U.S. 1 South - Upper Florida Keys

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U.S. 1 south
The expansive Barnes Sound lies east of the U.S. 1 causeway between the Miami-Dade County line and Jewfish Creek. Road work pictured here focused on widening U.S. 1 southward to Key Largo, a project completed in 2009. The wider U.S. 1 includes barrier medians similar to those found along California 37 on the north end of San Francisco Bay. Both barrier installations are part of safety improvement projects. Photo taken 05/06/06.
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Initial pilings were constructed for the eventual high-level span carrying U.S. 1 (Overseas Highway) cross Jewfish Creek. The new concrete and steel bridge replaced the 1944-built double-leaf Jewfish Creek Bascule Bridge. The $148-million project completed here expanded and improved U.S. 1 between Florida City and Key Largo. Photos taken 05/06/06.
Southbound reassurance marker that was posted ahead of the former Jewfish Creek draw bridge.
U.S. 1 now travels a viaduct to the immediate east through a new folded diamond interchange with Gilberts Resort Drive (former U.S. 1) ahead of Jewfish Creek. Photo taken 05/06/06.
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Historical look at the drawbridge signal and mileage sign posted along U.S. 1 in advance of the former Jewfish Creek crossing. Photos taken 05/06/06.
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Crossing the former Jewfish Creek bridge on U.S. 1 south. Ahead was a causeway over Surprise Lake, a lake that received its name from early railroad builders who were surprised that it existed.
As part of the U.S. 1 expansion project, U.S. 1 was elevated across the lake on a low level viaduct. The new road includes a diamond interchange with Yacht Club Drive (old U.S. 1) at the lake. Photos taken 05/06/06.
Card Sound Road returns to U.S. 1 at the north entrance to Key Largo. Monroe County Road 905 (Card Sound Road) travels north from U.S. 1, 9.2 miles to County Road 905A, and 1.75 miles from there to Ocean Reef Club. Photo taken 05/06/06.
U.S. 1 (Overseas Highway) southbound at the entrance to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in 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.
Key Largo, which was named because it is the longest island in the Keys, sees U.S. 1 look and feel more like a suburban arterial than the Overseas Highway. Shopping centers, fast food eateries, and other commercial establishments found in typical suburban areas lie along the drive on Key Largo. Pictured here is the signalized intersection with Tarpon Basin Drive. Photo taken 05/07/06.
The roadways of U.S. 1 diverge for a period through south Key Largo at Ocean Bay Drive North and South. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Numerous buildings reside within the median of U.S. 1 through south Key Largo. Many of them feature the culture of the area in their architecture or in colorful murals such as the one pictured here near Woodward Way. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Southbound mileage sign posted on U.S. 1 near Thurmond Street in Key Largo. Distances include Islamorada and Layton, the next Keys cities of interest. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Entering the Rock Harbor community of Key Largo on U.S. 1 south. The origins of Rock Harbor date as far back officially as 1909 as a railroad depot along Florida East Coast Railway. The name was applied to the original post office in the area and may relate to the surrounding shallow harbor and its rocky coastline.1 Photo taken 05/07/06.
Next in line on Key Largo is the community of Tavernier on U.S. 1 south. 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 on the south end of Key Largo, 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. In 1911, the Planter post office was replaced by the Tavernier post office.2 Photo taken 05/07/06.
The U.S. 1 roadways split again through Tavernier ahead of the intersection with Burton Drive. Burton Drive leads east from the US highway to Harry Harris Park. Harris Park includes a man-made beach, fishing pavilions and a boat ramp. Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 intersects Ocean Boulevard at the Tavernier Shopping Center. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Southbound reassurance marker posted after Ocean Boulevard in south Tavernier. Photo taken 05/07/06.
The Overseas Highway spans Tavernier Creek and enters Plantation Key. U.S. 1 meets Bessie Road, Plantation Avenue, and Sunshine Boulevard at the west end of the bridge from Key Largo. The three roads fan out along area canals as U.S. 1 continues south to Islamorada. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Plantation Key was originally home to native tribes living on the island between 500 and 700 AD. The island later was used for agricultural purposes including the growing of pineapples, which gives it its name. Settlement of the island occurred after the construction of the Florida East Coast Railroad and as the home to a coral rock quarry. The quarry was used in the building of a bridge between Plantation Key and Lower Matecumbe Key and a school in Islamorada. In 1951, Coral Shores School was built on Plantation Key as the only high school in the Upper Keys.3 Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 (Overseas Highway) southbound after the intersection with Bessie Road, Plantation Avenue, and Sunshine Boulevard. Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 south continues through the village of Islamorada, the self-proclaimed Sportfishing Capital of the World. Islamorada began in 1907 when settler William Krome platted a subdivision here. Construction of a railroad depot and post office followed in 1908.4 The railroad opened on January 22, 1912, followed by the first Overseas Highway in 1928. The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 then leveled Islamorada and the Florida East Coast Railroad, but islanders rebuilt and the town grew during the post World War II years.5 Photo taken 05/07/06.
Islamorada entails four separate islands (Plantation, Windley, Upper, and Lower Matecumbe Keys) and was incorporated on November 4, 1977. Founders Park, a 40-acre conventional park including an Olympic-sized swimming pool, beach, ball fields and walking path, lies along U.S. 1 southbound in this scene. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Southbound reassurance marker posted near Venetian Boulevard and the west end of Plantation Key. Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 approaches a weigh station ahead of the Snake Creek draw bridge between Plantation Key and Windley Key. The original Overseas Highway through Islamorada opened on March 28, 1938 over the original Florida East Coast Railway bed.5 Photo taken 05/07/06.
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U.S. 1 crosses the Snake Creek draw bridge. Photos taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 nears Windley Key Geological State Park, a former coral quarry used in the building of the Florida East Coast Railroad. Closed in the 1960s, the quarry features limestone and fossilized and coral. Photo taken 05/07/06.
One mile further west along U.S. 1 southbound is the Theater of the Sea. 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 amid tropical gardens. Visitors can interact with dolphins, sea lions, and sting rays in the park programs. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Paralleling U.S. 1 along Windley Key is old CR 905, the original Overseas Highway. The former highway acts as a frontage road to U.S. 1 to the south. Photo taken 05/07/06.
CR 905 ends at U.S. 1 near the west end of Windley Key at a formerly signalized intersection. Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 crosses Whale Harbor Channel between Windley and Upper Matecumbe Keys. Photo taken 05/07/06.
A lone sailboat anchors in the waters south of Upper Matecumbe Key. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Another segment of old U.S. 1 remains in use as CR C905 on Upper Matecumbe Key. The original Overseas Highway parallels U.S. 1 to the south between Hammock Road and the western reaches of the island. Photo taken Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 gains a center-turn lane across Upper Matecumbe Key. A number of businesses and residences line the highway through here, with more focused on the oceanside then the Florida Bay side. Original settlements along the key focused on the oceanside due to the number of mosquitoes found along the north side and better sea breezes.6 Photo taken 05/07/06.
Southbound mileage sign posted on U.S. 1 near Blackwood Road on Upper Matecumbe Key. The three cities listed are all incorporated. Photo taken 05/07/06.
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U.S. 1 leaves Upper Matecumbe Key at the Table Table Relief Channel. The small Tea Table Key lies west of the channel crossing; a short causeway connects private residences to the Overseas Highway from the south. Transmission lines paralleling U.S. 1 closely diverge to a further parallel alignment to the north from Tea Table Key westward. Lignumvitae Key, an uninhabited key and State Park, lies further north. Lignumvitae was never developed because it was never accessible by either the East Coast Railroad or the Overseas Highway. Owners of the island attempted to construct a causeway between the island and U.S. 1 unsuccessfully in 1967.7 Photos taken 05/07/06.
The Overseas Highway shifts to a narrow causeway known as the Indian Key Fill from Tea Table Key west to the Indian Key Channel. Four channels found between Upper and Lower Matecumbe Keys allow water to flow from the ocean to the bay through the channel fill. Photo taken 05/07/06.
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Spanning the Indian Key Channel between the Indian Key Fill and Lignumvitae Channel. Indian Key, a State Park, lies south of the Overseas Highway and is inaccessible by car. Indian Key is historically significant in that it was the first Key to be settled and was also the first Dade County seat. Dade County entailed all of the keys east of Bahia Honda upon its establishment February 4, 1836 until 1866. The island was home to a number of ship salvaging businesses in the 1830s, which was lucrative given the number of shipwrecks caused by the jagged coral throughout the Keys.8 Photos taken 05/07/06.
Lignumvitae Channel represents the last channel between U.S. 1 and Lower Matecumbe Key. 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 73.9 Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 (Overseas Highway) hugs the shoreline of Lower Matecumbe Key closely at its intersection with Sandy Cove Avenue. The majority of the structures on this key lie north of the Overseas Highway. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Clear waters lie south of Lower Matecumbe Key. Small waves lap against the coastline just a stone's throw away from the U.S. 1 mainline. Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 spans Channel 2 between Lower Matecumbe Key and the small Craig Key. Paralleling the span to the north is an original (1938) Overseas Highway bridge. The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 wiped out 40 miles of the East Coast Railroad, but the steel and concrete bridges built for the railroad line survived. The railroad right-of-way was sold for the replacement Overseas Highway for $640,000 and the new road opened in 1938 as a toll facility. A toll plaza existed at the former location of the Lower Matecumbe Key ferry landing.9 Photo taken 05/07/06.
Craig Key lies between Channel 2 and Channel 5 along U.S. 1 (Overseas Highway). Craig Key began as a small fish camp founded by Miami Businessman, and later a county commissioner, R.W. Craig in the 1930s. The island was the site where the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 eye crossed paths with a record low setting barometric pressure of 26.35 inches of mercury. Hurricane Donna also crossed over the island in 1960, more or less destroying everything on it. A handful of buildings reside on Craig Key today. Photo taken 05/07/06.
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U.S. 1 curves from Craig Key onto the Channel 5 bridge toward Fiesta and Long Keys. Uninhabited mangrove stands rise from the Jewfish Bush Banks along the northern horizon. Photos taken 05/07/06.
Ahead of Long Key itself is Fiesta Key, a small island home to RV park and campground. The island was originally named Jewfish Bush Key, then later Tropical Key and Greyhound Key (which coincided with the location of a Greyhound Bus Terminal on the island). Kampgrounds of America (KOA) bought the island in 1966 and opened their campground in 1967.9 Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 south enters the incorporated village of Layton. The town began as a fishing camp founded by Miamans Mary and Del Layton after World War II. Dubbed "Layton's Long Key Fishing Camp", the community became incorporated on September 18, 1963.10 204 residents claim Layton as home according to the 2004 Census estimate. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Just west of Layton is Long Key State Park, established on October 1, 1969. Long Key originally was designated a military reservation by the War Department in 1845 and remained in government hands until 1879. During the early days of the Florida East coast Railroad construction, a fish camp was set up on Long Key. Fishing grew as a popular attraction and a resort area soon followed on Long Key. The Long Key Fishing Club set up residence here and prospered until the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 leveled the entire island. The club was reestablished in 1969.10 Photo taken 05/07/06.
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The Overseas Highway spans Long Key Channel between Long Key and Conch Key. Conch Key represents a 16-acre island originally used as a construction camp site for the Florida East coast Railway. Traveler Frank M. Coward later settled on the island in 1944 in order to build his dream-boat, the 44-foot long Don Pancho. Coward remained on the island until his death in 1966, and his property and boat yard were sold to E.V. Jones.11 Photos taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 intersects Conch Avenue, a short road spurring to the north, on the small Conch Key. Photo taken 05/07/06.
A narrow causeway carries U.S. 1 westward from Conch Key to Walkers Key. Walkers Key, also known as Little Conch Key, was government owned until 1946 when it was sold to Paul Walker. Walker built a home there and five rental cottages, connecting those to the Overseas Highway by a short causeway.12 Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 next spans Toms Harbor Cut, a waterway separating Walkers Key from 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.13 Photo taken 05/07/06.
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 and a wide array of recreational facilities to the island.13 Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 continues west across Toms Harbor Channel to the north of Toms Harbor between Duck and Grassy Keys. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Arriving at Grassy Key on U.S. 1 southbound. A post office was built on Grassy Key during the Florida East Coast Railway construction in 1908. Work on the railroad occurred between 1905 and 1908 on Grassy Key, that included the location of a construction camp. The Ocean Beach Hotel was established on the island in 1908, but it burned in 1913. In 1930, an 11-mile section of the Overseas Highway opened between Grassy Key and Hog Key. Ferry launch sites existed at each end of the roadway, and this gave Grassy Key more accessibility. After the Hurricane of 1935, a new Overseas Highway (U.S. 1) opened to traffic on Grassy Key in 1938. Settlement of the island followed.14 Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 enters the general area of Marathon, the largest settlement along the Overseas Highway between Key Largo and Key West. Marathon 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. A post office was established February 23, 1909 as the Marathon area grew as a railroad town, connected by a series of boardwalks.15 Photo taken 05/07/06.
Continuing west, U.S. 1 crosses Grassy Key to Crawl Key and Little Crawl Key and the entrance to Curry Hammock State Park. 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.
The Overseas Highway transitions into a suburban type landscape with strip malls, gas stations, and other commercialized frontage through Marathon. Coco Plum Drive intersects U.S. 1 at the first signalized intersection in Marathon. Coco Plum Drive leads south and east from Fat Deer Key to residences along Cocoa Plum Beach. Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 south 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 1957.15 Photo taken 05/07/06.
The U.S. 1 stretch through Marathon resembles a suburban stretch of roadway anywhere else in Florida. A large array of traveler services lie along the four to five-lane highway. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Approaching Key Vaca Cut and Key Vaca, the heart of Marathon. The Vaca Cut Bridge opened to traffic in March of 1983 as a two-lane span. Four-laning of U.S. 1 followed through Marathon during five stages beginning in 1985.15 Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 spans Key Vaca Cut and enters Marathon Shores and Key Vaca. Tightly lined streets lie along both sides of the Overseas Highway through much of the town. Marathon 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.16 Photo taken 05/07/06.
Traffic lights govern the movements between U.S. 1 (Overseas Highway) at both 109th and 107th Streets. Florida Keys Marathon Airport (MTH), the only public airport on the Keys, is ten blocks west. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Southbound at Sombrero Beach Road. Sombrero Beach Road spurs south from U.S. 1 to Tingler Island. The former county road represents an original section of the Overseas Highway, a roadway that looped southwest across Sister Creek onto Boot Key as 20th Street. Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 continues west through the heart of Marathon. Boot Key Harbor separates Key Vaca from Boot Key to the south. Photo taken 05/07/06.
33rd Street spurs north from a signalized intersection with U.S. 1 (Overseas Highway) to a marina on Florida Bay. Photo taken 05/07/06.
The original Overseas Highway returned to U.S. 1 via 20th Street from Boot Key. Signed as Monroe County C931, 20th Street spurred south and east through undeveloped Boot Key. An 1972-built concrete draw bridge spanned Boot Key Harbor nearby. It was closed in the late 2000s with its bascule removed. Photo taken 05/07/06.
U.S. 1 narrows to two lanes ahead of Hog and Knight Keys. An access road and parking area joins U.S. 1 with the original Overseas Highway bridge to Pigeon Key. The newer Seven Mile Bridge bypasses Pigeon Key completely to the south. Photo taken 05/07/06.
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The Overseas Highway reaches the Seven Mile Bridge over Knight Channel, Moser, Money Key, and Pacet Channels. Building of the bridge began in 1979 and ended with the opening on May 24, 1982.15 Photos taken 05/07/06.
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Looking northward at the original Overseas Highway bridge linking Knight and Pigeon Keys. Pigeon Key was originally the home of a work camp for Henry Flagler's railroad. The 5.31-acre island was named Cayo Paloma (dove or pigeon) by Spanish explorers, likely for the Keys white-crowned pigeon.17 Photos taken 05/07/06.
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Completion of the Florida East Coast Railroad to Key West in 1912 relegated the Pigeon Island work camp into a new role as a bridge maintenance camp with permanent structures. Establishment of a post office followed between 1923 and 1933. The island later was sold as part of the Florida East Coast Railroad right-of-way sale to the state on November 9, 1936. Building of the first Overseas Highway as a toll facility followed, with Pigeon Key used as a construction site. Tolls were applied to the route between its opening in 1938 to 1954.17 Photos taken 05/07/06.
The old U.S. 1 bridge ends at an access ramp to Pigeon Key. Pigeon Key today exists on the National Register of Historic Places and is accessible via shuttle and by foot. A handful of cottages reside on the island that is maintained by the
The old U.S. 1 bridge ends at an access ramp to Pigeon Key. Pigeon Key today exists on the National Register of Historic Places and is accessible via shuttle and by foot. A handful of cottages reside on the island that is maintained by the Pigeon Key Foundation. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Leaving the Pigeon Key area on the Seven Mile Bridge west. A cut in the original Moseley Channel Bridge to the north was the result of the filming of the 1994 movie True Lies. An action scene in the movie involving stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis involved blowing up an actual section of the original bridge, which was portrayed to be the current bridge in the film. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Rising to pass over Moseley Channel on U.S. 1 south. The original Overseas Highway bridge tolls were removed on April 15, 1954. and the Lt. Governor at the time renamed the roadway the "Florida Freeway", a shortly used name.17 Photo taken 05/07/06.
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The Seven Mile Bridge continues west toward Little Duck, Missouri, and Ohio Keys, the next land U.S. 1 touches. 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.
Looking south at Molasses Key, a small uninhabited island east of Pacet Channel. Photo taken 05/07/06.
Money Key to the south and Little Money Key to the north lie along the western horizon of U.S. 1 southbound. Photo taken 05/07/06.
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Closer views of Little Money Key to the north of U.S. 1. The old bridge transitions into a refurbished concrete structure from near Little Money Key to Little Duck Key. The renovated bridge is open to fishing. Photos taken 05/07/06.


 

Sources:

  1. Rock Harbor, Florida Keys History Museum.
  2. History of Tavernier, Florida Keys History Museum.
  3. History of Plantation Key, Florida Keys History Museum.
  4. History of Islamorada, Florida Keys History Museum.
  5. "Islamorada History written by Historian & Resident Irving R. Eyster," City of Islamorada website.
  6. History Of Upper Matecumbe Key, Florida Keys History Museum.
  7. History Of Lignumvitae Key, Florida Keys History Museum.
  8. Indian Key General History Page 1, Florida Keys History Museum.
  9. Lower Matecumbe Key, Florida Keys History Museum.
  10. Long Key, Florida Keys History Museum.
  11. History of Conch Key, Florida Keys History Museum.
  12. History of Walker's Island, Florida Keys History Museum.
  13. Duck Key History, Florida Keys History Museum.
  14. History of Grassy Key, Florida Keys History Museum.
  15. History of Marathon, Florida Keys History Museum.
  16. About Marathon http://www.ci.marathon.fl.us/index.asp?NID=39, City of Marathon, FL.
  17. History Of Pigeon Key, Florida Keys History Museum.


Photo Credits:

05/06/06, 05/07/06 by AARoads and Justin Cozart

Connect with:
Monroe County 905 & 905A (Card Sound Road)

Page Updated 07-02-2014.