Dry Tortugas National Park Photo Gallery

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Famed Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon stumbled on these seven island gems in 1513 and promptly dubbed them 'Dry Tortugas' for their lack of fresh water and abundance of tortoises. Through the ensuing centuries the islands gained a reputation for concealing pirates and sunken treasure, as well as their wildlife. The pirates are gone, but the Dry Tortugas, which sit 70 miles west of today's Key West, remain an unspoiled paradise rich in marine and bird species.  
Credit: Florida Keys and Key West Tourism 
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Between Key Largo and Dry Tortugas lies the only living barrier reef ecosystem in the continental United States. The reefs are typically shallow and constructed of hard elkhorn corals, boulder-size brain corals, tall sea whips, and giant purple sea fans. More than 200 shipwrecks have been discovered in the region and are open for exploration. Beginning divers may want to explore the City of Washington and the Benwood. More advanced divers may try to locate the Bibb, the Duane, or the Avanti, which sank in 1907 with a load of lumber and now acts as an artificial reef that spans 20 feet from surface to the seafloor.  
Credit: National Park Service 
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One of the most remote parks in the National Park System, Dry Tortugas National Park requires a bit more planning than the average vacation spot. The island, 70 miles west of Key West and closer to Cuba than Florida, can be accessed by charter boat, ferry, or seaplane from Key West, or by private boats.  
Credit: Bruce Tuten/Flickr 
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Fort Jefferson, the central attraction on Dry Tortugas, was constructed from 1846 to 1875 to serve as the post for U.S. ships who patrolled the Gulf of Mexico and Straits of Florida. Although construction of the fort was never complete and the fort was never fully armed, it fulfilled its original intent to maintain peace.  
Credit: Direnzoa/Wikimedia 
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A self-guided tour lets you explore the interior of Fort Jefferson. At one point, the island supported 1,729 military-related personnel.  
Credit: Marquel1313/Wikimedia 
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The largest island of the Dry Tortugas, Loggerhead Key has beautiful beaches and an abundance of wildlife from birds to fish and, most commonly, sea turtles. About 250 sea-turtle nests produce 15,000 green and loggerhead sea-turtle hatchlings each summer, making this the most popular spot in the Florida Keys for the creatures.  
Credit: H Dragon/Flickr 
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Dry Tortugas National Park lures divers and snorkelers with its colorful reefs teeming with sealife, once quite a hazard for sailors—more than 250 shipwrecks occurred in the area. The U.S. government built a lighthouse on Garden Key in 1825, but it proved too short and dim, and in 1856 a second, more sufficient lighthouse was constructed on Loggerhead Key, finally helping to guide boats away from the dangerous reefs.  
Credit: National Park Service 
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Visitors travel to Dry Tortugas National Park for snorkeling, diving, bird watching, kayaking, and catching the stunning view from atop Fort Jefferson.  
Credit: National Park Service 
 
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