This week, the National Park Getaway travels to the westernmost reach of the Florida Keys to visit a remote cluster of islands accessible only by charter, boat or float plane. Dry Tortugas National Park is known for coral reefs, sandy beaches, near-pristine sea grass beds that nurture diverse wildlife populations and historic Fort Jefferson.
In the shallow waters surrounding the park, snorkelers can discover vibrant corals, tropical fishes and sunken treasures of ancient shipwrecks.
Bird watchers will find that several species rarely seen elsewhere in the United States nest in the Dry Tortugas and migrating birds are a common sight in spring and fall.
Tortugas’ maritime and military significance was first noted in the early 1600s, when Ponce de Leon explored the New World. The islands that border the main shipping channel between the Gulf of Mexico, the western Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean have been mapped on nautical charts ever since. Fort Jefferson, on Garden Key, is the largest all-masonry fort in the United States. Originally built to protect shipping access to the gulf, the fort was used as a military prison during the Civil War.
If you have an interest in maritime matters, military history or tropical treasures, you’ll gain a sense of the remarkable when you read this week’s Getaway article at www.nps.gov/getaways.