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Location of Key Largo, Florida
December sunset, Key Largo


Key Largo is an island in the upper Florida Keysmarker archipelago and, at long, the largest of the Keys. It is also the northernmost of the Florida Keys in Monroe Countymarker, and the northernmost of the Keys connected by U.S. Highway 1 (the Overseas Highwaymarker). Its earlier Spanish name was Cayo Largo, meaning Long Key.

Key Largo is connected to the mainland in Miami-Dade Countymarker by two routes. The Overseas Highway, which is U.S. Highway 1, enters Key Largo at Jewfish Creek near the middle of the island and turns southwest. Card Sound Road connects to the northern part of Key Largo at Card Sound Bridgemarker and runs southeastward to connect with County Road 905, which runs southwest and joins U.S. 1 at about mile marker 106. These routes originate at Florida Citymarker on the mainland.

Key Largo is a popular tourist destination and calls itself the "Diving Capital of the World" because the living coral reef a few miles offshore attracts thousands of scuba divers and sport-fishing enthusiasts.

Key Largo's proximity to the Evergladesmarker also makes it a premier destination for kayakers and ecotourist. Automotive and highway pioneer and Miami Beachmarker developer Carl G. Fisher built Key Largo's famous Caribbean Club in 1938 as his last project.

The island gained fame as the setting for the 1948 Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall film Key Largo, although it was filmed entirely on a Warner Brothers sound stage in Hollywood. The island's post office in Rock Harbor, which had been named after a nearby cove, changed its name to Key Largo after the film's success and pressure from local businesmen. It did this so that everyone living north of Taverniermarker would have a Key Largo address and the cancellation would say Key Largo instead of Rock Harbor.

There are three census-designated places on the island of Key Largo: North Key Largo, near the Card Sound Bridge, Key Largo, eight or nine miles from the southern end of the island, and Tavernier, at the southern end of the island. Ocean Reef Club is a private gated community and club at the northern end of the island. None of Key Largo is an incorporated municipality, so it is governed at the local level by Monroe Countymarker.

Key Largo is situated between Everglades National Parkmarker to the north-west and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Parkmarker to the east, the first underwater park in the United States and the site of the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States.

Geology and geography

The island of Key Largo is an exposed, fossilized remnant of a coral reef that was formed during a period of higher sea level and then uncovered and eroded during a subsequent ice age. The highest elevation is a slight ridge forming the spine of the island, which rises to as high as about 15 feet. The land slopes from the spine down to sea level on the oceanside and bayside.

The island's substrate is called Key Largo Limestone; in many places, fossilized corals and smooth, eroded limestone "caprock" are visible at the surface. Solution holes, which are pockets dissolved in the limestone by acidic rainwater, form shallow depressions in the land.

The natural shoreline of the island is generally rocky. A slippery, gray, limestone-based clay called "marl" is the shoreline and near-shore soil. There are no natural sand beaches on the island.

Inland, decomposed vegetation forms a rich, acidic humus soil up to about six inches thick, topped by "leaf litter." The soil supports a diverse flora of herbaceous plants and woody shrubs and hardwood trees.

Key Largo's climate is considered tropical. Frost has never been recorded in the island.

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