Weekend Window: Dry Tortugas National Park
Bird Watchers Paradise: More than 300 species migrate to the Area
By TRACEY MARX and IMAEYEN IBANG
About 70 miles southwest of Key West, Fla. and 90 miles from Cuba sits Dry TortugasNational Park. The destination is accessible only by sea plane or by commercial boat and is so remote and obscure it was an answer on the quiz show “Jeopardy.”
Once visitors arrive to the picturesque, serene park, they find about 100 square miles of coral reefs, bays and a few islands.
“My favorite thing to observe here is the corals, “said park ranger Billy Strasser. “Some of the corals here are really fabulous — and some of the best corals you’d see, as good as anywhere you would go snorkeling in the Caribbean.”
Beyond the underwater treasures, the Dry Tortugas offers what Strasser called “a form of homeland security,” Fort Jefferson.
“Construction on Fort Jefferson began in 1846 and went on for the next 30 or so years out here,” he said. “Sixteen million bricks were used in the implementation in building this place, but there is actually more cement and concrete in here than there is brick. The brick is just the face of it. “
“Around the turn of the last century Teddy Roosevelt set this place aside as a bird refuge,” Strasser said. “We have over 300 species of birds that migrate thru here.”
The birds, in combinations with the reefs and overall feel of the park, make it an appealing visitor destination, said Jack Hackett, of the Yankee Freedom Tour Boat.
“There’s a big sigh of I don’t know, some sort of unburdening that happens to people out here,” Hackett said. “You know this wind and water just moves troubles off your shoulders and clears your mind a bit. “