Here’s a rare story for South Florida: A historic site on prime waterfront property was NOT sacrificed to make way for a luxury condo.
The site, which came to be called the Miami Circle, is not well marked or maintained, but it has a spectacular view and remarkable history. In addition, every Tuesday night, a Native American shaman holds a candlelight ceremony to which all are welcome.
Here’s the back story:
In the 1999, another luxury condo was planned for a prime riverfront location in downtown Miami.
During the routine review of the site by county archaeologists, workers discovered a number of holes cut into the Oolitic limestone bedrock. As they explored, they discovered the holes formed a 38-foot circle, what turned out to be a complex and planned architecture unique to the Tequesta Indians.
The ensuing demonstrations by Native Americans, colorful New Agers, schoolchildren and history-loving Floridians made national news.
And an amazing thing happened: The Miami Circle was saved.
In February 2011, in a grand opening featuring a Native American ceremony, the site opened as a public park.
What will you find there now?
Primarily, it’s an open space on the Miami River with a magnificent view and some interpretive signage. The circle itself is buried to preserve it.
Around the circle, chunks of white limestone are placed in an irregular pattern and serve as benches.
If you don’t know the story of “saving the circle,” you may be underwhelmed by the site, though it’s hard not to be impressed with the view.
A walking trail extends from the base of the Brickell Bridge, which is adjacent to the park, along the river and south to Biscayne Bay. It connects with an existing public baywalk behind a large condo complex.
There’s no easy parking, although some is planned under the bridge.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Miami Circle, visit the site by the Florida Department of State Bureau of Archealogical Research.
That site reports an interesting opportunity:
“Local shaman Catherine Hummingbird Ramirez has held a candlelight vigil every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. since the discovery of the Miami Circle. Mrs. Ramirez is always willing to talk to visitors and tell the story of the Miami Circle and its importance to Native peoples in Florida and elsewhere.
“If you are in the Miami area, visit with Mrs. Ramirez at the site on Tuesday evenings. She maintains a small shrine at the gate to the Miami Circle property and often conducts a smudging ceremony for visitors.”
As of January, 2016, Ramirez is still holding her vigils. Here’s Miami Herald video from a recent cool January night:
The Herald reports the Florida’s Department of State is accused of violating a contract to maintain the Miami Circle and that the sacred Tequesta site is poorly marked and difficult to access. As a result of these complaints, the state recently agreed to pay for routine maintenance, so conditions at the site should be improving.
If you’re planning to visit, the Miami Circle makes a great part of a scenic urban hike or bike trail.
The Miami Riverwalk Park along the south side of the river extends out to Brickell Key, an island in Biscayne Bay that is home to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The path around that island provides great views of the bay. (We were rewarded on our bike ride with a dolphin swimming by. )
If you’re on a bike, you should start at Bayfront Park, on the north side of the Miami River and then pedal over the Brickell Avenue bridge and stop by the Miami Circle. From there, take the Riverwalk out to Brickell Key, which is a joy to pedal around. If you want a longer route, use the sidewalk to go south down busy Brickell Avenue. A loop that takes you through parks (Simpson and Alice Wainwright) is described in this well-researched article about Miami bike tours from the Biscayne Times.