- Kudos to the late "Miami Herald" editor John Pennekamp for helping to create the first undersea park in the United States.
Key Largo's John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, established by the state legislature in 1961 to protect the miracle of America's only living coral reef, allows access to abundant underwater wildlife, large brain, staghorn and elkhorn coral formations and a four-foot barracuda who likes to be photographed.
Only a 90-minute drive from Miami, Pennekamp is incorporated in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, a 2,800 square nautical mile span of coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove swamp on both sides of the Keys island chain, Florida Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
One of the park's most popular dive sites is the nine-foot bronze statue that rests in 20 feet of water. The statue is a replica of the "Christ of the Abyss" statue in the Mediterranean Sea and was donated to the Underwater Society of America in 1961 by industrialist Egidi Cressi. It is also referred to as "Christ of the Deep."
Underwater enthusiasts can take a reef adventure on a glass bottom boat, snorkeling or scuba diving. If you're not into the underwater scene, John Pennekamp offers two manmade beaches, canoe, kayak and boat rentals and nature trails, a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, interactive exhibits at the visitor center as well as 47 campsites, all with electrical hookups and water.
In 2010, the Park celebrated its 50th anniversary as America's first undersea park.
- © NileGuide2013
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