The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park marked a milestone anniversary in December 2010, as America's first underwater preserve located in Key Largo turned 50, making it an ideal time for divers, snorkelers and visitors to include the park on a travel itinerary to the Keys.
Thanks to the late "Miami Herald" editor John Pennekamp for helping to create this Florida Keys jewel only 90 minutes' drive from Miami, the park was dedicated on December 10, 1960, and today receives more than a million annual visitors to explore its nature trails, beaches and observe its abundant underwater wildlife inside its 70 nautical miles.
This 50th anniversary spotlighted the park's history and its continued mission of protecting and preserving the surrounding natural resources, particularly the miracle of America's only living coral reef. This year also marked the 75th anniversary of Florida's state parks.
Visitors to Pennekamp park can find lodging throughout Key Largo, close by the park to participate in land- and water-based activity for the whole family, including viewing the reef from glass-bottom boat tours aboard the Spirit of Pennekamp, snorkeling, diving, canoeing, kayaking or fishing. Nature trails, picnic pavilions, beaches and campsites round out the wide variety of abundant activities that make John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park hum with outdoor adventure.
The unmistakable, nine-foot bronze "Christ of the Deep," a replica of the like-named statue in the Mediterranean Sea, was donated to the Underwater Society of America in 1961 by industrialist Egidi Cressi, and is one of the park's most famous offshore attributes - and the underwater centerpiece for the park's 50th anniversary celebration - snorkelers and divers can swim past the statue resting gracefully in 20 feet of water.
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