One of three short loop trails at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, the Flagler Quarry Trail leads you around the showiest of the quarries. Half of the loop through the Flagler Quarry is marked as the Quarry Station Trail, which leads to the ruins of the old depot.
Location: Windley Key, Islamorada
Length: 0.4 mile
Fees / Permits: $2.50 per person (includes 50 cent Monroe County surcharge)
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Bug factor: moderate to extreme
Restroom: at the visitor center
The park is closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Open Thursday to Monday, 8 AM to 5 PM. Please check in at the visitor center to pay your entrance fee before wandering the trails. You may also want to examine the exhibits and see a short film, which will clue you in on the importance of this historic site and its unique geologic wonders.
Guided tours are offered December-April on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 10 AM and 2 PM.
No bicycles permitted on trails. Collecting of fossils or plants is prohibited. You can, however, buy fossils in the gift shop to support the park. Avoid leaving the marked trails as the forest has a lot of poisonwood, one of the more common toxic trees in Florida.
Located 0.5 miles south of MM 85 on US 1 on Windley Key at 84900 Overseas Highway, Islamorada, the park entrance is on the bay side.
0.0 > All trails begin on the rock ledge behind the Alison Fahrer Education Center. Stop in there before you start your hike to pick up a trail guide. The trail system starts next to the antique channeling machine that cut the fossil slabs, and provides you a nice overlook across the Windley Quarry.
0.1 > The Flagler Trail branches off the Hammock Trail to the right at a signpost. Keep right. All around you is the tropical forest, with the many types of tropical plum trees identified with labels. One of the more fascinating aspects of the tropical hammocks of the Florida Keys is the colorful, textured nature of the tree trunks found here. As a sign says at another park, “look, don’t touch,” since not all of the trees are friendly.
0.2 > You come to another junction with the Hammock Trail. Continue straight ahead to walk towards the Flagler Quarry. The trail soon descends into this historic quarry. In 1908, during the construction of the Overseas Railroad, Henry Flagler purchased this land and opened a quarry for crushed limestone. But that was truly a waste of such a unique resource. By 1912, slabs of decorative stone were sliced from the quarry walls and ended up on buildings such as Vizcaya and the Miami and Key West post offices.
Keep right at the base of the ramp and start following the wall of the quarry. Tree roots snake down into the fossil corals and break some of them away from the walls. Using your interpretive guide, you can learn the different types of fossils found in this, the bedrock of the Florida Keys. All of the islands from Biscayne National Park southwest through the Dry Tortugas are underlain by these fossil corals, making them unique in the United States.
0.3 > When you reach the next ramp out of the quarry, cross it and continue along the quarry walls by following the Quarry Station Trail. Follow the markers to the ruins of the old Windley Key Depot, within earshot of current US 1.
As the trail works it way along this side of the quarry, don’t miss a rough little side trail that leads to a solution hole exposed in this corner of the quarry. Giant leather ferns grow out of it, and fresh water sits inside.
0.4 > The trail emerges into the open quarry within sight of the pillar of stone capped with tropical forest that sits in the middle of the picnic area. Turn left and walk up the middle of the grassy quarry center to the big ramp that leads out of the Flagler Quarry and back up to the visitor center.