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Just at the very beginning of the famed ‘overseas highway’ that crosses the dynamic Florida keys sits a natural wonder on Key Largo that is worth seeing for its beauty and rare displays. On the Northern end of Key Largo just around 45 minutes South of Miami sits this lovely State Park.
I stopped by to see what this large reserve held, being situated between the sea and the curious formations of the Florida Keys. I found a park with good parking outside, well established trails, clear maps and guides available and an honor system entry fee, not common in the Florida Park system. This 2,400 acre site is home to unique ecosystems and sits between two other area treasures the Coral Reef State Park and the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife refuge.
What is significant about this area is that it preserves a tropical hardwood hammock, an area of critical concern and rarity. It is a low canopy which is cluttered with thick and tangled shrubs and vines so dense that light might not even penetrate. This creates homes for some very specific species like the Schlaus swallowtail butterfly, Key Largo woodrat and Mahogany Mistletoe. 84 other protected species can also be found here. Tropical birds such as the mangrove cuckoo, white-crowned pigeon and La Sagra’s flycatcher.
The park has the largest remaining fragments of rockland hammock in the continental U.S. The limestone cliffs and sinkholes that are exposed in and around the park provide natural barriers that have kept fires away from the landscape which in turn has allowed for the establishment of these hardwoods over time.
The park has beautiful trails, loads of plants, animals, birds and butterflies. Bring plenty of repellant, waterproof shoes if going during the rainy season as the trails will be flooded even into November and stay on all marked trails.