Monday, August 25, 2014

Cool History, Great Snorkeling, Exotic Birds - Don't Miss Dry Tortugas National Park!

Dry Tortugas National Park!

 "One of the top 10 things to do in the Florida Keys," - Islands Magazine 

"One of the coolest Things to do in Key West" - Rachel Ray Magazine 

"One of the 10 great places to explore nooks and crevices" - USA Today

Folks who are visiting Florida that want to experience something truly unique won't want to miss Dry Tortugas National Park. Discovered by Ponce de Leon, he named the island chain the Tortugas, which is Spanish for "turtles," because of the more than 100 sea turtles he caught here when first arriving.

Lying 70 miles West of Key West, FL, you can't drive to Dry Tortugas National Park; the only way to get to this remote island chain is by ferry or seaplane. It is one of the most remote locations in the entire national parks system.

Dry Tortugas - A Bird Lovers Paradise!

Sooty Terns
Sooty Terns are one of hundreds of bird species to be found
A heaven for migrating birds, nearly 300 species of birds can be found at Dry Tortuga National Park at various times of the year. Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, Yellow Billed Cuckoos, Peregrine Falcons and White-Eyed Vireos are just some of the bird species that have been spotted on this cluster of seven small islands.

Fort Jefferson

Fort Jefferson
Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park
One of the highlights of Dry Tortugas National Park, Fort Jefferson was built shortly after the War of 1812 to protect the southern border of the United States and one of the world's busiest merchant shipping lanes to the Mississippi river. It also offered ships a welcome place to escape violent storms as well as re-supply their stocks.

During the Civil War, Fort Jefferson was used to hold captured confederate soldiers and is most famous for imprisoning Dr. Samuel Mudd - one of the co-conspirators in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

Visitors to Fort Jefferson can view the living quarters of the soldiers who were stationed there, see the jails where captured invaders were held and, of course, the massive gun platforms that protected the fort. 40 minute tours of the Fort are available throughout the day.

Snorkeling at Fort Jefferson

Whether you are an experienced or novice snorkeler or a skin diver, you absolutely do not want to miss the opportunity to see the underwater life in the Dry Tortugas National Park area - it offers some of the best snorkeling and diving in all of North America.

Hundreds of colorful fish and beautiful coral reefs await you under the surface of the water surrounding the Dry Tortugas. Many merchant ships sunk by pirates as well as quite a few pirate ships, themselves, line the bottom of the area surrounding the Tortugas, making an inviting home to all sorts of marine life.

At only 5-15 feet depth, the snorkeling area provides a clear view of the marine life from the surface - perfect for snorkelers or even those wading into the water from the beautiful white sand beach. Dozens of varieties of tropical fish, queen conchs, starfish and even sea turtles can be seen from the surface. 

Be Prepared!

When visiting the Dry Tortugas National Park, you'll definitely want to come prepared with any supplies you may need for the day - there are no gift shops or restaurants. Many of the ferry boat charters to Dry Tortugas National Park do have shops, restaurants and bars aboard but if you are arriving by other means, such as a sea plane, you'll definitely want to bring something to eat and drink.

Hats, towels, bathing suits, sunscreen, sunglasses and a good pair of walking shoes are amongst the typical items you will want to have as well as any prescription medicines you may require. A camera is definitely a must-have and binoculars are something that avid bird watchers will want to bring.

If you plan on snorkeling, you'll definitely need to bring your mask, fins and snorkel unless you are arriving by a charter ferry that provides those things.

Folks should also be reminded that they will be quite a distance from the mainland. Don't expect any cell phone service or internet connections to be available. You're on vacation in one of the most remote places in the United States - relax and leave the real world behind for a few hours!

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