Channel Key is a small mangrove island of 11.5 acres favored by herons, cormorants, turkey vultures, and white ibis. During warm weather the center of the island consists of a flat cracked surfice of dried mud. Surrounding this open area is low vegatation and taller trees and mangroves near the shore. A one end of the island there is an old cement foundation. It is possible to go ashore at either end of the island.
1920s and 1930s
Franklin D. Roosevelt almost bought Channel Key in the 1940s. More about that later. Roosevelt learned to love the Florida Keys as a result of fishing its waters while visiting the Long Key Fishing Lodge. Roosevelt also spent time in the Keys on his house boat the Larooco.
Long Key had been planted with coconuts in the late 19th century. In 1894 Long Key was reported to have over 17,000 coconut palms. In the course of building his railway Henry Flagler decided to buy Long Key and built a fishing camp for elite sportsmen. In addition to Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, and Zane Grey spent time at Flagler's Fishing Camp.
Roosevelt pictured aboard the yacht Potomac, the "Floating White House", on way from Miami to the Florida Keys fishing grounds. Harry Hopkins, WPA Administrator, is standing above Roosevelt on right. Roosevelt boarded the boat in Miami. The President spoke briefly for the radio and said, "I am very glad to be here and hope to have some good fishing.
Fishing from the yacht Potomac
The presidential yacht, USS Potomac, was 165 feet long and formerly was used as a Navy patrol boat. In addition to fishing from the USS Potomac, the President played poker and worked on his beloved stamp collection on board. The Potomac was also used for family gatherings, and Roosevelt held strategy sessions with advisors and Congressional leaders on board.
The USS Potomac originally had only one smoke stack. Seen above the USS Potamac has two stacks. A false stack was added and contained an elevator so that the President could move from the saloon to the upper deck. The President elevator utilized ropes and pulleys to move the elevator from deck to deck.
The President's boat was escorted by a 1,850 on destroyer named Selfridge. Newspapers reported that sailors in service whites could be seen manning the deck of the destroyer.
Interestingly, as to the Destroyer Selfridge, it was built as part of depression-relied National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) passed just after Franklin D. Roosevelt became president. The Recovery Act also was rsponsible for the building of seven other destroyers, sixteen Mahans, four cruisers and the carriers Yorktown and Enterprise. These Navy ships served the United States well in the Pacific during WW II.
Roosevelt favored the Keys and was helpful in getting the Overseas Highway built. It was reported to be one of his favorite projects. The highway was finished in 1938 and extended US 1 from Mainland Florida to Key West. In 1939 President Roosevelt motored in an open convertible through the Florida Keys on his way to the Caribbean. Roosevelt traveled through the Keys until he arrived at the Bahia Honda. There he was joined by the Mayor of Key West. They rode through the lower keys and toured the Navy base in Key West.
Roosevelt at Bahia Honda on way to Key West
Robert E. Sherwood writes in his book Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History
that Roosevelt thought of purchasing Channel Key with the purpose of establishing a fishing retreat. His plans called for buying the islet and he and his aide Harry Hopkins would have a structure built that allowed for cable-anchoring in order to survive hurricanes.
"For years, ever since his winters aboard his houseboat, Larooco in the early 1920s, he had in mind the purchase of a Florida Key, Channel Key, which lies about halfway along the line of islets between Key Largo and Key West, in order to establish upon it a fishing retreat. He had begun talking about this as a definite possibility for himself and Hopkins; he would soon make definite moves toward the purchase of the key, would designonpaper a cable-anchored structure wherein he and Hopkins could survive South Atlantic hurricanes more comfortably than . . ."
2003 - Channel Key island added to the Florida Keys Ecosystem Project
In December of 1995 Florida Keys Ecosystem project was created with the combining of the Hammocks of the Lower Keys and Tropical Flyways projects .
The Florida Keys Ecosystem project is an “A” group (priority) project on the Florida Forever Full Fee Project List approved by the Board of Trustees on February 26, 2008. The project contains 11,863 acres, of which 6,562 acres have been acquired or are under agreement to be acquired. If the Board of Trustees approves this agreement, 5,301 acres, or 45 percent of the project, will remain to be acquired.
Channel Key was added to the project in December of 2003 by the Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC). Its addition was sponsored was sponsored by the island's owner, Barbara Trueman. The 2003 taxable value of Channel Key island was $17,268.
On October 14, 2008 Navy divers detonated an M117 after closing down US 1 for about 20 minutes. Navy personnel used 10 pounds of explosive to render the old bomb harmless. A plume of water several hundred feet in the air was visable to oberservers when the detonation occurred.
Earlier in October Scuba divers had reported finding the unexploded ordnance, an old military bomb which was about 3 feet long in shallow waters near the shores of Channel Key. The Channel Key area is less than one mile north/northwest of Duck Key.
Boaters were warned to steer clear of Channel Key, because of the report of a submerged bomb.
Before detonating the "bomb" divers took pictures for identification purposes and identified it as an M117, a bomb first used during the Korean War. Divers were unable to determine if the bomb was real or a harmless practice bomb.