Florida Guide > State Parks
JOHN PENNEKAMP CORAL REEF STATE PARK
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is situated at mile marker 102. 5 in Key Largo and is famous for its coral reefs.
This State Park covers 70 square nautical miles and has 200 inlets and islands. Even in the winter months the sea temperatures can be in the 70s.
As recently as the 1950s, the coral reef was being raped by greedy suppliers to the souvenir trade. They would hack off coral, sea horses and shells and in some cases use dynamite to brek them off.
Dr Gilbert Voss was the first to recognise the damage being done to these reefs and brought it to the attention of a biological conferance being held in 1957.
He quickly gained the support of the members attending and most notably of John Pennekamp. Pennekamp was the editor of the Miami Herald and together with Voss, they fought hard to get this reef protected.
It took 3 long years to achieve this, but in 1960, President Eisenhower proclaimed these 70 square miles to be the first underwater preserve in the whole of the United States.
This park was named in Pennekamps honour; but perhaps it should have been named the Voss Pennekamp Coral Reef Nature Preserve?
There is enough to do in this park to entertain you for a whole day: start by taking in the visitor center. This is pretty impressive with its 7 salt water aquariums; the largest of these holds 30, 000 gallons and there are also 6 smaller ones. Sit for awhile in the theatre and watch some videos and look at their natural history exhibits while you are here.
Then on to the nature trails; The Mangrove Trail wanders over hardwood hammocks and The Wild Tamarind Trail takes you through mangrove estuaries.
Now may be a good time to take a glass bottom boat to get up close to these awesome coral reefs; it is best to make a reservation by calling 305451 6300. The tours last either one and a half or two and a half hours and leave three times daily.
There are two man made beaches here; the first is good for swimming and sunbathing and is called Far Beach. Cannon Beach is mainly for snorkelling and there is a Spanish wreck hidden 100 feet offshore for you to explore. You can hire equipment at the park.
$1. 50 - Pedestrian/bicyclist fee
$3. 50 - Single-occupant vehicle
$6. 00 - Double-occupant vehicle
$0. 50 - Each additional occupant up to 8 people
$1. 50 - Each additional occupant over 8 people
$10. 00-Boat Ramp (Day Use only)
Admission is not guaranteed if the parking capacity is full.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
P. O. Box 487
Key Largo, Florida 33037
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