Located in the Dry Tortugas Islands about 70 miles southwest of Key West. They were discovered by Ponce de Leon back in early XVI century and were named due to the abundance of sea turtles that used them as nesting sites. The dry connotation came because there is no source of fresh water available and perhaps now also because no alcoholic beverages are sold there J.
The islands were taken from Spain in 1822. Since they are
strategically located at the maritime entrance to the Gulf of Mexico, the
United States commenced to build a fort there in the late 1840’s but it was
never completed. It was mostly used as a coaling station for the Navy and a
prison during the Civil War. The only
notable historical note was that Dr. Samuel Muck and two others implicated in
the assassination were incarcerated there.
Fort Jefferson was built using 16 million bricks and the
outer walls are now in a state of disrepair and crumbling down, particularly
around the opening used to fire the guns. The bricks came from Pensacola and
New York and the labor from slaves and prisoners. The wives of the soldiers were employed in
cooking and washing. It is the most
impressive brick structure I had seen along with the Coca Castle in Spain.
It has been visited by some pirates of prominence such as Franklin
Delano Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway. The only ways to get there now is mostly is by
seaplane or boat. I went by boat and it
takes about 2 hours of navigation. Once
you get there is plenty of time to explore the fort.
One of the beauties of this park is that unlike others, you
can virtually walk over without restrictions.
Other than sightseeing, there is bird watching and snorkeling as well as
just plainly relaxing. The islands have large rookeries of birds and are a
major migration route. John J. Audubon while visiting there painted birds for
his book. To this day, it reminds a
center of attractions for birdwatchers.