Dry Tortugas National Park
P.O. Box 6208
Key West, FL 33041
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
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
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
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.
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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