Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hiking Florida :: Rocks for Brains

Windley Key Quarry
Brain Coral (close up on right)
One of the places we hiked in Florida was called Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State ParkThe stone formed during the Pleistocene age (about 100,000 years ago) and consists of scleractinian coral, or brain coral. Windley was one of the tallest reefs, and when the sea level dropped it exposed the reef, killing the coral which is the foundation for Islamorada, one of the many island groupings of the Keys. 

The Beadgirl is partial to coral. She has been creating these sweet coral reef pieces with polymer that include clusters of brain coral along with kelp, starfish and sponges. The detail she includes is so amazing. 

For Mother's Day last year she handed me this hand painted ocean box and inside was my own coral (shown here). So when we discovered this park the Beadgirl was anxious to check it out. We ran around snapping pictures of all the coral patterns in the rock. Windley is one of several quarries where Keystone, or fossilized coral limestone, was cut and extracted for use in building the railway that connected Miami to Key West.

The railway was built in the early 1900s to connect the chain of Key islands; that up to the turn of the century were only accessible by boat. Henry Flagler, who was one of the founders of Standard Oil, was looking to profit from increased trade out of Key West which was the closest deep water port to the Panama Canal. It took him 13 years to build the 128 miles of track down to Key West. Flagler used the stone as land fill in places to secure the rails.  

Today Windley Key is a park with only the quarry walls and rusty machinery left standing. The quarry walls show the many layers of coral along with all the visible inclusions of shells in the stone. When you pick up the rock it is lighter than you might think given the air pockets in the stone formed around the coral. You can actually find the stone everywhere on the island. I picked up one to bring home for Christine, my rock hound friend. It has amazing grooves left from the coral.

We drove the full length of the Keys while we were there. The railway is no longer operational, and in many places the railway bridges are simply crumbling into the Atlantic. The drive itself was a bit surreal. On one side is the Atlantic; the other the Gulf. The road is nearly at sea level and gives you the feeling of driving through the ocean. Odd, but peaceful.

The Atlantic (from the car window) along Key West highway

14 comments:

Patti Vanderbloemen said...

I spent many a vacation in Florida, as my parents had lived their for 25 years. In all honesty, it is not my favorite state...only because I usually travelled in Summer and it is so darn hot! Heat aside, I have driven the FL Keys 3 times in my life and it there is nothing like it...surreal is spot on! Florida is truly a beautiful state....if one travels at the correct time of year!

I saw your Instagram/Facebook pic of your your very special coral....perfect keepsake! :)

Miss Val's Creations said...

What a unique place to visit. This will be on my list when I get the Keys someday. Your daughter's creation is marvelous! That drive up and down the Keys sounds amazing.

Annette said...

What a fascinating post. I love the lacy look of the coral.

Liz E said...

How fun and interesting. I too am partial to corals. Brain coral is amazing. Another of my favorites, thought I've not seen it in person, is opal bubble coral. Bead Girl's polymer clay work is fabulous! Really GORGEOUS ! ! !

Duni said...

Amazing place! I LOVE the coral reef that your daughter made! And what a sweet Mother's Day gift :)

JoJo said...

I've never been that far down in FL...I haven't even been to that state since 1978 when I was 13. I'd like to see the Keys and that park.

Natashalh said...

Very cool clay creation! It's crazy to me in Miami how there's so much coral rock used for everything. I'm just not used to seeing it! I haven't driven down into the keys since 5th grade, which is kind of funny considering how often I go to Florida.

Claudia Aguilar said...

I don`t travel much but when I read your post I feel like I am there.

Marcela Gmd said...

Beautiful photos!!! I love Florida!!!!
Have a good week, doll!!! my g+ for you!!!:)))

Besos, desde EspaƱa, Marcela♥

TexWisGirl said...

love the watery view. :) peaceful. glad you had a good visit to the keys - alligators and all. :)

Magic Love Crow said...

Gorgeous pictures! Yeh, no alligators! LOL! I love what your daughter made!

Memories for Life said...

Your daughter does such beautiful work! Love the picture of the ocean!

Christine Altmiller said...

The ride on that road messed with my head! It was a bit crazy being that low to the water, looking ahead and seeing the road in front of you, knowing that is what you were riding on. Nothing like it!
Brain coral, polymer coral, Islamorada ~ all beautiful and intriguing! Bead Girl's creations are the best!!!

Paula, Chief Bead Officer said...

Hi Cynthia, It's been awhile since I popped over to your blog -- I think since our last TTS challenge! You have really had some fun trips. Just loved learning more about the coral. Also, did you give your blog a refresh? The header looks different but really awesome! That alligator in your earlier post is absolutely gruesome, especially with the outline of the turtle shell. Talk about food coma!

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