Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park – Islamorada, FL

I’ve passed this park several times on my way through the keys and always wondered what awaits beyond the gates. I  had heard in the past “It’s ok” and “It’s small, there’s not much to see.” Well the numb nuts who said that clearly don’t have a proper appreciation for history and nature and can eat doody. It’s not as small as it looks upon first glance and it’s worth it. We spent hours here exploring the trails and learning about the fossil history.  

 

The park is located off of Overseas Highway at mile marker 85.5. Pull into the lot then walk to the ranger station to pay the whooping $2.50 per person fee and pick up a guide book. You could probably just slip through under the ranger’s nose but dude’s just trying to make a living. Plus the guide book, while a bit on the nerdy side, is a delightful component of the experience. 

  

There are several linking trails with sequential points of interest explaining what the plants are trees are and how they function, how the fossils formed, and how the quarries were utilized. It truly enriches the experience and provides context. Even without taking the educational aspect into consideration the trails were interesting and easy on the eyes. 

My current love interest was quite the naturalist.

 

  
  

Quarry trails followed the limestone walls containing fossilized coral structures and evidence of wildlife. The guide book told the tales of Henry Flagler’s construction of the Overseas Railroad. Some remnants of old equipment lie among the rubble. 

  

 

  


The brain coral fossils were intricate as hell. 
    
 We had a picnic on one of the benches near the back corner of one of the quarries. 
   
This limestone is red because of sand from the Sahara desert that had been carried by wind and settled in the sediment years ago. It’s referred to as African Dust and blows my mind. 


This lesser-known state park deserves some respect. 

Links:

Florida State Parks website – Windley Key 

Windley Key Geological State Park on Trip Advisor

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