Dry 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.
The “Little White House” was one of our favorite tourist attractions in Key West. President Truman spent 175 days at this house from 1946 through 1952 during eleven different trips. The house, which had been the naval station’s command headquarters during the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II was updated and redecorated to serve as the winter White House of President Truman. Five subsequent presidents have found it a restful place as other presidents have used Camp David.
President Truman recorded his trips in official trip logs, which include numerous mentions of key staff, both political and military, flying to Key West to meet with him. What they did and said are not revealed in the logs as the details may have been classified at the time. Part of the house is now a museum, and houses much of the furniture and decorations from Truman’s presidency.
A few rooms of the house (not on the tour) are still available for use by presidents, their immediate families, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Interior, so it’s protected by the Secret Service. The tour doesn’t allow photos inside of the house, and cell phones must be turned off as their ringing will set off their highly sensitive alarms.
We’d planned to celebrate our friend Dave’s birthday in Key West so Dave and Sharon drove down from Dunedin. It’s nice that people of his advanced age still want to celebrate their birthdays! Another friend, Bob, drove down from Miami to join the celebration. Continue reading
Just behind our campsite is Similar Sound – a sound is a long, wide conduit between two bodies of water. Similar Sound connects the Florida Straits – the body of water between the Florida Keys and Cuba and between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean – to Florida Bay – the body of water between the Florida Keys and the Everglades.
The Overseas Highway is the only way to get to the Florida Keys from the mainland. Key West, the last Key that can be reached by land requires that you cross 42 bridges, including the seven mile bridge, located just past Marathon Key.
We didn’t want to end our posts about the Everglades without mentioning the great programs that the park offers, and the great people that lead them. The programs include presentations at the visitor center and in different areas of the park, guided walks on different topics, bicycle tours, canoe trips, slogs and more.
We took our kayak, the Dolphin, out on Florida Bay one day. Our destination was Snake Bight – a bight is a smaller bay within a larger bay. Snake Bight was known for its birdlife at low tide, so we timed it so that we would be approaching the area at low tide.
The Everglades is truly a mecca for birders. There are 366 species of birds that have been observed in the park.
Wade through the river of grass into the shadows of a ‘gator hole’ or a cypress dome. Wear lace-up shoes, socks and long pants that can get wet or muddy.