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Florida Keys

From Academic Kids

Palm trees in Islamorada
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Palm trees in Islamorada

The Florida Keys is an archipelago or cluster of islands in the extreme southeast of the United States. The Keys extend from the southeastern Florida peninsula near Miami, run south and then curve west to Key West, and out to the uninhabited Dry Tortugas. The islands lie in the Florida Straits, dividing the Atlantic Ocean to the east from the Gulf of Mexico to the west, and creating Florida Bay. At the nearest point, the southern tip of Key West is just 90 miles (145 km) from Cuba.

Key Biscayne is actually attached at the north end to the mainland, and is therefore not considered part of the Keys by some Floridians. It is, however, part of the same geological formation, atop which sits coral rock islands, as well as partly-submerged mangrove islands. The city of Key West is the county seat of Monroe County, which covers mostly the Everglades on the mainland, and all of the islands from Key Largo south and west.

Contents

Major islands

Most of the following islands are inhabited, and connected to the Overseas Highway via local roads.

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Florida_Keys.jpg
Map of the Florida Keys (not showing Dry Tortugas)

Upper keys

among others (more to come)

Middle keys

Lower keys

Outlying islands

These are only accessible by boat.

History

Overseas Railway

The Keys were long accessible only by water. This changed with the completion Henry Flagler's Overseas Railway in the early 1910s. Flagler, a major developer of Florida's Atlantic coast, extended his Florida East Coast Railway down to Key West with an ambitious series of over-sea railroad trestles.

Labor Day Hurricane of 1935

The Keys were the site of the deaths of hundreds of people working for the railway when Henry Flagler's son and successor Harry refused to let his workers evacuate before the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, which submerged the islands, destroying the railway and killing 435. Despite this, Flagler County, Florida, still bears the family name; it was named for Henry.

The storm was the most devastating to have hit the U.S. at the time, a full Category 5 with sustained winds over 155 mph (250 km/h). Only hurricanes Camille (1969) and Andrew (1992) have ever hit the U.S. with such strength since then.

Seven Mile Bridge

One of the longest bridges in existence when it was built, the Seven Mile Bridge connects Vaca Key (island town of Marathon, Florida) in the Middle Keys to Bahia Honda (pronounced ba-EE-uh OWN-dah in Spanish) in the Lower Keys. True to its name, it is seven miles or about 11km long, and passes over Pigeon Key, where a turnoff allows access to the small island.

After the destruction of the railway by the hurricane, it and the other bridges were rebuilt by the United States Federal Government as an automobile highway. US 1 runs the length of the Keys, and is called the Overseas Highway there. (US 1 also runs the entire way up the eastern seaboard to Maine.)

Conch Republic

In 1982, the United States Border Patrol had established a roadblock and inspection points on US Highway 1, stopping all northbound traffic returning to the mainland at Florida City, to search vehicles for illegal drugs and illegal immigrants. The Key West City Council repeatedly complained about the roadblocks, which were a major inconvenience for people traveling from Key West, and hurt the Keys' important tourism industry.

After various unsuccessful complaints and attempts to get a legal injunction against the blockade failed in federal court in Miami, on 23 April, 1982 Key West mayor Dennis Wardlow and the city council declared the independence of the Keys, calling it the "Conch Republic". After one minute of secession, he (as "President") surrendered to an officer of the Key West Naval Air Station (NAS), and requested one billion ($1,000,000,000) dollars in "foreign aid".

The stunt succeeded in generating great publicity for the Keys' plight, and the inspection station roadblock was removed.

Environment

The well-known and very sour Key lime (or Mexican lime) is a naturalized species, apparently introduced from the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, where it had been previously been introduced from Malaysia by explorers from Spain. The tree grows vigorously and has thorns, and produces small limes which are particularly acidic (even in highly alkaline coral sand soil) and uniquely fragrant. Naturally, Key lime pie was invented here as well.

The Keys are also home to a unique species called the Key deer, protected by the National Key Deer Refuge. About 70 miles or 110 km west of Key West is Dry Tortugas National Park, one of the most isolated and therefore well-preserved in the world. The name derives from the fact that the small hump-shaped islands look like dry tortoise (tortuga in Spanish) shells from a distance.

The Keys are regularly threatened by tropical storms and hurricanes, leading to evacuations to the mainland, though locals tend to view "mandatory" as "voluntary" and "voluntary" as nothing at all. This is dangerous however, since once a storm's seriousness is realized, it is often too late for thousands of vehicles to evacuate over the two-lane causeways and low-lying islands. Hurricane Georges (pronounced zhorzh in French) was the most recent strike in 1998, hitting Key West after tearing up much of the Caribbean, before moving on to landfall in Mississippi.

The waters surrounding the Keys are part of a protected area known as the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Culture and recreation

The "hurricane bravado" is part of the Keys' laid-back atmosphere, as is the somewhat separatist "Conch Republic" attitude. Life is easygoing, with the major industries being tourism and fishing. Ecotourism is also part of this, with many visitors diving in the area's protected waters. A new ferry now takes riders between Key West and Fort Myers, due north on the mainland, along the western edge of Florida Bay.

External links

Edit (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/wiki.phtml?title=Template:Florida_Keys&action=edit) Florida Keys
Upper keys Key Largo, Islamorada, Tavernier, Plantation Key, Matecumbe Key
Middle keys Craig Key, Fiesta Key, Long Key, Conch Key, Duck Key, Grassy Key, Deer Key, Vaca Key, Marathon Key, Boot Key
Lower keys Bahia Honda, West Summerland Key, No Name Key, Big Pine Key, Torch Key, Little Torch Key, Ramrod Key, Summerland Key, Cudjoe Key, Sugarloaf Key, Saddlebunch Keys, Big Coppitt Key, Boca Chica, Key West
Outlying islands Dry Tortugas, Marquesas Keys
Areas Florida Bay, Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, National Key Deer Sanctuary, Biscayne Bay, Biscayne National Park
Other topics Overseas Highway, Overseas Railway, Seven Mile Bridge, Key Deer, Conch Republic, Monroe County, Hurricane Georges, 1935 Hurricane, Theater of the Sea


Regions of Florida Missing image
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Flag of Florida

Central Florida | Emerald Coast | First Coast | Florida Panhandle | Florida Keys | Lee Island Coast | Nature Coast | Orlando Area | Redneck Riviera | Space Coast | Treasure Coast | South Florida | Sun Coast | Tampa Bay Area
Largest cities
Cape Coral | Clearwater | Coral Springs | Fort Lauderdale | Hialeah | Hollywood | Jacksonville | Miami | Miramar | North Miami | Orlando | Pembroke Pines | Plantation | Pompano Beach | Port St. Lucie | St. Petersburg | Sunrise | Tallahassee | Tampa | West Palm Beach
Counties
Alachua | Baker | Bay | Bradford | Brevard | Broward | Calhoun | Charlotte | Citrus | Clay | Collier | Columbia | DeSoto | Dixie | Duval | Escambia | Flagler | Franklin | Gadsden | Gilchrist | Glades | Gulf | Hamilton | Hardee | Hendry | Hernando | Highlands | Hillsborough | Holmes | Indian River | Jackson | Jefferson | Lafayette | Lake | Lee | Leon | Levy | Liberty | Madison | Manatee | Marion | Martin | Miami-Dade | Monroe | Nassau | Okaloosa | Okeechobee | Orange | Osceola | Palm Beach | Pasco | Pinellas | Polk | Putnam | Santa Rosa | Sarasota | Seminole | St. Johns | St. Lucie | Sumter | Suwannee | Taylor | Union | Volusia | Wakulla | Walton | Washington

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