This park is located in Monroe County, Florida. Dry Tortugas National Park preserves Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas section of the Florida Keys. The park covers an area of 101 square miles, mostly water. The park is well known for abundant sea life, colorful coral reefs and legends about shipwrecks and sunken treasures in the area.
The main attraction of the park is Fort Jefferson which is a massive but unfinished coastal fortress. It is the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere, and is composed of over 16 million bricks. The park has almost 80,000 visitors each year. If you want to get there you can do that only by a seaplane or by a boat. Ferries leave from Key West. Here you can practice activities like snorkeling, picnicking, camping, scuba diving, saltwater fishing and bird watching.
The man who named the island was a European called Juan Ponce de León. He gave the name Tortugas from turtles and Dry because the lack of fresh water on the island. He visited the island on June 21, 1513. Even today, you may be able to spot loggerhead, green, hawksbill, and leatherback sea turtles playing in the waters.
On January 4, 1935, the president Franklin D. Roosevelt, who visited the area by ship, designated the area as Fort Jefferson National Monument. The Dry Tortugas, including Fort Jefferson, was established as a National Park in October 26, 1992. The islands still not have fresh water. Because of the potential difficulties of survival in such conditions, one of these Dry Tortugas National Park islands was used as the location for filming a military survival film that was used to train aircraft personnel.
Dry Tortugas National Park it’s a good place from where you can admire birds. It has an official bird list of 299 species. Of these, only seven species frequently nest within the park: Sooty Tern, Brown Noddy, Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigate bird, Masked Booby, Roseate Tern, and Mourning Dove. During the spring season you have the chance to see even dozens of migratory species in one day. You can also see how several species of falcon as well as Cattle Egrets are hunting songbirds. Each year several bird guides offer tours of Dry Tortugas National Park during April and early May.
Fort Jefferson is the main attraction of Dry Tortugas National Park. It was built to protect one of the most strategic deepwater anchorages in North America. Also fort Jefferson it can offer ships the chance to resupply, refit, or seek refuge from storms. Fort Jefferson was one of the largest forts ever build. It was constructed between 1846-1875 but he was never finished nor fully armed. Even so it was a vital link in a chain of coastal forts that goes from Maine to California. Fort Jefferson which was the most sophisticated of these was a brilliant and undeniable symbol of the United States. Though never attacked, the fort fulfilled its intended role. It helped to protect the peace and prosperity of a young nation. The fort also fulfilled the role of a prison. Its most famous prisoner was Dr. Samuel Mudd, the physician who set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth.
The Garden Key light was constructed in 1826. Was a 65-foot tall light which was completed on the eastern shore of Garden Key. Shipwrecks and navigation issues increased until 1858 when a more adequate lighthouse, the Dry Tortugas Light, nowadays called the Loggerhead Key, was constructed on Loggerhead Key. The Garden Key light was equipped with a new lens and 21 inch reflectors and renamed Tortugas Harbor Light.
The Tortugas Harbor Light suffered some serious damage after hurricanes in 1873 and 1875. As a result, the Lighthouse service advised that a new lighthouse to be constructed. By the end of 1876 a new lighthouse was finished. The Loggerhead Light. The light was taller, brighter, and equipped with a more modern optical lens than the Garden Key Light. During his construction, a contractor also constructed a house and kitchen. Today you can only see the kitchen which is occupied by National Park Service volunteer caretakers. The house burned in 1945.
On Dry Tortugas National Park fishing is forbidden which make this place a sanctuary for species affected by fishing and loss of habitat. Also anchors are prohibited in order to protect the fragile coral reefs situated in the area. Here you can find the elkhorn and staghorn coral which are both federally listed as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
Also you kids can have fun. They can learn all about the habitats, history and animals around Fort Jefferson. They can become a Junior Ranger. All they have to do is to complete a copy of the Junior Ranger Handbook from the visitor center and bring it back to earn your very own Dry Tortugas Junior Ranger badge.
So, if you’re interested in Dry Tortugas National Park I’ll give you an advice. Go and visit it now because after a few years can dissapear. The islands are in a constant state of flux. Due to the erosive effects of tropical storms and violent hurricanes, shorelines are constantly being reshaped.