Overseas Highway: Florida’s floating bridges

In the state of Florida, United States, you can find an engineering work that changed forever the tourism and the economy of the place. The Overseas Highway is a wonderful network of floating bridges that connects 44 islands with the mainland. Thus, the city of Miami is connected to the island of Key West, through 182 kilometers and 42 bridges.

Overseas Highway
Overseas Highway – Google Maps
One idea: Overseas Highway

At the beginning of the last century, it was only possible to reach any of these islands by boat. Although the possibility depended on the tides and the weather. In addition, traveling there consumed a whole day.

It was a visionary named Henry Morrison Flagler who envisioned the work that would change the state of Florida forever. Although at the time, his idea was for an overseas railroad, today it is a phenomenal network of floating bridges. He partnered with John Rockefeller to found Flagler Standard Oil.

Flagler, a visionary entrepreneur, radically transformed the once poor and neglected state of Florida into a vibrant tourist destination. He decided to invest a large part of his fortune in the construction of luxury resorts. The key is simple: while in other parts of the country winter brings cold weather, Florida enjoys a tropical climate.

However, although this idea seemed perfect in theory, tourism did not come as they had imagined. It was in 1885 when they decided to establish a series of railroad connections for the railroad to reach Miami, making it the final terminus of the line.

In 1904, the United States began construction of the Panama Canal, and Flagler saw another challenge there. Key West was strategically located as the closest port to the Canal. During the early years of the 20th century, this port city stood out as the largest in Florida. Its economy was based on the production of cigars, sponges and fishing.

However, supplying Key West with inland goods proved to be a logistical and economic challenge. Faced with this situation, Flagler made the bold decision to connect Miami with Key West by means of a maritime railroad. At the time, this idea was considered crazy by many.

Flagler Standard Oil

Construction of the work took 7 years. During that time, between 1905 and 1912, hurricanes, snakes, alligators and scorpions killed more than 100 workers. Once the work was inaugurated, it was catalogued as the eighth wonder of the world. The first wagon car used in the inauguration is on display at the Plam Beach Museum.

The railroad operated until 1935, when a terrible hurricane, the deadliest to date, wiped out part of the railroad. In 1938 the government decided to transform the tracks into roads and paved them.

Overseas Highway

More than a hundred years have passed since this incredible engineering feat was inaugurated. To this day, we can still enjoy 20 of the original bridges that are part of the famous Overseas Highway, also known as the Overseas Highway.

Florida Floating Bridges
Overseas Highway – BBC (Credit: Robert Zehetmayer/Alamy)

This breathtaking highway stretches 182 kilometers from the southern tip of the mainland to 44 tropical islands, crossing 42 spectacular bridges. It gives you the opportunity to float over a chain of lush mangrove forests along a fascinating route full of natural beauty.

What Flagler imagined became an exciting reality that even surpassed his dreams. The Florida Keys became one of the most outstanding tourist areas in the world.

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