A visit to Key West, Florida isn’t complete without an outing to the Dry Tortugas National Park. Situated in the Gulf of Mexico, 70 miles west of Key West, the Dry Tortugas is known for its stunning natural beauty, wildlife, beaches, coral reefs, campgrounds and array of activities both in and out of the water.
Juan Ponce de Leon discovered the Dry Tortugas in the summer of 1513 and named the cluster of pristine keys Las Tortugas, because of the abundance of sea turtles he’d caught while visiting. Later, the area was deemed the Dry Tortugas because of the lack of fresh water available on the islands.
The Dry Tortugas National Park earned its place in the history of the United States when the Navy decided to build a military fortress there to protect the Florida coastline. Construction of Fort Jefferson began in 1846 and included 25-ton Rodman Cannons, rifled Parrot Guns and other heavy artillery. While it was still under construction, the fort served as a prison during the Civil War and was well known for its harsh conditions and several infamous residents.
In 1992, the Dry Tortugas was established as a National Park. More than 80,000 people a year come to see and explore this secluded oasis and all of its eco-wonders. Visitors spend the day just enjoying the scenic beauty and the white sandy beaches. For those who love to go camping, overnight, weekend, and longer-term arrangements are available.
The Dry Tortugas National Park is also known for its extraordinary bird watching opportunities, as a diverse assortment of bird species are said to make the park their home. Whether you love to snorkel, fish, hike, or just soak in the sun, the Dry Tortugas National Park is an out-of-the ordinary adventure for people of all ages.