I remember the first time my husband took me to the Florida Keys. It was in the middle of July 1996 just before the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. We landed in West Palm Beach late in the evening, waking early the next morning to begin our drive to the Keys. It was our first “no map, no plans, no place to be” trip.
The Keys were everything I had expected and then some. I expected, beautiful waters. I expected a place of adventure. I expected palm trees and white sand. What I didn’t expect was getting sea sick the first time I went deep sea fishing (that’s a story in and of itself)!
But, for me one of the most amazing elements of the Keys was the 7 Mile Bridge. It’s a massive work of architecture which begins in Marathon, Florida (the middle) and ends in the lower keys at Little Duck Key. Architecturally curved to follow the earth’s surface and tall enough for vessels to pass through.
But, more impressive than the current bridge, are the remaining sections of the original bridge built by Henry Flagler as part of the Florida East Coast Railway (1909 – 1912).
Some sections are now used for running, walking and fishing. Others, are simply reminders of the early days of the industrial revolution. Days, when our country was young and the railroad was vital to connecting each corner together.
In many sections of the bridge, both old and new run parallel with each other. A constant reminder of the importance of the past and the present.
The original bridge was damaged by a hurricane on Labor Day in 1935. Eventually sold to the U.S. Government it was later transformed for automobile use. The remaining track rails were recycled and made into the guard rails. It’s also my understanding that some sections were “widened” to allow cars to pass each other. Although, from the stories I’ve heard it was a VERY narrow passage and not for the faint of heart.
If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend making the entire length of the drive through the Keys. Stretching 113 miles, spanning across 42 bridges and leap frogging from Key to Key, it’s and incredible journey which ends at the Southernmost point of the United States……..“90 miles to Cuba.”
And, if you’re interested in learning more about the history of this beautiful area, check out my source links: