Visit to Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
We recently had the chance to visit Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park (it's a mouthful). Originally a quarry for fossilized coral - also known as Key Largo limestone or keystone - the quarry provided stone for the Overseas Railway that once connected the mainland of Florida to Key West. When the railroad was completed in 1912, the quarry remained open and provided stone for buildings until the 1960s, including the stone for the St. Louis post office.
The Visitor Center at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
Today, the quarry is preserved as a state park that is both a peek into what lies beneath the soil of many of the Florida Keys as well as a look into the world of ancient corals, which are preserved in the vertical walls of the quarry. You can view and touch these ancient corals in the quarry walls, seeing their resemblance to modern-day corals.
A tree growing from the vertical wall of the quarry.
The park also preserves quarrying equipment that was once used here, and there is a visitor center (currently closed) where you can learn more about the railroad that helped open up the Florida Keys to the rest of the world.
A channeling machine was used to cut out long, deep grooves (channels) in the rock of the quarry.
The state park isn't just a quarry; there are five self-guided trails that take visitors through a hardwood hammock. Pamphlets for a walking tour are also available that provide information on the quarry and the natural world of the park.
If you are traveling the Overseas Highway, a stop at the state park at Mile Marker 84.9 in Islamorada will likely take less than an hour, even if you take a hike on one or two of the park's short trails. It's also a cheap stop; the ticket prices when we stopped in were only $2.50 per person. Despite visiting on a Sunday during the height of the tourist season, we had the park almost entirely to ourselves - a rarity in the crowded Florida Keys.
To learn more about Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, check out the park's website or 101 Travel Bits: The Florida Keys and Overseas Highway.