This park is closed due to extensive damage to the Florida Keys from Hurricane Irma.
Preserving more than 30 acres of tropical hammock north of Islamorada – saved from condo development in the 1980s, with support from local residents – Windley Key Fossil Reef Geologic State Park is a very unique place. In 1908, during the construction of the Overseas Railroad, Henry Flagler purchased this land and opened a quarry for crushed limestone. 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. The hike interprets the fossil corals in the quarry, the history of the quarry, and the native tropical plants found in the hammock. Since many of the trees bear fruit, get ready for some prime birding—you might even see a rare white-crowned pigeon.
Location: Windley Key
Length: 1.4 miles
Lat-Long: 24.950067, -80.595550
Fees / Permits: state park entrance fee
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Bug factor: low to moderate
Collecting of fossils or plants is prohibited. You can, however, buy fossils in the gift shop.
Located 0.5 miles south of MM 85 on US 1 on Windley Key (south of Islamorada), the park entrance is on the right. The park is open 8 AM – 5 PM, Thursdays through Mondays. After you park your car, walk up to the visitor center and pay your Florida State Parks entrance fee.
Before you start your hike, visit Alison Fahrer Education Center for an overview of the genesis of the fossil reef. Pick up a copy of the trail guide, as it’s an excellent interpretive tool for your walk. Start your hike in the quarry behind the visitor center, follow the markers to see spectacular fossils in the quarry walls and beneath your feet, including finger corals, with their tiny cups; star coral, with large cups; and brain coral, shaped like a brain.
The trail system starts next to the antique channeling machine that cut the fossil slabs. Winding through the tropical forest in deep shade, you reach a junction at 0.3 mile. Turn left to follow the Sunset Trail, which tops the ridge along the quarry and ends at the edge of the mangrove marsh. Roseate spoonbills nest near here, so you may see them in the shallows.
Return to the trail junction and follow the Hammock Trail under the branches of mahogany, pigeon plum, and gumbo limbo trees. Check out the interpretive markers. There are many tropical plum trees in this forest, including hog plum, saffron plum, darling plum, and jungle plum, all clinging to the rocky, jagged limestone floor of the forest. The tree bark is simply fascinating. One of the rarest trees in this hammock is the white ironwood, with bark that looks like hammered bronze.
At a mile, the trail skirts the Russell Quarry and an old homestead. It drops into the Flagler Quarry, where an island of rock in the middle of the pit offers the best place to examine the fossil corals closely. Follow the markers past the ruins of the old Windley Key Depot of the Overseas Railroad and a solution hole exposed at the corner of the quarry. The ramp leads back up to the parking area.
visitor’s center breezeway
trail jct, left 0.1
fork, left 0.1
Sunset Trail ends 0.3
emergence at quarry 0.4
return Hammock Trail, left 0.6
parking lot 1.2