The Florida Keys, known by locals as The Keys, are a string of tropical islands stretching about 120 miles off the southern coast of Florida forming the southernmost portion of the continental United States. The Florida Keys were formed during the ice age, when sea level dropped, exposing coral reefs and sand bars which fossilized over time to form the rock that makes up the island chain today. The Keys feature over 1,700 islands with very few populated and only 43 connected by bridge.
The Florida Keys were originally inhabited by Calusa and Tequesta Native Americans and later found and charted by Juan Ponce de León in 1513. The Keys were long accessible only by water. This changed with the completion of Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railway in the early 1910’s which extended rail line all the way to Key West with some of the original trestles still visible today.
After the destruction of the Keys railway by the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, the railroad bridges, including the Seven Mile Bridge, were converted to automobile roadways. This roadway, U.S. Highway 1, became the Overseas Highway that runs from Key Largo south to Key West.