5 Questions With The April #DryTortugas Photo Contest Winner

Meet Drew Keim, our April 2024 #DryTortugas Photo Contest winner. We had the chance to ask him a few questions about his experience at the Dry Tortugas National Park. Read on to learn how he captured his amazing photo!

1. When did you visit the Dry Tortugas National Park? Did you arrive by seaplane, the Yankee Freedom ferry, or another way?
December 19, 2022… as part of a South-FL road trip to the three NPs. We sailed on the Yankee Freedom to/from the park.

2. If you arrived by the Yankee Freedom, how was your ferry trip?
It was a bit windy, so the water was a bit rough. My daughter took a pill to manage the wooziness, but my son and I were fine. We enjoyed being able to stand on/walk around the aft deck area and observe the keys/islands, waves, birds, etc.

3. How did you capture your winning photo? What inspired you to take it? Did you use any cool camera gear?
In the last 30 minutes of our time on shore, we were wrapping up our snorkeling time around the moat wall – the water was rather cloudy due to the wind/waves – so we allowed a bit more time to just sit and relax. I noticed the coral, and pondered which came first, “The Rock or the Fort”. I took a series of photos on my iPhone SE and chose that one because of the line of the water.

4. What made your trip to the Dry Tortugas memorable?
The uniqueness of the journey to the park. As you sail away from the crowded Key West, despite being with a large number of people on a modest size boat, you begin to feel a level of seclusion. Once you arrive at Fort Jefferson, the space afforded the guests seems endless. At times, we felt completely alone. Free to explore… imagine… learn. To that point, no other National Park experience could compare in that way. Our first NP together was Acadia, just 18 months earlier. We followed that with: Congaree, Cuyahoga, Indiana Dunes, Gateway Arch, Mammoth Cave, Great Smoky Mountains, New River Gorge, Shenandoah, Rocky Mountains, Conyonlands, Arches, Mesa Verde, Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Death Valley, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Yosemite, Great Basin, Everglades, Biscayne, and finally… Dry Tortugas National Park… #25. Despite its relatively small total square mileage, it was an experience I have yet to experience elsewhere. Since our time on Dry Tortugas, we have also visited Hawai’i Volcanoes, Haleakalā, Hot Springs, Pinnacles, Channel Islands and Joshua Tree. 31 parks so far… and DTNP is definitely a “Top 3” in my book. On the pass we already have, will will visit (Summer 2024) Crater Lake, Redwood, Lassen Volcanic, Capitol Reef, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Great Sand Dunes, Wind Cave, Badlands, Theodore Roosevelt, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier, Mount Rainier, North Cascades, Olympic, and (Winter 2024) Virgin Islands NP. (That will bring us to 47 parks visited.)

5. What do you plan to do with your National Park Annual Pass?
With our new National Parks Pass, beginning in March 2025, we hope/plan to visit the remaining 16 parks… Spring 2025: Big Bend, Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe Mountains, White Sands, and Saguaro… June 2025: Isle Royale and Voyageurs… July 2025: Gates of the Arctic, Kobuk Valley, Lake Clark, Katmai, Wrangell-St. Elias, Kenai Fjords, Denali, Glacier Bay… Winter 2025: BACK TO DRY TORTUGAS!!… and finally in March 2026: American Samoa (Park #63!)