Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are a chain of about 200 coral islands with a total length of about 290 km (180 miles). They are located off the southern tip of the Florida peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

Up to a hurricane in 1935, the islands were connected by a railway line. Nowadays you can reach the islands on the 42 bridges of the Overseas Highway, which was built in the place of the railway line and goes up to Key West. The most famous of the bridges is the "Seven Mile Bridge ". It combines Vaca Key (Marathon ) to Bahia Honda, crossing Pigeon Key. According to your name this bridge has a length of seven miles (11 km).

Only accessible by boat, the remote and uninhabited islands of the Marquesas Keys ( about 50 km west of Key West ) and the Dry Tortugas (113 km west of Key West), mark the very end of the Florida Keys in the West. Underwater extends the third largest tropical coral reef in the world.

  • 2.1 Early Settlements
  • 2.2 Latter-day discovery and maritime disasters
  • 2.3 colonization in the 18th century
  • 2.4 Railway and Overseas Highway

Climate and Geology


The Florida Keys varies from 24 to 25 degrees north latitude and thus in a tropical area. Climate, flora and fauna are more like the situation in the Caribbean than those in the rest of Florida, though the Caribbean islands are of volcanic origin. The climate of the Florida Keys is tropical. It is also very heavily influenced by the Gulf Stream, which brings warm water from the tropical region of the Caribbean to the north.

The average daily temperatures hover in Key West from May to October at up to 32 ° C. However, the coldest months of December to February bring average daytime temperatures of 24 ° C is still greater heat than the height of summer in Germany (23 ° C). In the summer, especially the high humidity leads to the perceived temperatures are well above the actual temperature.

You are the only frost-free place in Florida. There are two different weather periods: wet, hot and humid from June to October and a dry and cool from November to May Furthermore, Key West is in the midst of the Atlantic hurricane zone and is therefore prone to hurricanes. Statistically, it rains in the summer months - even if only temporarily - on average 40 % of the days.


The Florida Keys are the exposed portions of an ancient coral reef. The northernmost island of the reef is Elliott Key in Biscayne National Park. North of Elliott Key, there are several transitional islands that have formed of sand on the remains of the old coral reef. Key Biscayne and further north islands were formed from sand banks.

The Florida Keys got its present form as a result of drastic changes in the level of the water level as a result of the ice ages. Years ago, about 125,000 began in the Sangamon interglacial period, equivalent to the European Eemian interglacial period, the sea level rise of 7.5 m to 8 m above the present state. South Florida was at this time a shallow lake. It formed several parallel reefs south of the flooded Florida, approximately at today's Miami beginning up to the area that is known as the Dry Tortugas. For this limestone ledges Key Largo stands out. The uppermost stratum of today's Upper Keys formed from the limestone of that coral reefs during the Rifffundamente and the islands of the Lower Keys out of the limestone were formed by calcareous algae.

Years ago, about 100,000 began to decline during the Wisconsin glaciation, the sea level, so that the coral reef and surrounding sediments sticking out of the sea. 15,000 years ago the sea level dropped 110 m below the present level. The protruding from the sea Riffteile and deposits eroded greatly. Probably caused by decaying vegetation übersäuertes water began to dissolve the limestone. The limestone was deposited partially resolved as gypsum again. The eroded limestone formed Oolite in the shallow waters near the reef, and together with the skelletierten remains of bryozoans the surface, southern Florida and consisting of the Lower Keys from Big Pine Key to Key West. To the west of Key West the ancient reef of calcareous sand is superimposed.


Early Settlements

The earliest settlement of the Florida Keys probably took place by Indians of various tribes, including the Vescayos, Matecumbes and Tequesta, followed by the Calusa and Seminole Florida-based as well as perhaps even the Caribbean tribes. They lived a nomadic in the Keys and visited them with pirogues, early einbaumähnlichen boats. They used the Keys as fishing areas for fish, sea turtles, manatees and sea shells. The oldest finds from waste piles of fish bones and shells can be dated back to about 800 AD, with a much earlier settlement is accepted.

Latter-day discovery and maritime disasters

In 1513 the modern discovery of the Florida Keys was made by the Spaniard Juan Ponce de León, who sighted them in search of the legendary Fountain of Youth and due to its appearance as " Los Martires " ( the martyr ) named. For the Spanish, the islands, however, were of little interest, since there was little drinking water and fertile soil for the settlement here; also mineral resources were not to be discovered. Individual missionaries from Havana attempted to convert the resident Indians to Catholicism and at the same time teach them the hatred of the warring English and French - the main interest of the Spaniards in the islands, however, was solely to protect the fleets that pass through this area on their way to Spain had. Unlike other Caribbean islands that developed at this time to Spanish trade centers remained largely uninhabited islands during the 250 -year-old belonging to Spain until the 18th century.

Due to its location at the edge of the Florida Street, a heavily used since the beginning of European colonization shipping route, there were on the coral reefs of the Florida Keys, however, a large number of shipwrecks. So sank in 1622, the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha ( Atocha short ) to the Florida Keys after being caught in a hurricane. The laden with gold, silver and jewels ship was only rediscovered in 1985 by the treasure hunter Mel Fisher.

The biggest disaster of this kind was the sinking of a Spanish treasure fleet in 1715, which was driven by a hurricane in the reefs. Here, all eleven ships of the fleet went with enormous values ​​lost on board, more than 1,000 people died. Another accident of this kind occurred in 1733, when another Spanish treasure fleet from Havana was coming hit by a hurricane. Of the eighteen merchant ships and four warships escort only one returned to Havana, but many crew members were rescued and most of the treasures recovered. Since the 1950s, was wanted by treasure hunters and salvage business such as Art McKee, Kip Wagner and Mel Fisher intensively after the wreck of the Spanish treasure ships; from the remnants of the fleet from 1715 tremendous assets were recovered, but an archaeological documentation of the wrecks found little place; the recovered objects were scattered by selling all over the world. Only in individual cases, historically significant findings for public facilities could be secured. A single wreck of the fleet from 1715 was provided by the State of Florida as the first " Underwater Archaeological Reserve " under protection in order to receive his remains in place for future generations.

Colonization in the 18th century

Only in the 18th century, the islands of the Bahamas were settled by immigrants intense, who came here to chop wood and hunt for turtles. The settlers brought parts of their culture to the Keys, including a culinary preference for the giant conch (Strombus gigas), the "Queen Conch ". From the English name is also the name for longtime residents of the Keys derives, which are called " Conch ".

In 1820 there was the first intensive settlement in Cayo Hueso, today the island of Key West. This was due to the natural deep-water harbor on the island, which was better situated than the Port of Miami, which is hindered by the only four meters deep shallows of Biscayne Bay. In Key West, the so-called " wrecker " settled, who drove on boats in the lake to help overflowed onto the reefs to recover their ships or cargo. Probably individual Wrecker attracted but also unfamiliar with ships by false blip on the reefs. The profitable business of Wrecker took through the placement of solid vessels from with illuminated signs at key points of the reefs, which were replaced about 1850 by lighthouses. In addition to the Wreckern also the sponge diving and the turtle fishery and probably also the piracy was profitable.

In the 19th century, also settled families on government land and lived as subsistence from the cultivation of pineapples, melons and coconut trees, and fishing. They associated with flat-bottomed boats between the islands and established their goods to the port of Key West.

Railway and Overseas Highway

In 1893, the approval of the Florida East Coast Railway was changed to allow for a possible extension of the railway line to the Biscayne Bay and then over the Florida Keys to Key West. The President of the Florida East Coast Railway, Henry Flagler, ordered the construction of a railway line from Homestead across the Everglades and over 30 islands of the Florida Keys to Key West, whose construction began in 1904. Key West at this time was the port of the United States, the Panama Canal was the closest, also there was a brisk trade with Cuba.

The Key West Extension was built over seven years, and for about 27 million U.S. dollars. The work was greatly influenced by the swamps and mosquito plagues. In September 1906, a hurricane destroyed the Long Key Viaduct started and killed more than 100 workers. 1907 this more than 3 km long bridge was opened and made ​​the connection to Knights Key forth. In the years 1909 and 1910 there was another storm damage. On January 22, 1912 in fact, the first train to Key West. However, were by a violent hurricane, which killed more than 800 people, washed away large parts of the railway embankment and the tracks on a length of 65 km, a large part of the route lay in ruins on September 2, 1935. Most bridges had survived the storm, the cost of rebuilding the less profitable route, however, were too high and the motivation too low. In addition, the car has been established as a new means of transport and sat by in the passenger transport sector. The government bought the bridges preserved for about 640,000 U.S. dollars, and built on the basis of the railway line the Overseas Highway as the first section of U.S. Highway 1

Flora and Fauna

In the Keys, there are rare plants and animal species that would otherwise not happen in America in this form. The Keys form the northernmost point of its distribution. The climate allows many imported plants to thrive. Almost every flower pot and plant thrives in the southern climate of the Keys. Some exotic plants conquer more and more natural habitat. Many plants slow down or stop their growth in the drier weather period. Many native trees are green summer and lose their leaves during this time.

On the Keys both coniferous and deciduous trees and are native. One can find maple, pine and oak trees, however, are located at the southernmost edge of their occurrence, and tropical woods such as mahogany, Bursera, Eugenia and many others that would otherwise thrive only between 25 and 26 degrees north latitude.

Many plants such as bougainvillea, the coconut tree, hibiscus and papaya are not indigenous but imported. The lime about, after the regionally typical dessert key lime pie is named, was introduced from the Yucatán Peninsula. She is originally from Malaysia. Your trees are fast growing and have thorns. The golf ball-sized fruits have a distinctive flavor.

The Keys are also home to some distinctive species, such as the number of protected Key whitetail deer and the pointed crocodile. 110 km west of Key West are the Dry Tortugas, one of the most isolated and most protected reserves in the world. Gave them the name Spanish conquerors because of the lack of drinking water and its humped shape, which make them look remotely like a turtle.

The sea around the Keys around is part of the National Water Reserve, Florida Keys.

List of islands

The Florida Keys are made of more than 200 low islands, called cays or keys. The northernmost of the Florida Keys is Elliott Key, north of it are still some transition Islands, which consist of sand over former Riffbereichen. Key Biscayne and some other islands north of the Keys, however, are formed entirely of former sandbanks.

The islands of the Florida Keys are divided into the following three groups:

Keys in Biscayne National Park in Miami -Dade County:

  • Transition Islands Soldier Key
  • Ragged Keys
  • Boca Chita Key
  • Sands Key
  • True Florida Keys, coral reefs exposed ancient Elliott Key
  • Adams Key
  • Reid Key
  • Rubicon Keys
  • Totten Key
  • Old Rhodes Key

Keys in Monroe County

  • Key Largo
  • Plantation Key
  • Windley Key
  • Upper Matecumbe Key
  • Lignumvitae Key
  • Lower Matecumbe Key
  • Plantation Key ( with Tavernier )
  • Craig Key
  • Fiesta Key
  • Long Key (formerly known as Rattlesnake Key )
  • Conch Key
  • Duck Key
  • Grassy Key
  • Crawl Key
  • Long Point Key
  • Fat Deer Key
  • Shelter Key
  • Boot Key
  • Knight 's Key
  • Pigeon Key
  • Matecumbe Key ( Upper and Lower)
  • Crawl Key
  • Key Vaca ( with Marathon )
  • Sunset Key
  • Wisteria Iceland
  • The Marquesas Keys
  • The Dry Tortugas