P.O. Box 487
Key Largo, Florida 33037
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The first undersea park in the United States, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and the adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, cover approximately 178 nautical square miles of coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove swamps. The park extends 3 miles into the Atlantic Ocean and is approximately 25 miles in length.
These areas were established to protect and preserve a portion of the only living coral reef in the continental United States.
The park is named for the late John D. Pennekamp, a Miami newspaper editor, whose efforts contributed to the establishment of Everglades National Park and the preservation of what would become John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
Comprised of over 200 separate islands and islets, the Florida Keys have the only living coral reef formations to be found in the continental United States. Dr. Gilbert Voss first became aware of the extent of damage occurring to the reef structure during his studies of the marine species in the Keys.
In 1957 a biological conference concerned with the preservation of the natural resources of South Florida was held in Everglades National Park. At this meeting, Dr. Gilbert Voss of the Marine Institute of Miami, described the extent of damage which was occurring to the reef structure that he had noted during his studies in the Keys.
The tourist trade was taking its toll on the coral structures as souvenirs for visitors. Seashells, corals, sponges, sea horses, and marine life were being hammered, chiseled, and even dynamited to provide knickknacks to the tourists. The coral reefs that took thousands of years in the formation, were quickly being decimated by thoughtless vendors. Dr. Voss then suggested that no more profitable scientific project could be undertaken than the protection of this area. Without some restrictions on the exploitation of the reefs, commercial interests would easily extinct the only hard coral reef formation in North America.
Dr. Voss successfully recruited conservationists to support his contentions that the reef should be protected, but his most powerful ally would eventually become an assistant editor for the Miami Herald, John D. Pennekamp.
Pennekamp had played a major role in the establishment of Everglades National Park as legislative chairman of the State Commission appointed to bring it about; he was the first chairman of the Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials; he was a member of a civilian team of consultants which surveyed the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the Department of the Interior in 1954, and held numerous state, local, and national conservation awards.
When the two men joined forces they were able to utilize the research of Dr. Voss and the journalistic effort of John Pennekamp to organize a coalition of conservationists that would undertake the project of protecting the valuable marine resources. The road ahead was not an easy one, but the efforts of Dr. Voss and Mr. Pennekamp were sufficient enough to get the Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials to designate a 75 square mile section of offshore Florida as a permanent preserve. For three years the advocates of the preserve struggled to win approval for the park, and successfully resisted all opposition from commercial interests that wished to leave the reefs open for pillage.
In the spring of 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed the area as Key Largo Coral Reef Preserve. By the time the dedication ceremonies were held on December 10, 1960, Governor Leroy Collins made a slight change and named America’s first underwater park as John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Governor Collins named the park after John D. Pennekamp in appreciation of the continuous editorial support that had been given by Pennekamp in the Miami Herald.
Glass Bottom Boat Tours
Sailing and Snorkeling
Snorkeling Equipment for the beach areas
Canoes / Single Kayaks
$10.00 / Hour
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
far are we from Key West?
pets allowed in the campground?
size of motor homes can be accommodated in the campground?
reservations required for camping?
there restaurants and stores close by?
Since the park is locked at night can I get out at night?
the bathrooms in the campground have hot water?
is provided with each campsite?
the campsites have sewer hook-ups?
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