After Key West was settled, ‘Conch’ families moved up the Keys to establish small farming and fishing communities. In the mid-1800s, the Russell family homesteaded Umbrella Key, Windley Key’s earlier name. The Russell family lived on the land until it was sold to the Florida East Coast Railway in 1908, which used the stone to build Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad in the early 1900s.
The railroad was completed in 1912. After the railroad was built, the quarry was used until the 1960s to produce exquisite pieces of decorative stone called Keystone. The quarries and Windley Key Station continued to operate with local trains stopping daily to deliver fresh water and pick up mail and passengers. On return trips, shipments of polished ‘keystone’ were railed back to the mainland.
The quarry was active into the 1960s and today stands as a preserved geological treasure. Today, visitors can walk along eight-foot-high quarry walls to see cross sections of the ancient coral and learn about the quarry and its operation, an important part of Florida’s 20th century history. Samples of the quarry machinery have been preserved at the park. Visitors can enjoy the natural attributes of this island while strolling five, short, self-guided trails. Picnic tables are available.
The park has approximately 1.5 miles of trails that wind through a tropical hardwood hammock. Along the trails, visitors are able to observe over 40 species of trees and plants that are native to the Florida Keys. With the aid of a guidebook, numbered trail stops, and interpretive markers, it is easy for visitors to learn about the natural and cultural resources of the site. Ranger-guided tours are also available.
Picnic tables are placed throughout the park’s quarries. Shady tables, however, are limited.
Guided tours of the park are available December through April. Tours run Friday through Sunday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tour fee is $2 per person, children under 6 admitted free. Self-guided tours may be taken for the cost of park admission – $2.50 per person.
A variety of bird life may be found in the park.
The Alison Fahrer Environmental Education Center offers displays of Flagler’s Railroad, tropical hardwood hammocks, Florida Keys’ geology and more. A conference room on the second floor can be reserved for school groups, meetings, etc. The Visitor Center, open Thursday through Monday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Located at Mile Marker 84.9 on Windley Key near Islamorada.