Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, encompassing 300 acres on Windley Key at mile marker 84.9 near Islamorada, reopened Thursday, Oct. 5, for day use.
The park’s land was formed by fossilized coral known as Key Largo limestone. Until the 1960s, the park was a quarry used to produce Keystone, a decorative stone.
The land once was owned by the Florida East Coast Railroad, which used the stone in building railroad magnate Henry Flagler’s Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad in the early 1900s.
Visitors can walk along 8-foot-high quarry walls to see cross sections of ancient coral and learn about the quarry’s role in Florida history during the 20th century.
The park features a welcome center, picnic tables, hiking trails and five short self-guided tours. It’s open Thursday through Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Windley Key is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed surveys of areas known to provide fresh water to wildlife in the National Key Deer Refuge (No Name and Big Pine keys west to Sugarloaf Key) following Hurricane Irma. Due to the storm surge from Hurricane Irma, salinity levels in freshwater wetlands are on average higher than acceptable levels for most wildlife species, including the endangered Key deer, resident and migratory birds, rabbits, butterflies and other species. There are areas on Cudjoe Key that have fresher water suitable for wildlife needs.
The general public is welcomed to help by providing fresh water for wildlife on their property until conditions improve over time as they have in previous hurricanes. Service staff and partners will also be providing supplemental freshwater stations for wildlife on the refuge.
“We recognize that freshwater is still a rare commodity at this time and first responder and resident needs should be considered before offering water to wildlife,” said Dan Clark, project leader for the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex.
If you do have water resources to share, here’s how you can help: