searching out the real Florida...
Windley Key is one of the highest in the chain of Keys formed of "Key Largo Limestone" over 125,000 years ago. Over the centuries the sea rose and fell. At times the water level was approximately 25 fee higher than at present while at other times the ocean levels dropped by as much as 300 feet, revealing the entire Florida Plateau. About 5,000 years ago, the water level stabilized and the ancient coral reef crest that remained exposed created the island we call the Florida Keys.
The railroad was completed in 1912 and the quarries and Windley Key Station continued to serve in many ways. Local trains stopped daily to deliver much needed fresh water from the mainland and pick up mail and passengers.
On return trips, shipment of polished "Keysone" were railed back to mainland. This keystone, a decorative building stone, can be seen on several buildings throughout the United States including the St. Louis Post Office, an alter in a New York City chapel and many other locations. Local examples include the Alison Fahrer Environmental Education Center at Windley key and the Hurricane Monument located in the center of Islamorada.
The quarry was active into the 1960's and today stands as a preserved geological treasure. The clean cuts of the quarry machinery reveal the perfectly preserved fossilized specimens of a variety of ancient coral animals.
The park offers a rare opportunity to professional geologist and curious visitors to compare the living corals of today with their fossilized ancestors. The limestone cuts also reveal the tin layer of soil that supports the abundant variety of botanical life that thrives in the subtropical environment of the Keys.
Over 40 kinds of tress can be found along the trails whose fruit, nuts, and berries provide sustenance for several endangered animals and dozen of migratory birds species.
Self-guided walks of the quarries and the hammock are available. Access to the quarries and trails system is $1.50 per person. Guided tours take place Friday -Sunday at 10am and 2 pm and are $2.50 per person. children 6 and under free. Group tours welcomed. The Alison Fahrer Environmental Education center is open friday - Sunday. Admission is FREE. The conference room is available for public use at a reasonable fee.
It is easy to miss. It is quiet easy to get lost in the view of the keys with numerous bridges and ever change glimpse of the blue-green water of the keys.