|Windley Key Quarry|
|Brain Coral (close up on right)|
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.