I was going to mention this place in Key West post but I strongly feel that this unique national park deserves the whole entry itself.
Dry Tortugas is a national park in the US. It’s about 68 miles of Key West off the southern tip of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. The park is a group of 7 small islands ( or keys) in open water. It’s the most remote national park in the country. The name came from the Spanish who discovered these islands and a lot of sea turtles in the area. Later the word ‘dry’ was added because there was no fresh water available on the island. The location is a channel between Gulf Mexico, Atlantic ocean and Caribbean sea. It was used as a shipping channel for vessels by the Spanish explorers and merchants back in 19th century.
RIDE A SEA PLANE TO GET THERE
Unless you own a boat, there are two ways to reach to the park. One is by ferry and the other one is by a seaplane. It takes over 2 hours by ferry to get there and it has to be a whole day trip, while by seaplane takes only 40 minutes and can be either a full day or half day trip.
Considering that we didn’t want to spend over 4 hours on the boat and face the possibility of being seasick. Plus I had never been on a seaplane before. So the seaplane sounds very exciting. The seaplane is very small and only can carry 4 passengers. (They have a new bigger plane recently which can carry up to 6 people ) And there were chances that the flight wouldn’t take off because of the weather and not enough passengers to cover the fuel cost.
Luckily we had enough passengers for our flight. We flew over Key West, passing small inhabitant islands, very low and close to the surface. Close enough to see the site of shipwreck and few sea turtles swimming in the water.
After 40 minutes of flight time, we saw a gigantic structure sitting on one of the islands as if it was floating in the middle of the sea. It’s Fort Jefferson.
A FORTRESS IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
The plane landed on the water (very exciting) and floated its way into the beach. We went into Fort Jefferson. A six-sided, 8 feet thick and 50 feet long brick wall, built in 1846 as a military fort to guard the channel. Though after 30 years, the fort never quite completed its construction. Then in 1874, it was abandoned due to the cost of maintenance .
In later year, it was used as a prison and a quarantine station until it became a national monument in 1935 and then along with Dry Tortugas, the fort became the national park in 1992. It has a visitor center that you can learn the whole history of the fort. After cooling off in the visitor center, take a walk inside and along the outer wall of the fort.
Get to see the 19th century masonry work up close or climb up to the top and see the whole view of the ocean stretch across the horizon. The park is also a good spot for bird watching since the islands are on the migration path for many species of birds between South America and the U.S, and Canada.
SNORKEL IN THE CLEAR BLUE SEA
The whole place can be crowded when the ferry is here. One good thing about coming by a seaplane in the afternoon is, after the ferry leaves, there wouldn’t be no one else left, just us, few park officers, and few people who camp on the island overnight.
We carried all the snorkel gears to the little beach on the east side of the fort. Jumped into the clear blue water, swim out into the ocean or along the outer wall, and enjoy the beautiful colorful reef spread around the island. Or you can just hang out by the beach, admire the very unique view of giant reddish brick structure in contrast with the color blue/green of the water.
You can’t help but being fascinated by the effort and determination of people who built this fort, the amount of bricks they had to transport, the harshness of nature they had to concur.
We, human, always have the determination and persistence to build the greatness.
Whether it’s a biggest or tallest buildings or building a better life of themselves. All in all, not everything in life comes easy. When obstacles come in your way, don’t lose sight on your goal. Stay determined and you will prevail.
Trip Date: July 2008