John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was the first undersea park in the United States, and encompasses approximately 70 nautical square miles. Located in the Florida Keys, the park's upland areas offer visitors a unique experience in the mangrove swamps and tropical hammocks.
The park in 1969 was very different from the park 41 years later. The two water bodies in the lower portion of the photo - the pond and a creek that empties into the marina - are now much smaller. The dive shop did not exist next to the boat ramp and the visitor center had not yet been built.
A 1960s diver visits Christ of the Abyss in 15-20 feet of water at Key Largo Dry Rocks. The statue was the third casting from an original mold created by Italian sculptor Guido Galletti in 1954. The statue was lowered into place in 1965 and its location was within the park's boundaries. The park's water boundaries were corrected in 1975 and state waters today end at three-miles out. The statue is now within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
In the early days of the park, some of the campsites were actually on Largo Sound. Although the campground covered more of the park than it currently does, the boat and diving concession offerings are larger today.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park did not have a land base when it was first created in 1960, just the submerged land under the ocean. Land was later purchased, donated and developed, with the land base opening in 1963.