms in the United States. The ocean side offers camping, swimming, a playground, picnic tables, grills and showers.
Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key features beautiful beaches, magnificent sunsets, snorkeling, shore and wading birds, picnics on the beach, swimming, fishing, boating, nature center, full-facility campsites, vacation cabins, and kayaks and snorkeling rentals.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park on Key West offers a beautiful beach, picnicking, swimming, snorkeling, hiking, bicycling, refreshment stand, fishing and daily guided tours of an 1866 Civil and Spanish-American wars fort.
February 27, 2019 - 8:49am
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The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.