Dry Tortugas National Park

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

There are only two ways to get to the Dry Tortugas – boat or seaplane. We opted for the Key West Seaplane, which allowed us to see Key West from above, as well as have an opportunity to view sea turtles, sharks, rays and the occasional shipwreck. The turtles were hard to find at first, since their color allows them to blend in so well. We did manage to locate a few, though. Generally, we were passing over them too quickly to get any photos.

Tortugas is Spanish for turtle. The Dry was added because there is no fresh water here. That’s true for just about all of the Keys, fresh water has to be brought in, or collected in cisterns, which the early settlers did.

On the way, we flew over the Marquesas Islands, a coral atoll, where sea life can usually be spotted. After that was an area called the Quicksands, a good spot for sea turtles. The sea bed here is covered with huge sand dunes that move with the strong tidal currents. It’s an active treasure site, and millions of dollars worth of gold and silver have been found over the years.

Construction of Fort Jefferson began in 1846. The US wanted to control navigation to the Gulf of Mexico and protect the Mississippi River trade. Construction continued for 30 years, but was never completed. The fort was used as a military prison for deserters during the Civil War, and it also held 4 men who were convicted of complicity in President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, including Dr. Samuel Mudd who treated John Wilkes Booth after he broke his leg leaping onto the stage at Ford’s Theater.

There were numerous construction problems, and the site was plagued with Yellow Fever. The fort was abandoned in 1874. It was designated a wildlife refuge in 1908, and was named a National Park in 1992 – Dry Tortugas National Park.

The waters around the fort are clear, making for excellent snorkeling. Even just walking around the fort’s moat allowed us to see several fish.

About kcbernick

I love to travel.
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