U.S. 1 North - Upper Florida Keys

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U.S. 1 north
Northbound at the beginning of the Seven Mile Bridge. The two-lane span travels over the Pacet, Money Key, Moser, and Knight Key Channels. It is by far the longest span along the Overseas Highway journey between Key West and Homestead. Photo taken 05/07/06.
This historic sign provides a glimpse into the history of the original Seven Mile Bridge, the longest bridge on the U.S. 1 Overseas Highway between Key West and Key Largo. The original bridge was constructed in 1908 and 1912 as a railroad bridge, modified for automobiles in 1935, and replaced with a new bridge in 1982. The remnant bridge is partially a fishing pier. Photo taken 01/13/02.
The tiny Money Key lies just south of the Seven Mile Bridge near its eastbound beginning. Photo taken 05/07/06.
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Building of the bridge commenced in 1979 and ended with the opening on May 24, 1982.3 A transmission line and the abandoned original U.S. 1 bridge continue along the north side. Passing is permitted on the two-lane bridge, despite its narrow shoulders. Photos taken 05/07/06.
Molasses Key lies between the Money Key and Moser Channels south of the Seven Mile Bridge. Like Money Key, the island is uninhabited. Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 continues east toward Knight Key and Marathon. The original Overseas Highway bridge continues to parallel along the north side of the bridge to Pigeon Key. Pigeon Key constitutes a small island that is home to a handful of structures. Its legacy as a work camp in 1912 for construction of the Florida East Coast Railroad landed it on the National Register of Historic Places.4 The old bridge is severed from continuous travel to the west, but remains in use for access to Pigeon Key via shuttle and foot. Photo taken 05/07/06.
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Moser channel provides a navigable channel for larger vessels between Pigeon and Molasses Keys. Wide expanses of the Florida Straits lie to the south, and if one looks close enough on the horizon, a large tower appears in the distance. Photos taken 05/07/06.
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Pigeon Key lies just east of the Moser Channel and descent on U.S. 1 northbound. The key was purchased by the state on November 9, 1936, a year after the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 destroyed much of the Florida East Coast Railroad.4 The island is now maintained by the Pigeon Key Foundation. Photos taken 05/07/06.
Knight Key comes into view as U.S. 1 leaves the Pigeon Key area. Pigeon Key was used as a staging area for some of the construction involving the original Overseas Highway Bridge. The original span opened in 1938 as a toll facility.4 Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 northbound arrives at Key Vaca and the outskirts of Marathon. Marathon, the largest settlement along the Overseas Highway between Key Largo and Key West, began as a railroad depot along the Florida East Coast Railroad. The name replaced Knight's Key on October 1, 1908, and relates to the accelerated or "marathon" speed and longevity of the construction work related in building the railroad west to Key West.1 Photo taken 05/07/06.
The first in a series of traffic lights governs the movements of U.S. 1 (Overseas Highway) at 33rd Street. 33rd Street spurs north to a boat ramp on the Florida Bay, while a Florida Highway Patrol station lies on the northeast corner of the intersection with U.S. 1. Meanwhile to the west is Monroe County Road 931 (20th Street), the original Overseas Highway alignment south and east to Boot Key and Sister Creek. Photo taken 05/07/06.
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The disjointed Monroe County Road 931 returns to U.S. 1 via Sombrero Beach Boulevard from Sister Creek and the Tingler Island area. A northbound reassurance marker resides beyond the intersection as the Overseas Highway continues east toward Marathon Airport. Photos taken 05/07/06.
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Traffic lights govern the movements between U.S. 1 (Overseas Highway) at both 107th and 109th Streets. Tightly lined streets lie along both sides of the Overseas Highway through much of the Marathon. The town incorporated in 1999 to encompass lands from the east end of the Seven Mile Bridge to the west end of the Toms Harbors Bridge, a distance of approximately 13 miles. This entails Boot, Knight, Hog, Vaca, Stirrup, Crawl, Little Crawl, Deer, Fat Deer, Long Pine, and Grassy Keys and East and West Sister's Islands.2 Photos taken 05/07/06.
Near the Key Vaca Cut bridge is a mileage sign including the distances to Layton and Islamorada, two incorporated communities in the upper Keys. The cut separates Vaca and Crawl Keys in Marathon. Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 next intersects Sadowski Causeway on Crawl Key Number Two. Sadowski Causeway derives its name from developer Phillip Sadowski, who in the 1950s with John Puto began building the Marathon Shores and Little Venice areas. Sadowski Causeway joins the Overseas Highway with the Key Colony Beach area to the south. Key Colony Beach also developed in the 1950s on Shelter Key. Key Colony incorporated in 1957.1 Photo taken 05/07/06.
Coco Plum Drive intersects U.S. 1 at the final signalized intersection in Marathon to lead south and east from Fat Deer Key to residences along Cocoa Plum Beach. Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 ventures into Curry Hammock State Park on Fat Deer Key. Curry Hammock entails stands of mangrove trees and palms along a group of small islands east of the Marathon built-up area. Photo taken 05/07/06.
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Overseas Highway travelers leave Grassy Key across Toms Harbor Channel toward Duck Key and Walkers Island. The old U.S. 1 bridge parallels along the south side. Photos taken 05/07/06.
Northbound at the intersection with Duck Key Drive, the access point to Duck Key. Duck Key lies south of the Overseas Highway at mile marker 61. Bryan W. Newkirk, a financier and mining executive, purchased the island in 1954 for $4 million in an effort to convert Duck Key into a 400 acre island village. In order to fulfill his ambitions, the island was expanded by several acres with fill, and divided into five separate islands (Indies, Centre, Harbour, Plantation and Yacht Club islands) all separated by canals.3 Photo taken 05/07/06.
Continuing east from Duck Key across the Toms Harbor Cut bridge to Walker Island. In 1952, Newkirk saw construction of a wooden bridge between Duck Key and the Overseas Highway. A more permanent causeway opened on January 2, 1953 at a cost of $1 million. Newkirk's development prospered as a resort community and remained in his hands until 1983. Hawk's Cay Village was built on the island in the mid 1990s bringing a total of approximately 400 homes along with a wide array of recreational facilities on the island.3 Photo taken 05/07/06.
A narrow causeway carries U.S. 1 eastward from Walkers Island to Conch Key. Conch Avenue spurs northward into a small residential area on Conch Key (visible to the left in this photo). The 16-acre island was used as a construction camp site during the building of the Florida East Coast Railway. Photo taken 05/07/06.
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The lengthy Long Key Viaduct carries U.S. 1 eastward from Conch Key to Long Key. The original concrete span parallels along the south side. Photos taken 05/07/06.
Long Key State Park encompasses lands on the western reaches of Long Key. The state park, established on October 1, 1969, provides canoeing, hiking, camping, and fishing for area visitors. Originally a fishing resort called Long Key home, but that was destroyed by the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Northbound travelers pass through the incorporated city of Layton on Long Key. The community consists of less then ten streets and is home to 204 residents according to 2004 census estimates. Named for Miamans Mary and Del Layton and their local fish camp, the village incorporated on September 18, 1963.4 Photo taken 05/07/06.
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U.S. 1 bends southeasterly from Fiesta Key to Craig Key over the Channel No. 5 Bridge. Photos taken 05/07/06.
Lowering from the Channel No. 5 Bridge onto tiny Craig Key. Craig Key, founded by R.W. Craig in the 1930s as a small fish camp, represents the landfall location where the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935's eye passed. There a record low barometric pressure of 26.35 inches of mercury was recorded. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Northbound reassurance marker posted at Craig Key. Channel No. 2 separates the small island from Lower Matecumbe Key to the east. Photo taken 05/07/06.
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U.S. 1 northbound spans Channel No. 2 ahead of Lower Matecumbe Key at Matecumbe Harbor. Lower Matecumbe was surveyed on November 20, 1872 though the name Matecumbe was used to describe the eastern Keys as far as back as 1571. The first Overseas Highway reached Lower Matecumbe Key in 1928 and ended at a ferry crossing. When it was decided to build a bridge westward to Jewfish Bush, veterans from World War I were commissioned to complete the task. However before they could construct much, the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 struck on September 2, all but destroying their work camps and support structure. All that remained from their initial work are crumbling concrete bridge piers near milepost 73.5 Photos taken 05/07/06.
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U.S. 1 leaves Lower Matecumbe Key for a series of bridges and causeways to Upper Matecumbe Key. Overseas Highway first travels across Lignumvitae Channel. South of the channel lies the small Indian Key. The island represents the first settlement in the Florida Keys, when ship salvaging businesses set up shop there in the 1830s.6 Photos taken 05/07/06.
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A small island of fill carries the Overseas Highway east to the Indian Key Channel bridge from Lignumvitae Channel. Indian Key, Lignumvitae, and Tea Table Channels allow tidal waters to flow between Florida Bay and the Florida Straits. Photos taken 05/07/06.
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Continuing east along the manmade bodies of land toward Upper Matecumbe Key. A causeway joins U.S. 1 with a small private island southwest of Tea Table Relief. U.S. 1 crosses the Tea Table Channel and Relief waterways onto Upper Matecumbe Key otherwise into the heart of Islamorada. Islamorada is the self-proclaimed Sport Fishing Capital of the World, and it entails Plantation, Windley, Upper, and Lower Matecumbe Keys. The community began in 1907 when settler William Krome first platted a subdivision.7 Photos taken 05/07/06.
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U.S. 1 gains a center-turn lane through Upper Matecumbe Key. Pictured here is a northbound reassurance marker and mileage sign situated along the northbound drive at Islamorada. Just Key Largo remains on the trek to Homestead and Miami. Photos taken 05/07/06.
Boats congregate in the waters south of Windley Key on a regular basis. The daily "boat party" is part of the tradition of Windley Key and Islamorada. Photo taken 05/07/06.
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The section of original Overseas Highway on Windley Key receives the signing of County Road 905. CR 905 loops south of U.S. 1 behind the Theater of the Sea briefly before returning ahead of the Snake Creek draw bridge. The theater includes a lagoon that was originally a quarry used for the railroad; the quarry became part of a park in 1946. Featured at the Theater of the Sea are marine animals set in salt-water lagoons amongst tropical gardens. Visitors can interact with dolphins, sea lions, and sting rays as part of the park programs. Traffic lights governing the intersection of CR 905 and U.S. 1 were removed some time before these photos was taken. Photos taken 05/07/06.
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U.S. 1 travels to the Windley Key Geological State Park, a former coral quarry used in the building of the Florida East Coast Railroad, and then the Snake Creek draw bridge. Closed in the 1960s, the quarry features limestone and fossilized and coral. Photos taken 05/07/06.
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U.S. 1 descends from the Snake Creek draw bridge onto Plantation Key. A weigh station resides just east of the span. The original Overseas Highway through Islamorada opened on March 28, 1938 over the original Florida East Coast Railway bed.8 Photos taken 05/07/06.
A set of traffic lights, here flashing caution, are posted at the entrance to Founders Park on Plantation Key. Founders Park consists of a 40-acre conventional park including an Olympic-sized swimming pool, beach, ball fields, and walking path. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Nearing the north end of Plantation Key and Bessie Road. U.S. 1 curves east toward Tavernier, Rock Harbor, and Key Largo. Native tribes called Plantation Key home as early as 500 and 700 AD. The island later became the grounds for pineapple crops, which gives it its name. The Florida East Coast Railway brought modern settlement to the island with the establishment of coral rock quarries. The island today is home to the Upper Keys only high school, that of the 1951-built Coral Shores School.9 Photo taken 05/07/06.
Traffic lights exist at the five-way intersection of U.S. 1 (Overseas Highway) with Bessie Road east, Plantation Avenue west, and Sunshine Boulevard north. CR 905 parallels U.S. 1 closely along the northbound side here. Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 reassurance shield posted between the northbound lanes and nearby CR 905 (original Overseas Highway). Photo taken 05/07/06.
Spanning Tavernier Creek between Plantation Key and the southern reaches of Key Largo. The waterway represents the eastern end of Islamorada. Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 enters Tavernier, the community entailing the southern reaches of Key Largo. Originally named Cayo Tabona, or "Horsefly Key", Tavernier appeared on maps in print by 1775 by the British. Tavernier began as the communities of Planter and Lowesport, fueled partly by the pineapple trade with Cuba. The arrival of the Florida East Coast Railroad ushered the growth of Tavernier as a railroad depot in 1908, and the demise of Planter nearby. Tavernier became the post office in 1911.10 Photo taken 05/07/06.
A traffic light slows motorists at the intersection with Ocean Boulevard, a short spur leading east to Lincoln Avenue and Coconut Row. A shopping enter occupies the northwestern corner of the intersection as well. Photo taken 05/07/06.
The Overseas Highway gains a grassy median through Tavernier, before eventually splitting into a one-way street couplet further north. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Burton Drive veers northeast from U.S. 1 toward Harry Harris Park and residences along Dove Sound. Harry Harris Park lies along the beach and offers conventional park amenities. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Northbound mileage sign posted at the community of Rock Harbor on Key Largo. The origins of Rock Harbor date as far back officially as a railroad depot along Florida East Coast Railway in 1909. The name was applied to the original post office in the area and may relate to the surrounding shallow harbor and its rocky coastline.11 Photo taken 05/07/06.
Traveling northbound near Newport on Key Largo. The split roadways of U.S. 1 converge at the south Key Largo business district. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Continuing north beyond the signalized intersection with Tarpon Basin Drive. The drive through Key Largo resembles a suburban arterial similar to any other found within the state of Florida. The island itself derives its name because it is the longest island in the Keys. Photo taken 05/07/06.
An overhead sign directs travelers to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park entrance at Key Largo. The park spreads across 70 nautical miles and entails mangrove swamps, hammocks, and coral reefs. Activities range from glass bottom boat tours aboard the Spirit of Pennekamp, scuba diving, kayaking, fishing, hiking, and more. A 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium also resides within the park. Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 prepares to depart Key Largo at the split with Monroe County Road 905. U.S. 1 and Monroe County Road 905A (Card Sound Road) provide the only two fixed crossings between the Florida Keys and the Florida mainland. U.S. 1 provides a direct route to Homestead by way of the Jewfish Creek crossing along Everglades National Park. Card Sound Road leads northwest from Monroe County Road 905 near Ocean Reef Club to meet U.S. 1 at Florida City. The Card Sound Bridge is tolled at a rate of $1.00 per passenger vehicle. Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 narrows to two lanes as it leaves Key Largo. Monroe County Road 905 travels northeast 9.3 miles to County Road 905A (Card Sound Road), two miles south of its end at the Ocean Reef Club entrance. Photo taken 05/07/06.
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U.S. 1 leaves Key Largo formerly along a narrow causeway across Lake Surprise. The lake took early railroad builders by surprise, hence its name.12
2009-completed widening of U.S. 1 between Key Largo and the Jewfish Creek draw bridge replaced the causeway with an elevated two-lane viaduct. Roadwork between mile markers 106 and 113 included construction of a fixed high-level bridge at Jewfish Creek. A barrier median separates north and southbound travelers along the new alignment.13 Photos taken 05/07/06.
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Historical look at the double-leaf Jewfish Creek Bascule Bridge on U.S. 1 (Overseas Highway) north. Built in 1944, the draw bridge was near the end of its life as crews built the new fixed bridge to the east. Rising to a level of 65' upon completion, the bridge replacement project was the first phase of a four-part $148-million improvement project along 18-mile "Stretch" of U.S. 1.13 Photos taken 05/07/06.
The Miami-Dade County line straddles Manatee Creek between Barnes and Long Sounds across U.S. 1. The Overseas Highway follows a narrow strip of land between the two large bodies of water to a small fish camp at the creek. The aforementioned road work project also involved construction of the Manatee Creek Bridge and wildlife box culvert crossings. All bridge work was completed by 2009.13 Photo taken 05/07/06.

Sources:

  1. History of Marathon, Florida Keys History Museum.
  2. Duck Key History, Florida Keys History Museum.
  3. Duck Key History, Florida Keys History Museum.
  4. Long Key, Florida Keys History Museum.
  5. Lower Matecumbe Key, Florida Keys History Museum.
  6. History Of Upper Matecumbe Key, Florida Keys History Museum.
  7. History of Islamorada, Florida Keys History Museum.
  8. "Islamorada History written by Historian & Resident Irving R. Eyster," City of Islamorada website.
  9. History of Plantation Key, Florida Keys History Museum.
  10. History of Tavernier, Florida Keys History Museum.
  11. Rock Harbor, Florida Keys History Museum.
  12. Florida Keys Scenic Drive http://www.nationalgeographic.com/destinations/The_Florida_Keys/Florida_Keys_Scenic_Drive.html, NationalGeographic.com.
  13. "Construction to Begin on 18-Mile Stretch of US 1 Between Florida City and Key Largo." Florida Department of Transportation Press Release http://www.dot.state.fl.us/publicinformationoffice/construc/pdf%20files/construction_to_begin_on_18-mile_stretch032905.pdf, March 29, 2005.


Photo Credits:

    01/13/02 by . 05/07/06 by AARoads and Justin Cozart.

Page Updated 07-02-2014.