Dry Tortugas / Fort Jefferson

One of the best tours we took was to Dry Tortugas National Park. The ferry ride took about 2½ hours each way, since the park is about 70 miles from Key West.

The Dry Tortugas ("Tortugas" is Spanish for Turtles) was discovered by Ponce De Leon in 1513. The prefix "dry" was added at a later date by sailors due to the lack of fresh water. For over 300 years the islands were part of the Spanish colonial empire, although no permanent structures existed under that regime.

Dry Tortugas remained a hazard to shipping and a refuge for pirates throughout the years. When the United States acquired Florida (and the Keys) in 1821, the US wanted to eliminate the shipping menace so a lighhouse was established.

In 1846, Fort Jefferson was established on Garden Key, Dry Tortugas. The work was barely finished by the civil war. Union forces had a garrison here, and used the fort to maintain a strong barrier to southern maritime commerce throughout the war.

At one time, the fort was used as a prison. The most famous convict was Dr Samuel Mudd. Dr Mudd was the doctor who treated Booth, who shot Abraham Lincoln. Mudd arrived at the fort in 1865, and played a key role in treating victims of a yellow fever epidemic during his imprisonment. Mudd was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in 1869.

Some statistics about the fort:

For more information regarding Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas National Park, click here.

Aerial view of Fort Jefferson The captain of our ferry The Fort from the ferry
Aerial view of Fort Jefferson The captain of our ferry The Fort from the ferry
Docking at Fort Jefferson The Fort Jefferson sign Close-up of the brickwork
Docking at Fort Jefferson The Fort Jefferson sign Close-up of the brickwork
The ferry to Dry Tortugas One of the sea planes The moat surrounding the fort
The ferry to Dry Tortugas One of the sea planes The moat surrounding the fort
A few cannon balls One of the cannons The first floor superstructure
A few cannon balls One of the cannons The first floor superstructure
Tracie at the lighthouse The entrance bridge One of the stairwells
Tracie at the lighthouse The entrance bridge One of the stairwells
Dr Mudds Cell sign Tracie at Dr Mudds Cell Brian on the surrounding wall
Dr Mudds Cell sign Tracie at Dr Mudds Cell Brian on the surrounding wall
Close-up of the cannon openings Second floor superstructure Beach view through an opening
Close-up of the cannon openings Second floor superstructure Beach view through an opening
Bush Key (Closed to visitors) Ammunition on display The inner courtyard
Bush Key (Closed to visitors) Ammunition on display The inner courtyard
Powder Magazine storage More of the courtyard Outer parapet
Powder Magazine storage More of the courtyard Outer parapet