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Tour Tortugas Islands - Florida Keys

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    Dry Tortugas National Park covers a clustor of seven tiny, uninhabited coral reef islands located about 70 miles west of Key West, in the Gulf of Mexico. These islands are the crowded home to thousands of nesting and migrating sea birds.

    The least disturbed coral reef system in the United States, the islands were first discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1513 and later used as a hideout for pirates during the colonial period. President Theodore Roosevelt declared the area a wildlife refuge in 1908 to protect the birds. In 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt upgraded it to national monument status. Finally Congress awarded national park status in 1992.

    Dry Tortugas National Park
    PO Box 279; Homestead, FL 33030; (305) 242-7700; NPS Weblink;

    The most prominent feature on the islands is Fort Jefferson, started in 1846 as a chain of seacoast defenses it was never really finished and never was battle. It served as a federal military prison during and after the US Civil War. Its most famous prisoner was Dr. Samuel Mudd, the physician who set the broken leg of President Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth. He spent four years here, but his work on behalf of victims of a yellow fever epidemic earned him a reduction of his life sentence.

    Other features include lighthouses that were built in 1825 on Garden Key and 1856 on Loggerhead Key. Discoveries of nearby sunken Spanish treasure ships attest to the danger of these shoals.

    Ranger / Naturalist programs include scheduled talks and walks. These are just some of the ways to discover the diversity of the scenic, natural and historic wonders that comprise Dry Tortugas National Park. Check at the visitor center for information. Of the parks 64,657 acres, 99% is open water and submerged island.

    Access to the islands is only by charter boat or air taxis.

    Visitor Center

    There is a visitors center and small museum inside Fort Jefferson on Garden Key. Info call: (305) 242-7700.

    Wildlife

    Birds by the thousands can be found here. These sandy coral keys are important nesting and breeding grounds for a variety of seabirds, including sooty tern, noddy tern, brown pelican, frigate bird and masked booby. Additionally it is an important migratory stop for hundreds of thousands of birds of North America. Spring is the best time to catch both seabirds and migratory birds headed back to the states (before the start of hurricane season).

    Recreation

    Besides birdwatching, the islands are a popular divespot for visitors to explore the coral reefs and srecked ships.

    Camping

    There are no accomodations here, only camping at ten designated sites.

    Fishing Charters
    Florida Keys Fishing Charters
    Florida Keys Adventures
    Florida Keys Fishing Charters

    Dry Tortugas Ferry Services
    Dry Tortugas Reservations - daily seaplane and ferry service via Key West - 877-INFO-KEY.
    Yankee Freedom II -Daily cruise from Key West.
    Andy Griffiths Charters - Fish and Sail Charters from Key West.
    Sunny Days Catamarans - Dry Tortugas Ferry Charter


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