Dry Tortugas National Park

dry tortugas np  002tortugas  001dry tortugas np  003Dry Tortugas National Park is comprised of a cluster of seven islands located 70 miles west of Key West and their surrounding shoals and water.  This area is known for its bird and marine life and pirate legends. The islands were originally named Las Tortugas (The Turtles) by Ponce de Leon in 1513, but soon became known as “Dry Tortugas” on mariners’ charts to show that they had no fresh water.

dry tortugas np  004dry tortugas np  006On our last week in Key West, Hector had a small calamity.  One day while making a sudden move he landed hard on his heel and heard it pop.  This was followed by much pain.  Of course, this happened on a Sunday, but we were fortunate to find a podiatrist and made an appointment for Monday.  The injury was in fact a torn plantar fascia, and the treatment consists of taping the heel for the first few weeks, and wearing a boot for six weeks.  The good news was that when Hector wore the boot, he could actually walk on that foot.  This was great, since we’d reserved a day trip on a ferry to the Dry Tortugas National Park on the following Thursday.

dry tortugas np  020dry tortugas np  032dry tortugas np  010On Garden Key in the DryTortugas, stands Fort Jefferson – America’s largest and most spectacular 19th century coastal fort.  In 1825, a lighthouse was built on Garden Key to warn sailors of rocky shoals.   In 1856, another lighthouse was built on Loggerhead Key.

dry tortugas np  040dry tortugas np  027dry tortugas np  044Fort Jefferson’s construction began in 1846 after American leaders realized that fortifying the Tortugas was an essential step in controlling navigation in the Gulf of Mexico and protecting Atlantic-bound Mississippi River trade.

Construction continued for 30 years, but the fort was never finished.  During the Civil War, it was a Union military prison for captured deserters and housed four men convicted of complicity in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, including Dr. Samuel Mudd.

dry tortugas np  007By the 1880s, the Army had abandoned Fort Jefferson; in 1908 the area became a wildlife refuge.  Proclaimed Fort Jefferson National Monument in 1935, it was designated Dry Tortugas National Park in 1992 to protect its natural and historic wonders including its namesakes, the endangered green sea turtle and the threatened loggerhead turtle.

dry tortugas np  017dry tortugas np  050dry tortugas np  051dry tortugas np  043We took the ferry (2 ½ hours each way) for a day trip to Garden Key and Fort Jefferson. And we met a very nice couple from Chicago on the ferry who have a goal to visit every National Park in the country and are very close to meeting that goal.  Big kudos for working people who are so focused on seeing these beautiful places.  They also mentioned the five best drives in the U.S., which include the Overseas Highway that we’d just traveled on. Needless to say, they are incredibly well educated on our National Parks, and it was fun to talk to them.  We sat with them on the ferry back also.

dry tortugas np  029dry tortugas np  054dry tortugas np  014Our original intent was to snorkel AND see the fort (which would have been tight in 4 ½ hours on the island, including lunch), but the water was too cold for this Island Girl.  So we focused on walking around the fort, skipping the guided tour so Hector could take his time walking.

dry tortugas np  048dry tortugas np  039dry tortugas np  034The setting is surreal, waters in multiple hues of brilliant blue and blue/green surround an enormous brick structure with a moat in between the two.  The fort is three stories high, and the view from the top is just spectacular.

dry tortugas np  035dry tortugas np  038dry tortugas np  045dry tortugas np  011dry tortugas np  015dry tortugas np  013dry tortugas np  058
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dry tortugas np  056dry tortugas np  032dry tortugas np  055dry tortugas np  024We wound up walking about five miles (Hector’s a trooper) in and around the fort. Hector’s foot miraculously survived, helped along by the fact that he was being VERY cautious of how he stepped on that foot.  A follow-up visit to the podiatrist the next day revealed that his swelling was down (!!!).  Definitely some good karma.

dry tortugas np  046dry tortugas np  038Going to this remote park is a completely unique experience and highly recommended.  And, if you want to splurge, you can take a seaplane to and from Garden Key instead of the ferry.  Maybe next time.dry tortugas np  047

~ Brenda

3 thoughts on “Dry Tortugas National Park

  1. I have not been to the Tortugas in many years! Great pics and narative really bring back the experience! Thanks! And Hector, keep off the foot.

    • Hi,
      Hope Hector is on the mend. What a cool place! We will need to check it out sometime. Brenda, you into another small plane ride? : )

  2. Good vibes headed your way, Hector! What a strong, determined fella you are! Mmm…Brenda has proven this , too! Determination, persistence, and fortitude…thank you for reminding me about what’s needed to accomplish goals! Love you guys…

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