Dry Tortugas National Park is located in the Gulf of Mexico, about 70 miles (110 km) west of Key West, Florida. The park preserves Fort Jefferson and the seven Dry Tortugas islands, the westernmost and most isolated of the Florida Keys. The park is noted for its abundant sea life and clear waters. It is also home to the Dry Tortugas Light, the only active lighthouse in the Dry Tortugas.
The islands of the Dry Tortugas, called the "Garden Keys", are the westernmost and most isolated of the Florida Keys. They are located about 67 miles (108 km) west of Key West and about 6 miles (9.7 km) east of the Marquesas Keys. The total land area of the islands is 20 acres (8.1 ha).
The Dry Tortugas are the site of Fort Jefferson, a large 19th-century fort that was used as a military prison during the American Civil War and the Spanish–American War. The fort is the largest brick structure in the Western Hemisphere, and is by far the largest fort ever built by the United States.
The Dry Tortugas were first inhabitated by the indigenous Calusa people, who constructed a large village on Garden Key. The Calusa were a powerful maritime culture that dominated the southwestern Florida coast from roughly 500 BCE to 1500 CE.
In 1513, the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León arrived in the Dry Tortugas, becoming the first European to visit the islands. He named the islands "Las Tortugas" (meaning "The Turtles") because of the numerous sea turtles that inhabited the area.
The Spanish began constructing Fort Jefferson in 1846, and it was completed in 1871. The fort was used as a military prison during the American Civil War and the Spanish–American War. It was also used as a base for the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy.
In 1935, the Dry Tortugas were made a national park, and in 1992, the park was expanded to include the surrounding waters.
Today, the Dry Tortugas are a popular tourist destination, offering activities such as snorkeling, diving, fishing, and camping.
Photos of Dry Tortugas National Park
The Loggerhead Key Lighthouse on a beautiful beach with palm trees and crystal blue water in Dry Tortugas National Park (unsplash.com)
Arched brick walkways at Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park (unsplash.com)
Fort Jefferson visible from a stunningly beautiful beach in Dry Tortugas National Park (unsplash.com)
Seaplane at the beach in Dry Tortugas National Park (unsplash.com)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Dry Tortugas National Park
How to get to Dry Tortugas National Park?
There are multiple ways to get to Dry Tortugas National Park. You can take a ferry from Key West, which is about 70 miles away, or you can take a seaplane or helicopter from Miami, which is about 150 miles away.
Where is Dry Tortugas National Park located?
The park is located in the Florida Keys, about 70 miles west of Key West. Nearby attractions include the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
What to take to Dry Tortugas?
There is no fresh water or food available on the island, so visitors must bring their own. It is also recommended to bring insect repellent, sunscreen, a hat, and comfortable walking shoes.
What is Dry Tortugas National Park famous for?
Park is famous for its clear blue waters, coral reefs, and shipwrecks. The park is also home to Fort Jefferson, a 19th-century fort that was used as a prison during the Civil War.
What to do at Dry Tortugas National Park?
There are many things to do, visitors can enjoy camping, picnicking, fishing, swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. There are also ranger-led programs offered throughout the year.
Does anyone live in the Dry Tortugas?
There is no permanent population on the Dry Tortugas, although there are park employees and contractors who live on Garden Key in temporary quarters.