What is Biscayne National Park?

Constance Simmons

Biscayne National Park is in the Florida Keys, located southeast of Miami. The Park was established to protect the wildlife and marine life of the area. Over 95% water, it is primarily accessed by boat. The area that encompasses Biscayne National Park consists of a coral reef, the Florida Keys, a mangrove forest, and Biscayne Bay. The coral reef makes it one of the United States’ most sought-after locations for scuba diving.

The world's third largest coral reef system begins in Biscayne National Park.
The world's third largest coral reef system begins in Biscayne National Park.

The area that is now Biscayne National Park was first used by the Tequesta Indians. They lived off an abundance of native plants, animals, and marine life. Biscayne Bay was later explored by the Spanish, in the 16th century, but the first permanent settlement there by Europeans was not established until the 1800s. These settlers made their living mostly from the marine life in the region.

People may enjoy kayaking at Biscayne National Park.
People may enjoy kayaking at Biscayne National Park.

In the 1950s, Biscayne Bay became an important tourist and residential location, and developers wanted to destroy parts of it to make way for construction. A movement to create Biscayne National Park was started by a group of concerned residents of the area. These devoted citizens gained public support and succeeded first in erecting Biscayne National Monument, and later with the establishment of Biscayne National Park.

The coral reef of Biscayne Bay is the starting point for the world’s third largest reef system. The marine life in it consists of a large variety of species, including over 200 types of fish. In addition to corals, the reef is also home to sponges, turtles, shrimp, crabs, and many other life forms. This ecosystem is an extremely delicate one with all of the species of marine life depending on each other for survival. Any influence from outside forces can cause irreparable damage to it.

Biscayne National Park is also home to a mangrove forest. These trees were once thought of as worthless, however, it has been discovered that they provide the park with many important resources. For example, they act as a buffer between Biscayne Bay and the mainland. This is important to prevent erosion and damage during storms, especially hurricanes. Mangrove trees also provide an ecosystem for many species of fish and plants that live in the brackish waters that support them.

Biscayne National Park also includes some of the islands that make up the Florida Keys. The largest of these is Elliott Island. It is considered the first island in the Florida Keys because it was created from the remnants of coral reefs that are now fossilized. The groups of islands in Biscayne National Park are also important because they are home to many important plants and animals, and — like the mangrove trees — also serve as barrier islands to protect the mainland from storm and erosion damage.

Visitors to Biscayne National Park can participate in a variety of recreational activities. There is fishing both in the bay and offshore. The marine life can also be seen and enjoyed through scuba diving and snorkeling in the coral reef. The park is also open to different types of boating, including canoeing, kayaking, and sailing. Park tourists usually use their own boats to explore, but there are limited boating services offered through the park.

Scuba diving is a popular activity in Biscayne National Park.
Scuba diving is a popular activity in Biscayne National Park.

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