Biscayne Bay is a spectacular body of water, it’s bright blue-green waves extending from the shores of Miami down to the northernmost Florida Keys. The bay covers approximately 428 square miles. It is a shallow estuary, the largest in southeast Florida, and contiguous with Florida Bay and the Everglades. Port Miami, Florida’s second largest port in terms of dollar value, is located within Biscayne Bay. In addition to it’s economic importance, the bay is invaluable environmentally and ecologically.
Biscayne National Park is the largest marine area within the National Parks system. It protects the mangrove forests on the southern shores of the bay, along with portions of the third largest barrier coral reef in the world. The biodiversity of the park is amazing. Over 600 native fish make their home in the park’s boundaries, along with many species of birds, and twenty threatened and endangered species.
I took a drive to Biscayne National Park on my second day in Florida. At only 20 miles from where I was staying in the Miami-Kendall area, it was an easy half-hour drive to the national park. I arrived in late afternoon, as a thunderstorm was clearing out to yield a brilliant blue sky. This was perfectly set against the aquamarine waters and bright green mangroves. The park was quiet on a Thursday afternoon. While there are many recreational activities available at the park, it is ranked 29th in terms of popularity among America’s 62 national parks. The continued Covid19 pandemic hasn’t helped visitation either; the visitor center remained closed, as was the store. The few people visiting the park were fishing. Mangrove snapper and white and bluestriped grunts are allowed, subject to bag limits. I asked one of the guys what he usually caught, and he mentioned that snapper was his most common catch.
I walked the boardwalk, taking in the view of the bay, enjoying the quiet. A single dolphin swam by, and that was probably the most exciting thing I saw that day. Manatee sightings are said to be fairly common, and as the area is a manatee sanctuary, this makes sense. They just seem to elude me, just as they hid on our kayaking trip in the Everglades. I wasn’t prepared for any sort of watersport, and some type of watercraft is required to explore most of the park. There is only one mile of paved roadway, and a parking lot. I stayed along the Biscayne Bay/Convoy Point shoreline. In addition to the dolphin and bright green minnows, I saw a variety of birds and two green anoles, a type of lizard native to the park. Unfortunately I got more photos of the green iguanas that are invading Biscayne. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful afternoon well-spent.
The following afternoon, on Emily’s suggestion, we drove across the Rickenbacker Causeway from Miami to Key Biscayne, a large barrier island on the northern end of Biscayne Bay. After a brief stop at Virginia Key, we drove south to Key Biscayne. Here we spent some time at Crandon Park, a beach park on the key. Crandon Park features gardens, a nature center, golf course, and of course, beautiful sandy beaches decorated with palms. We spent some time walking along the shore and watching the shore birds. The water was a little rough thanks to the afternoon’s storms, but it was still calmer than the beaches back in California.
Whatever your outdoor adventure, the Biscayne Bay has a lot to offer. The bay is beautiful and with 35 miles of coastline from Miami to Key Largo, there is so much to explore. Just choose a happy trail and go. See you on the water!
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Fun Facts: What exactly is a Key?
I learned something new while I was in Florida. Florida has approximately 4510 islands off its coasts, with major island systems being the Ten Thousand Islands and most famously, the Florida Keys. I never noticed that just looking at a typical map; it wasn’t until I looked closer at one while at Everglades National Park that I realized that there are many tiny islands that make up the southwestern side of the Florida peninsula. These are the keys making up Ten Thousand Islands. The Florida Keys are located on the southeastern tip of Florida, with Key West making the southernmost point in the contiguous Unites States. So then I wondered why is it that the islands around Florida are called keys.
The answer is that while all keys are islands, not all islands are keys. There are different types of islands depending on how they were formed, whether by plate techtonics or volcanism. The keys are formed from coral limestone, and they are typically low-lying and flat. Because of their close proximity to coral reefs, they are perfect for snorkeling and scuba adventures. Florida’s coast is home to the third largest barrier reef in the world, and is of great ecological importance. There are many conservation efforts to protect Florida’s reefs, and I hope that those efforts are successful both for the health of our oceans and to explore for generations to come. Happy trails!
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