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Words on the Wilderness: A History of Place Names in South Florida's National Parks

You ever wonder where place names originate? I mean, Hog Key Campsite in Everglades National Park? And University Dock in Biscayne National Park?

What were they thinking?

Larry Perez wondered so much about how those names were coined that he wrote a book about them and many of the other curious place names you can find salted throughout south Florida's national parks. Mr. Perez, whose resume includes a stint as an interpretive ranger with the National Park Service, spent five years looking into the names of 400-500 places in Everglades, Biscayne, and Dry Tortugas national parks as well as Big Cypress National Preserve.

The results came together in Words on the Wilderness: A History of Place names in South Florida's National Parks.

Within its pages you'll learn that University Dock in Biscayne National Park relates to a dock built by the University Yacht Club before the park became a park. (It later was rebuilt by the Park Service in the 1980s.) As for Hog Key Campsite, well, it turns out that a settler by the name of Richard Hamilton had purchased the island with plans of raising hogs on it. While the hogs flourished, their meat tasted horrible because they had a diet that included oysters and crabs, according to Mr. Perez.

And so while Mr. Hamilton never got to live high on the hog, the swine continue to thrive on the island, where they pose an ongoing management problem for the Park Service.

And then there's Jack Daniels Key. Sounds tasty, no? Don't get your hopes up.

Everglades City has often been described as a 'quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem,' writes Mr. Perez. Given that sort of notoriety, it would seem obvious that this island was named for one of the more popular libations. However, the Daniels family of Everglades City is firmly established, with Jack being a well-regarded local fisherman and guide.

Over in Dry Tortugas, the author found Windjammer Wreck, a popular dive site built around an iron-hulled windjammer called Avanti that sank near Loggerhead Key in January 1907.

Of course, there were more than a few spots that defied Mr. Perez's investigative efforts. One such place is Midnight Pass.

Given the historic profusion of illicit activities around the Florida coast, one can dream up many a fanciful explanation for this particular moniker. Though thoughts of pirates, rum runners, and drug smugglers go far to fuel the imagination, the true origins of this place name remain a mystery.

If you're heading to one of South Florida's national parks -- or all of them -- this would be a good book to toss into your duffel, either for your general edification or to serve as a conversation starter.


I find the info about Hog Key funny! Richard Hamilton is/was my GGG-Grandfather :)
Did you research Mormon Key? That was named for him as well because , well, he had several "wives" living on the island.... You will find his name through out FLA history. He lived to be 110 I beleive. He used to deliver babies out in the 10,000 Islands using his oyster knife to cut the umbilicle cords..

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