Dry Tortugas National Park


Dry Tortugas National Park, located in the Gulf of Mexico, southwest of Key West, Florida, has a history steeped in exploration and military significance. The park comprises a cluster of seven small islands, the most notable being Garden Key, which houses the historic Fort Jefferson.

Discovered by Ponce de León in 1513, the area was named “Las Tortugas” due to the numerous sea turtles found there. “Dry” was later added to emphasize the scarcity of freshwater sources. The remote location of the Dry Tortugas made it an ideal spot for a military fortress, leading to the construction of Fort Jefferson in the mid-19th century.

During the Civil War, it served as a Union military prison and later as a quarantine station. Dr. Samuel Mudd, who treated John Wilkes Booth, was among its most famous prisoners. The fort was abandoned in 1874, and in 1935, the area was designated a national monument. In 1992, it became Dry Tortugas National Park, preserving both its natural beauty and historic significance. Today, visitors can explore the fort, snorkel in the clear waters, and appreciate the park’s unique blend of history and nature.

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