November 18, 2016

I've done a lot of traveling over the years but I've never been to a place quite like Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park.  The Dry Tortugas ("dry" meaning that there's no water here and "tortuga" meaning "turtle" in Spanish) are located about 70 miles west of Key West, Florida in the Gulf of Mexico and the only ways to get there are by boat or plane.  A passenger ferry which carries about a hundred people makes the trip from Key West every morning.  Indeed, about 95% of the folks who visit the Tortugas come by ferry.  It takes an effort to get out here but, believe me, it's well worth it.  If you ever have the chance to visit the Tortugas, do it!

The main attraction in the Dry Tortugas is Fort Jefferson, a huge 1850s-era brick fort which is now administered by the National Park Service.  There are about a dozen rangers and maintenance personnel who live on this remote, tropical island full-time and I spent a half-hour talking to one of them, a woman who operated the gift shop.  Living out here, she told me, was a truly unique experience and I believed her.

Most visitors stay for just a few hours, then head back to Key West in the afternoon on the passenger ferry but if you're ambitious, you can camp in the small National Park campground.  And that's exactly what I did.  Although the campground doesn't require (or even take) reservations, camping here is a challenge because you have to carry in everything you need, including drinking water.  But if you make the effort to do it, camping in the Dry Tortugas is an unforgettable experience.

  • To see my 360-degree panorama photo, click on the photo above.

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

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