The Dolls: M.-J., Karen, Fran, Colleen and Meri-Lynn
On the Way to the Dry Tortugas

National Park Service

Park Vision

Getting Here:

Yankee Fredom Ferry from Key West to Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas

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Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas
Don’t we all dream being stranded (for at least a few idyllic hours) on a tropical desert island? Lucky me, I’ve had the chance to visit just such a place on several occasions – the Dry Tortugas, a group of 7 islands 70 miles from Key West.
Once in the Dry Tortugas, our first stop was Garden Key, home of Fort Jefferson, the largest masonry structure in
the western hemispere (the six-sided building is constructed of 16 million handmade red bricks).

The islands were discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1513, and named Las Tortugas for the abundance of turtles found in the waters. But there was no fresh water, and the word 'Dry' was soon added to charts to alert mariners (and today campers must bring their own water to the island.)

Before the fort was built, the island served largely as a pirate base, especially but the need to control shipping from the Florida Straits into the Gulf of Mexico attracted US military attention in the early 1800s. In 1821, the United States acquired the island chain 68 miles west of Key West, and in 1825 the first lighthouse was built.

The construction of this massive fort was begun in 1846, but the advent of rifled cannon which could destroy its walls, made the fort obsolete and Fort Jefferson was never completed. One of the island's most famous residents was Dr. Samuel Mudd, who treated President Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, for a broken leg.

When confronted Dr. Mudd denied having seen Booth that fateful night, and it led to his conviction as a conspirator in the assassination. Mudd was imprisoned in Fort Jefferson for four years, and was released in 1869 after treating prisoners during a severe outbreak of yellow fever.

In 1935, the fort and the surrounding waters were declared a national monument, and 1992 it became a national park. Today park rangers and scientists live in the fort.

More on Civil War History and Fort Jefferson.

The Anchorage

Bird Island
The Dry Tortugas is a favorite destination for birders on the Florida Birding Trail.

After the tour, it was lunch and then a dip ...

            and then off to the "Windjammer" wreck ...

.Fran was the first in the water ...


This Goliath Grouper is estimated at 200 lbs!

Fish Soup: Bermuda Chubs and
Sargeant Majors feeding on Sargassum Seaweed


How big was it?

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