The Old Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys
The Old Seven Mile Bridge is an iconic treasure in the Florida Keys - an engineering marvel of steel and concrete that changed the history of the region, and today crosses the translucent and scenic waters as a bike trail with a story to tell. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Old Seven Mile Bridge served as the first land route ever from Miami to Key West, a world-famous fishing pier and a jogging and cycling route for millions of Florida Keys visitors.
It is a unique spot of history along the 120-mile Overseas Highway, and today, a small 2.2-mile section remains open for cycling, running, enjoying the colorful marine life in the clear waters below and taking in the picture perfect Florida Keys sunsets!
The Tale of the Railroad That Went to Sea
Henry Flagler, one of America’s wealthiest men, set out in the early 1900’s with a vision to build a railroad that would connect the islands of the Florida Keys to the mainland, a route now traveled daily, making the beautiful and scenic Florida Keys accessible to the millions of people that visit the Keys year-round.
Innovative engineering and years of toil from 1909 to 1912 resulted in the “Railroad That Went to Sea”, crossing many bridges from Florida City to Key West. The longest bridge spanned 7-miles, giving it its name – The Old Seven Mile Bridge. The railroad stayed open for 23 years until the devastating Labor Day Hurricane in 1935 that washed away miles of railroad and destroyed many of the islands and sadly many lives. This was the demise of the railroad; the train service ceased and in 1938 the railroad was transformed into the famed Florida Keys Overseas Highway. The Old Seven Mile Bridge was too narrow and not ideal for cars, so in 1982, the new Seven Mile Bridge was opened and the old bridge entered into limbo. Today it is slowly eroding and historians, activists and locals continue to search for ways to preserve this unique remnant of American History.
Pigeon Key: A Scenic Rest Stop
The small, 5-acre island of Pigeon Key lies beneath the Old Seven Mile Bridge. Originally housing over 400 workmen from 1908 to 1912, the island was eventually abandoned and remained deserted until the restoration began years later. Once a rest stop off the Old Seven Mile Bridge, the much-loved island is now home to eight charming historic buildings on the National Register of Historic Places and a fascinating little museum that tells the story of railroad magnate Henry Flagler. Pigeon Key is possibly the most spectacular scenic rest stop in the U.S.
Visitors can reach the island by walking two miles on the old bridge or taking a delightful boat ride under both the new and old Seven Mile Bridges. The boat takes off just 15 minutes from the Visitor Center in Marathon. If walking the bridge, please note there is no shade. Be prepared for the warm Florida sun!
Fun Bridge Facts
- Does the large hole in the bridge next to Pigeon Key have you wondering? It used to be a swing bridge to pass boats through and now that the bridge no longer operates, there is a gigantic hole!
- The actual length of the bridge is technically only 6.765-miles long - not seven!
- The historic bridge has attracted film makers through the years and can be seen in True Lies, 2 Fast 2 Furious, the James Bond film License to Kill, CrissCross, and Up Close & Personal.
- There are 42 bridges that connect the Florida Keys islands. The longest, measuring 35,716 feet long, is the Seven Mile Bridge. Harris Gap Bridge is shortest, at just 37 feet long.
- The construction of Henry Flagler's Overseas Railway was disrupted by hurricanes in 1906, 1909, and 1910, eventually being completed in the early 1912.
- Each April the bridge closes for an afternoon so thousands of joggers can come together to cross the bridge. The Seven Mile Bridge Run is a family-friendly event that has been taking place since 1982 as a celebration of the bridge.
Island Breeze Realty welcomes you to the Florida Keys and has the perfect Marathon, FL vacation rental home or condo for you to make your stay in the Florida Keys a special one. Choose from one of our premier rentals in Marathon and Key Colony Beach featuring private docks, pools and gulf views.