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Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park - BEST Places to Picnic

P.O. Box 6208
Key West, FL 33041
Phone: 305-242-7700

WELCOME to Dry Tortugas

Guardian of the Gulf

Almost 70 miles west of Key West lies a cluster of seven islands, composed of coral reefs and sand, called the Dry Tortugas. Along with the surrounding shoals and waters, they make up Dry Tortugas National Park. The area is known for its famous bird and marine life, its legends of pirates and sunken gold, and its military past.

Visit the "Slumbering Giant"

The Dry Tortugas are an isolated outpost set apart from the mainland by the expansive waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Though it requires a bit of planning, visitors to the park are rewarded with memorable experiences amidst a truly unique landscape.

Research Natural Area Now in Effect

A Research Natural Area (RNA) was established in the Dry Tortugas January 19, 2007. The RNA adds a new layer of protection for the marine resources of Dry Tortugas National Park. The RNA is a 46 square mile no-take no-anchor ecological preserve that provides a sanctuary for species affected by fishing and loss of habitat.
Preserving Fort Jefferson

Dry Tortugas National Park has initiated a multi-phased, multi-year preservation project to stabilize Fort Jefferson.There may be temporary closures of some areas of the park during some of the year while masons are working, click here to see current status. The scope of this project is to carefully remove the existing brick surrounding the embrasure (cannon) openings on the lower level in order to gain access to the original iron elements. Bricks will be documented, cleaned, and set aside for reuse.

South Florida Natural Resources Center

The South Florida Natural Resources Center (SFNRC) provides scientific information to the National Park Service units of south Florida. Learn more about climate change, ecosystem restoration, invasive species and other resource management issues. Specific information on conducting research in the park is also available.

History

The Tortugas were first discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1513. Abundant sea turtles or "tortugas" provisioned his ships with fresh meat, but there was no fresh water-the tortugas were dry. Since the days of Spanish exploration, the reefs and shoals of the Dry Tortugas have been a serious hazard to navigation and the site of hundreds of shipwrecks.

U.S. military attention was drawn to the keys in the early 1800s due to their strategic location in the Florida Straits. Plans were made for a massive fortress and construction began in 1846, but the fort was never completed. The invention of the rifled cannon made it obsolete. As the military value of Fort Jefferson waned, its pristine reefs, abundant sea life and impressive numbers of birds grew in value. In 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt set aside Fort Jefferson and the surrounding waters as a national monument. The area was redesignated as Dry Tortugas National Park in 1992 to protect both the historical and natural features.

Directions

Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most remote parks in the National Park System. Located approximately 70 miles west of Key West it is accessible only by private or charter boats or seaplanes.

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