Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida is another island park. It is in the Florida Keys, well past Key West, and consists of several islands and quite a bit of ocean. Fort Jefferson, a mid-19th century fort, takes up most of Garden Key. Appropriately, the former name of the park is Fort Jefferson National Monument. A visit to the fort makes a fine day trip from Key West. There are two ways to get there from Key West: boat or seaplane. The boat has the advantage of being cheaper, but the seaplane ride was well worth the extra money. It was much faster, and the view was great - we saw sharks and rays in the water and the approach to Fort Jefferson was magnificent. Also, it was cool being in a seaplane.

Fort Jefferson is unlike any other fort I've been to. Most forts in the Great Lakes area are either rebuilt, restored, or maintained. Fort Jefferson is something of a ruin. Some of the mortar is missing, large sections of brick are falling off the walls, and stalactites hang from the ceilings of the corridors. One of the best features of the fort is the multitude of arches, a favorite subject for photographs. Garden Key is not much bigger than the fort, so it seems as if the fort were rising right out of the ocean. There is an ocean view through all the openings, and the water is a sparkling blue.

There is quite a bit of wildlife at Dry Tortugas. The crystal-clear water contains both coral and fish. Snorkeling is popular there, but not really necessary - you can see a fair bit right from the moat wall. There are also tons of birds. Magnificent Frigatebirds circled the fort and gulls and other birds squawked on nearby Bush Key.

My visit: April 1999


  1. Is there a cheap way to get there? Everyplace I have seen is $150 per person via boat.

  2. To my knowledge there is no cheap way to get there, unless you are along-distance swimmer. The island National Parks such as Dry Tortugas and Isle Royale are really only accessible if you fork over some money.

  3. One of the most unique parks in the national park system is Dry Tortugas. It is small and remote and one of the least visited. dry tortugas national park is once in lifetime visit places.