The Florida Keys is considered one of the most unique spots to visit in the US. And the history that is behind it makes it that much more of a place to visit and have fun.
Fun Facts About the Florida Keys
Geologically the Florida Keys have exposed parts of coral reefs. Some of the islands have been exposed for so long that sand has built up around them, creating barrier islands
There are over 1700 islands in the archipelago. However, very few of these are populated and most are very small. Only 43 of the islands are connected via bridges.
The Florida Keys are a highly biodiverse area because of the presence of coral reefs as well as undeveloped forested areas.
Three types of habitats are found in the Florida Keys. Tropical hardwood hammocks, mangrove forests, and saltwater marshes. This place is also home to dolphins. There are areas where you can swim with dolphins.
It is prohibited to catch a Queen Conch within the Florida Keys waters. The conch shell used to be used as a means of communication and the meat harvested locally, but all conch you’ll eat in the Keys now comes from the Bahamas.
The most common sea turtle found in Florida Keys waters are Loggerhead sea turtles. Florida has the most sea turtle nesting within the U.S.
The Word “Key” is derived from the Spanish Cayo, meaning a small island.
The Upper Keys contain numerous shipwrecks to explore, from the Spanish galleons to World War II freighters.
History for the Florida Keys
The first inhabitants of the Florida Keys were the Native American tribes Calusa and Tequesta. Juan Ponce de Leon discovered them.
When Spaniards found the archipelago they thought these islands seemed twisted and tortured which explains why they named them Los Martires meaning “the martyrs.”
During the next years, a lot of ships from Spain used to pass close to their coasts loaded with gold from Central America. This made the islands the perfect home base for pirates that were preying on those galleons.
In their early days, Key West and the Florida Keys were a major part of the area’s wrecking industry – an industry associated with the frequent shipwrecks in the area.
In 1812, all of Florida including the Keys officially became the territory of the United States.
The first formal settlement appeared in the 1820s in Key West.
By the early 1900s its prosperity began to decline as better navigational techniques reduced area shipwrecks.
Settlers began to arrive and make their home at Cayo Hueso or what is now Key West in 1822.
In 1935 a hurricane hit the area and destroyed the railway, so an overseas highway was built to replace it.
Fort Zachary Taylor, initiating Key West’s long history with the US military. Fort Taylor was an army base until the 1940s when it was turned over to the Navy.
Beginning in the late 1970s construction began on a new bridge to connect the Florida Keys. This bridge is known today as the Seven Mile Bridge and it connects Knights Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower. In March 2008 however, this bridge was closed to traffic as it was deemed unsafe and construction later began on a new bridge.