Friday, April 17, 2015

The Dry Tortugas

 April 17, 2015

The Dry Tortugas are a cluster of seven islands in beautiful, clear, turquoise water 70 miles west of Key West, FL.  After a 29 hour slog overnight in 2-6 foot rolly seas, we finally arrived and anchored just off Garden Key, the home of Ft. Jefferson, a large masonry fort which was built over the course of 30 years but never finished.   During the Civil War it served as a Union military prison for deserters and after the assassination of President Lincoln, 4 men convicted of aiding and abetting were imprisoned there.  It was abandoned in 1874 and became a wildlife refuge in 1908.

Arriving at Ft. Jefferson, Garden Key, Dry Tortugas
Moat as seen from inside the fort on the second floor

Can you see the crocodile in the corner?
Ft. Jefferson is surrounded by a moat in which an American crocodile now lives.   No one seems to know exactly how he arrived at the Fort, but he appears to be gentle, non-threatening and pretty much ignores everyone.  Outside the moat, snorkeling is good.  Fish in varying sizes and colors, several reefs, and a shipwreck or two enhance the underwater venue.  Green, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles nest on the islands. 

Four of the islands are permanently closed to visitors and a fifth one is closed during the nesting season of the sooty terns.  A number of others birds inhabit the islands, but most impressive are the Magnificent Frigate birds that sore over the Fort throughout the day.

Nice snorkeling reef outside the moat

View of the interior from atop the wall
Walking on top of the fort

Visitors come to the island via sea planes or ferry and have the option of camping for up to 3 days.  However, they must pack everything in (including water) and everything out. (It’s not called “dry” for nothing.) Except for composting toilets, there are no services or amenities.  Cruisers are allowed to anchor out in the small bay with virtually no time restrictions.  

Cruisers from Fiesta, Well, Why Not?, Annie C, and Rest A Shore
If nightlife is your thing, this would not be the place to visit, but for a sense of history, appreciation of history, unusual architecture, coral reefs, wildlife – both underwater and above ground, and stimulation of one’s imagination the Dry Tortugas are most intriguing.

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1 comment:

  1. That looks beautiful! Our neighbor Matt and his wife went there last year.