- John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary covers approximately 178 nautical square miles of coral reefs, sea grass 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 upland area of the park offers two short hikes: a nature trail located in a tropical hammock and a mangrove swamp incised by a boardwalk.
A large visitor center and marina complex offer sights of a 30,000-gallon saltwater fish tank, an audio-visual program, exhibits, regularly scheduled nature talks, ranger-guided canoe trips, snorkeling tours, diving lessons, glass bottom boat tours, and the newest addition - a sailing catamaran. It is the ultimate in a smooth and relaxed ride with a passenger capacity of only 24 making it ideal for those who are looking for a quieter, more relaxed reef adventure.
Viewing the twenty-five different kinds of coral reef and the 650 species of tropical reef fish are the main wildlife attraction at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Be sure not to touch the coral; it is very fragile. It is also advisable when boating, to use the mooring buoys rather than anchors that damage the coral.
A variety of shorebirds may be viewed year-round. Warblers are known to migrate through the area. Manatees are often seen near the sea grass and evidence of sea turtles is most prevalent in late summer.
- © NileGuide2013
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