So where is Dry Tortugas, and how did such a beautiful place get such an odd name? Nestled about 70 miles off the coast of Key West, Florida, the park is a actually group of islands (actually more like islets, they are so small) known for its sea turtles. A portion of its unique name is explained by the fact that the Spanish word for turtles is tortugas.
But what makes it dry, given that Dry Tortugas Park is surrounded by the waters of the crystal clear blue Caribbean? The name was derived from the Spaniards – when they settled the islets, they soon discovered that there were no fresh water springs. So the islands came eventually to be called the Dry Tortugas, or “dry turtles.” To this day, as a major tourist attraction, boaters and tour operators must bring in their own water for visitors.
First named a National Monument in 1935 by FDR, Dry Tortugas was designated a national park in 1992 at the end of George H. W. Bush’s term just before Bill Clinton won the November election. As the site of the unfinished Fort Jefferson, a civil war era brick structure briefly used as a prison to house Lincoln’s accused assassination conspirators, the strip of sandy cays and corral reefs is now a destination for eighty thousand tourists each year. All leave in amazement at the intriguing history of the former based originally conceived as a defense against — you guessed it — the (real) pirates of the Caribbean.
Now, visitors to Dry Tortugas Park can enjoy a host of fascinating and leisurely activities, from a historical tour of Fort Jefferson, to a lazy day on the beach, to an astounding snorkeling or scuba diving expedition to witness the spectacularly colorful sea life.
Of coures, one can only get to the islands by boat or sea plane. So if you want to book a trip, a Dry Tortugas charter will be necessary. There are some great discounts available on Dry Tortugas charters, Key West hotels, Key West snorkeling, and other recreation packages at Gold Card Key West.