Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas in Key West,Florida

tortuga-island-sm.jpgfort-jeff-moat2-sm2.jpgfort-jefferson-view-sm.jpgtortuga-beach2-sm1.jpgyankee-mote-sm.jpgPonce de Leon discovered the Dry Tortugas in 1513 when he caught over 100 sea turtles there. Subsequently the islands were referred to as the “Tortugas” (turtles). During the 1600s and 1700s the area around these islands was used by pirates as a base for attacking merchant shipping in the Gulf.

After the War of 1812 a group of forts from Maine to Texas was envisioned to provide defense for the United States of America. Fort Jefferson was built to protect the southern coastline of the United States and the lifeline of commerce to and from the Mississippi River. The fort was planned to be the greatest of these.

During and after the Civil War the fort began to be used as a prison for deserters and other criminals, most notably Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was sentenced to life in prison for his part in President Lincoln’s assassination.

In 1908 the area was designated as a bird reserve and transferred to the Department of Agriculture.

  • The Dry Tortugas features camping, fishing, birdwatching, snorkeling and swimming.
  • Daily Tours are given of the Fort.
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