A Cold War relic surrounding by Everglades National Park will be opened to the public for tours through the end of March.
The facility, Nike Hercules Missile Base HM-69, was built in 1963 in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis when tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union flared. At a time when national security against Soviet attack was America’s main priority, the United States Army chose this strategic site within Everglades National Park, located 160 miles from the Cuban coast, to build a missile site.
Military use of the Everglades site ended in 1979, however, and the facility was turned over to the National Park Service. Last winter marked the park's initial foray into offering ranger-led tours of the base, and they proved so successful that Everglades Superintendent Dan Kimball is bringing them back this winter. In fact, the park has expanded the scheduled tours to twice a day during the week and once a day on weekends.
These ranger-guided tours bring the park visitors through one of the best-preserved relics of the Cold War in Florida. This significant historical site is physically the best overall example of the Nation’s missile defense system close to Cuba and remains virtually the same as it was when official use of the site was terminated in 1979.
The base was listed on the U. S. Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places on July 27, 2004, as a Historic District. The area includes 22 contributing buildings and structures associated with events that have made a significant contribution to American history and embodies distinctive characteristics of the period. Some of the structures that are part of the tour include three missile barns built to contain 41-foot missiles (some with nuclear warheads) a missile assembly building, a guard dog kennel, barracks, control centers within berms that served as blast protection, and a number of other features, notes the Park Service.
The interpretive tours will be held every week day at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. through March 28, 2009. The tours are free but park entrance fees apply. You'll need to reserve a spot to join one of these tours, and that can be done by signing up at the park's Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, or by calling 305-242-7700. Tours are by car caravan, so you'll need to be at the visitor center 30 minutes before your tour and be prepared to drive 14 miles roundtrip from the visitor center. The Ernest Coe Visitor Center is located 9 miles southwest of Homestead on State Road 9336.
Additional information about the Nike Missile site can be found at this site.