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Florida Keys and the Conch Republic Secession

Updated on October 17, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish offers 30 years successful experience in medicine, psychology, STEM courses, and aerospace education (CAP).

Key West, southernmost of the Florida Keys archipelago.
Key West, southernmost of the Florida Keys archipelago. | Source

How Many Keys Are There Really in Florida?

If the former Tonight Show's Jay Leno went Jay Walking against to ask the man and the woman in the street how many Keys are in Florida, he would receive some interesting replies.

Some people would not understand that a key is a geographic structure. They may think of lost car keys floating in the drink near Key West after an all night party.

Others might guess from pop songs they have heard and from fleeting references to Ernest Hemingway in films that there exist perhaps three or four keys in an archipelago. Some people might answer "a dozen."

Actually, sources often cite 60 to 1,000 Florida Keys.

How many do you know besides Key Largo and Key West? -- There are plenty more of them for fun and adventure in traveling.

Sources often cite 60 to 1,000 Florida Keys.

An Easier Question for You.

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If you are stuck on the question, visit the pages at One Thousand Florida Keys.

Have a look at the names of major and minor keys, smaller keys, and the keys even west of Key West.


Our best wishes go out to all those affected by hurricanes around the Keys as well as all Gulf States and Mexico in 2017. Vineyard Columbus church is sending out a new large team of volunteers to help each week from September 10, 2017 through September 2018.

The Keys Secede in 1982

Perhaps the most interesting element of the Florida Keys is their 23 April 1982 secession of Key West from the United States. Some residents of the Keys today tell me that they still wish to separate from the Union.

An act of Congress eventually allowed the residents of the Florida Keys to be awarded dual citizenship as American citizens and as Conch citizens (named after the local sea animal).

In April 1982 the US Border Patrol blockaded US Highway 1 at the entrance to the Florida Mainland at Florida City, Dade County. Citizens of the Keys felt that they had been thrown out of the Union. After the blockade stuck, officers required to see proof of citizenship from everyone driving up Highway 1 through the Keys to the mainland.

Incensed, the Mayor of Key West went to Miami City Hall to protest these actions and ask the blockade to withdraw. Failure of this saw Mayor Denis Wardlow become Premier of the Conch Republic, which rebelled against the US for 60 seconds and then surrendered to ask for a billion dollars in Foreign Aid.

Fun in the Conch Republic.
Fun in the Conch Republic. | Source

"Conch Days" holidays occur during the last week of April annually. The well maintained Conch Republic Naval Forces attack US Coast Guard ships with water cannons and rolls of toilet paper for the appreciative audiences.

A Mascot of the Conch Republic.
A Mascot of the Conch Republic. | Source

Secretary General of the Conch Republic, Sir Peter Anderson, passed away from lung cancer at age 67 in his sleep at 9:18 a.m. on Wednesday, July 16th, 2014...Most notably. he was successful in encouraging cruise ships to give up dumping raw sewage into the ocean offshore, and install waste water treatment facilities on their ships.

— Conch Republic Website

The Rebellion of 1995

War nearly occurred in on September 20, 1995 when the US Army Reserve's 478th Civil Affairs Battalion began to exercise a simulation of invading a foreign land. Their leadership did not tell the US Government or anyone on Key West about their ensuing drill. It was quite the surprise (source:

The army battalion landed and pretended that Floridians were foreign nationals!

Dennis Wardlow ordered water cannons on any and all available Key West water craft to be ready to shoot back. Thus prepared, he filed an official grievance with the Department of Defense (DOD). The US Army battalion actually went along with a ceremony of surrender on September 22. Florida won the war games.

Official National Website of Conch Republic

  • Conch We seceded where others failed. We have passports and official Conch Republic gear.
  • The National Anthem of Conch Republic is sung by the Key Lime Pie Band in the video below.

Formation of the Florida Keys

Changes 60,000 to 100,000 Years Ago

Sometime in the distant past of Earth, a line of corals formed west of what is now mainland Florida with the help of sea creatures and native plants.

Once totally submerged, parts of the coral line began to emerge from receding waters to become islands.

Some geological survey data sources state that a few of the Keys did not appear above water until sometime between 1920 to 1930 in the 20th century.

In the last several decades, tidal waters have been rising once more and some of the Keys may lost a bit of land area from their shorelines, just as has Alaska and New Jersey, among others.

Some islands, like Tortugas bank are still submerged west of Dry Tortugas National Park, which is a group of the coral islands that is uninhabited except by native wildlife and plants.

The website suggests that there are at least 882 charted islands in the coral chain that extends from about 30 miles southwest of Miami to Key Largo and extends to uninhabited places west of the popular endpoint of Key West.

Key West is about 113 miles from the eastern terminus of the major highway cutting through all the islands along bridges and land.

A fantastic vacation includes driving the length of the highway and stopping on each island to enjoy its pleasures and history.

A markerThe Largest Florida Keys -
Florida Keys, FL, USA
get directions

West of Key West: You will find many more small islands the the West, out into the Gulf of Mexico just north of Havana, Cuba.

show route and directions
A markerMarquesas Keys and more: Keys Beyond Key West -
Marquesas Keys, Florida 33040, USA
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Uninhabited Keys.

B markerDry Tortugas -
Dry Tortugas, Dry Tortugas National Park
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Additional uninhabited Florida Keys, west of Key West.

C markerLoggerhead Key -
Loggerhead Key, Dry Tortugas National Park
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Tortugas Bank is furthest west and is totally submerged in the Gulf of Mexico.
Tortugas Bank is furthest west and is totally submerged in the Gulf of Mexico. | Source

US Highway 1 through the Florida Keys

show route and directions
A markerJohn Pennekamp Coral Reef Park -
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo, FL 33037, USA
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B markerTurtugas Bank -
Tortugas Bank, Dry Tortugas National Park
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A ferry, seaplane, or catamaran is needed to complete the trip to Dry Tortugas.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Islamorada KeyLobster traps in the Upper Keys.Marathon KeySwim with dolphins at several Keys.Duval Street in Key West.Harbor at Key WestFort Jefferson,Dry Tortugas National Park.
Islamorada Key
Islamorada Key | Source
Lobster traps in the Upper Keys.
Lobster traps in the Upper Keys. | Source
Marathon Key
Marathon Key | Source
Swim with dolphins at several Keys.
Swim with dolphins at several Keys. | Source
Duval Street in Key West.
Duval Street in Key West. | Source
Harbor at Key West
Harbor at Key West | Source
Fort Jefferson,Dry Tortugas National Park.
Fort Jefferson,Dry Tortugas National Park. | Source

The Upper Keys are closest to Mainland Florida and The Everglades, with Highway 1 running through them. Highway 1 has been named an official All-American Road.

Nature of the Upper Keys

A markerUpper Keys, Florida -
Upper Keys, FL, USA
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Key Largo is called the Diving Capital Of The World.

The Christ of the Abyss

At 5:15 on the above nine-minute video, you will see the fish part to show The Christ of the Abyss statue. It was sculpted by Guido Galletti to honor Dario Gonzatti, the first Italian diver to use SCUBA gear.

The Key Largo statue was presented to the Underwater Society of America in New York in 1962 and taken to Key Largo in 1965. Located 25 beneath the sea, if offers an incredible aura of peace.

Additional Attractions

  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park - Key Largo, Florida Keys

    John Pennekamp State Park located in Key Largo, Florida Keys. The only concessionaire operating inside the park. Featuring glass-bottom boats, snorkel, sailing, scuba tours and family water fun.

  • Keep Them Flying

    Florida Keys Wild Bird Center, Tavernier, FL. Rescue, Rehab, Release. 5 acres of native hammock & shore-front property. Over 20 species of native & migratory wild birds.

  • NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

    The official website for the NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. This site contains all of the official information on current Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary projects and events.

The Middle Keys

A markerMiddle Keys FL -
Middle Keys, FL, USA
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Marathon in the Middle

Marathon is the major element in this line, featuring an airport and many activities, like tours of the Dolphin Research Center, the Turtle Hospital, Crane Hammock Point, and Sombrero Beach. The Seven Mile Bridge is here as well.

You can find 5-Star restaurants and resort hotels on Marathon, but also "Botels", which are motels with rooms on the waterfront that include a boat slip. Annual festivals on Marathon Key include Arts and Seafood celebrations and besides fine diing, there is casual dining aong the lines of shops in the business district.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Long shot of Seven Mile Bridge. Notice the broken section.
Long shot of Seven Mile Bridge. Notice the broken section.
Long shot of Seven Mile Bridge. Notice the broken section. | Source
A markerSeven Mile Bridge -
Seven Mile Bridge, Florida, USA
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Middle Line Attractions

The Lower Keys

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A markerLower Keys -
Lower Keys, FL, USA
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B markerKey West -
Key West, FL, USA
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C markerJewfish Basin -
Jewfish Basin, Florida, USA
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Pockets made through the mangrove trees around here and Mud Key contain tons of fish like Mangrove Snapper, Red Drum, Barracuda, Grouper & Jewfish

A Key Deer, found in the national refuge and on other Keys.
A Key Deer, found in the national refuge and on other Keys. | Source

Highlights of the Lower Keys

  • Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key: Bahia Honda State Park is a state park with an open public beach. Great Florida Keys Beaches and activities for all of the public.
  • Hemingway Home and Museum: Located at 907 Whitehead Street in Old Town Key West. The six-toed cats lurking about are likely the descendants of Ernest Hemingway's cats (see the tab marked Our Cats).
  • Mel Fisher Maritime Museum and Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society in Key West, Florida is a museum that showcases gold, silver, and varieties of treasures recovered from shipwrecks in the New World. View treasures from the Atocha, Santa Margarita, St. John' Wreck, and others.
  • National Key Deer Refuge | US Fish and Wildlife Service - The National Key Deer Refuge was established in 1957 to protect and preserve Key Deer and other wildlife resources in the Florida Keys. The refuge is located in the lower Florida Keys and currently consists of approximately 9,200 acres of land, under ongoing preservation work.

Fort Zachary Taylor and moat in its namesake state park.
Fort Zachary Taylor and moat in its namesake state park. | Source

Wartime History

Built beginning in 1845, Fort Zachary Taylor was important to the Union Army during the American Civil War, but was remodeled and used in the Spanish American War in the 1889.

The fort was not completed until about 1866 after 20 years of construction, but when it was, it included a type of flush toilets flushed by the Gulf of Mexico tides. It also had a desalination system for creating fresh drinking water.

A National Historic Place and National Landmark, Fort Zachary Taylor is home to the largest cadre of Civil War cannons in the USA.

The beaches surrounding this landmark are used for swimming and snorkeling expeditions. There are also free BBQ grills, bathrooms, and changing cabanas for users.

The Ernest Hemingway House in Key West.
The Ernest Hemingway House in Key West. | Source

Songs About the Florida Keys

  • Clambake. Artist: Elvis Presley
  • Down In The Florida Keys. Artist:Tom T. Hall.
  • Gulf Coast Highway - Darius Rucker & Nanci Griffith
  • Key Largo - Written by Berti Higgins.
  • Kokomo (on Grassy Key). Artist: the Beach Boys.
  • Margaritaville. Artist Jimmy Buffet.
  • The Florida Keys Song. Artist Gerd Rube

© 2013 Patty Inglish


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    • mylindaelliott profile image

      mylindaelliott 4 years ago from Louisiana

      Great information. I learned a whole lot about the Florida Keys.