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This easy day hike is oftentimes called the "Walk of Gibraltar."

Named after Thomas Jefferson, Fort Jefferson was built in the mid 1800s with the intention of dominating the entrance to the southern coast. Located about 70 miles west of Key West, this hike can be accessed via private boat, seaplane, or charters that usually leave the mainland each morning.

The fort is comprised of sixteen million bricks and a limestone base. Climbing several sets of steps are required to access the interior of the fort, which incidentally, has ranger-guided tours. Walking the grounds is just an extension of the trip to the island; sights of fabulous shimmering waters and southern skies accentuated at sunrise and sunset.

For a time the fort served as a prison developing a reputation for relentless punishment. Probably the most notable prisoner was the man who aided President Abraham Lincoln's gunman John Wilkes Booth. It is believe that Dr. Samuel Mudd, the Maryland doctor, who was sentenced to the remote site until death, had his sentence revoked as a result of his heroic efforts in aiding victims of yellow fever. Dr. Samuel Mudd was released in 1869.

Historians, nature lovers, boaters, and campers enjoy touring the fort's interior and its lush green grounds surrounded by fabulous marine life and bird species. Thirteen primitive campsites are offered year-round, however, most visitors find the summer too challenging. Insects and heat are relentless. There is a small fee for the carry-in, carryout campsites.

Good snorkeling off coaling docks and moat walls.

Directions: From Key West, FL, This fabulous group of islands is located 70 miles west of Key West. Private boats and seaplanes are invited to dock at Garden Key. Private charters also provide access.

Elevation: Sea Level

Elevation Gain: Minimal

Difficulty: Easy

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Expert Review of Fort Jefferson Hike

Parks and Outdoors Review of Fort Jefferson Hike

Away Travel Expert: Mike Sigalas
ParksExpert Rating 4.0 out of 5 Recommended for:
Birding,Day Hiking
Parks and OutdoorsExpert Tips & Helpful Hints
  • You can only reach Fort Jefferson by sea or air. Most people take the former, which is generally cheaper and more scenic in an up-close sort of way.
  • Don't neglect the seaplane option, however; it's a favorite of those pressed for time. Also, the nausea-prone usually find flying a nice alternative to four hours of open and often rough waters. And though you're high enough above the waters to get a better feel for the islands' geograph relationships, you're not too high; a school of dolphins viewed from the air is a sight to cherish.
  • Fort Jefferson's most famous prisoner was Dr. Samuel Mudd, convicted of aiding John Wilkes Booth in his flight from Ford's Theatre. A known Southern sympathizer and former slaveowner, Mudd attempted to escape Fort Jefferson when African-American soldiers arrived to man the prison. During an 1867 Yellow Fever epidemic, Mudd saved many lives, and was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in 1869.

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

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The details, dates, and prices mentioned here were accurate at the time of publication.

Review by Wildernet Copyright © 2010 all rights reserved.