Aaren Alder

Aaren Alder

Published: 15 Sep 2023

Source: Myguidemiami.com

Are you ready to embark on a fascinating journey to the Dry Tortugas? Get ready to uncover some mind-blowing and unexpected facts about this unique and remote destination. Located in the Gulf of Mexico, about 70 miles west of Key West, the Dry Tortugas is an archipelago that consists of seven small islands and is home to the magnificent Fort Jefferson National Park.

But did you know that this seemingly isolated destination has a rich history and is brimming with surprises? From its vibrant marine life to its historical significance, the Dry Tortugas will leave you in awe.

In this article, we will unravel 17 surprising facts about the Dry Tortugas that will open your eyes to the wonders of this hidden gem. So, fasten your seatbelts and prepare for an adventure like no other!

Table of Contents

The Dry Tortugas National Park is located 70 miles west of Key West.

Situated in the Gulf of Mexico, the Dry Tortugas National Park is a remote cluster of islands known for their pristine beauty and rich history. The park encompasses seven islands, including the famous Fort Jefferson, making it a fascinating destination for nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

The name “Dry Tortugas” comes from the lack of fresh water sources.

Despite its name, the Dry Tortugas National Park is not actually home to any tortoises. The name “Tortugas” is derived from the Spanish word for turtles, which were abundant in the area. The “dry” part of the name signifies the absence of freshwater sources on the islands.

Fort Jefferson is the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere.

Fort Jefferson, located on Garden Key within the Dry Tortugas National Park, is an impressive fortress built in the mid-19th century. It is composed of over 16 million bricks and was initially constructed to protect the strategic shipping routes in the Gulf of Mexico.

The park is renowned for its vibrant coral reefs.

Dry Tortugas National Park is a haven for marine life, with its crystal-clear turquoise waters and extensive coral reefs. Snorkelers and divers can explore the vibrant underwater ecosystem, teeming with colorful fish, sea turtles, and other fascinating marine creatures.

You can only visit the Dry Tortugas by boat or seaplane.

Due to its remote location, the Dry Tortugas National Park can only be accessed by boat or seaplane. This adds to the park’s charm and allure, as visitors are treated to a unique and exclusive experience away from the hustle and bustle of more accessible destinations.

The park is a crucial stopover for migratory birds.

As part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, the Dry Tortugas National Park serves as a vital resting and refueling spot for numerous migratory bird species. Birdwatchers can spot a wide variety of avian species, including frigatebirds, terns, and the magnificent masked booby.

Dry Tortugas is home to one of the few remaining loggerhead sea turtle nesting sites.

Loggerhead sea turtles, classified as a threatened species, rely on the remote and protected beaches of Dry Tortugas National Park for nesting. Visitors may have the incredible opportunity to witness these majestic creatures during the nesting season.

Fishing is a popular activity in the Dry Tortugas.

Anglers flock to the Dry Tortugas National Park to enjoy its abundant fishing opportunities. The park’s waters are teeming with a variety of fish species, including grouper, snapper, and tarpon, providing both recreational and sport fishing experiences.

Dry Tortugas is home to over 300 species of fish.

The diverse marine ecosystem surrounding the Dry Tortugas supports a staggering array of fish species. From colorful tropical fish to large predators such as barracuda and sharks, the underwater world of the park is a paradise for fish enthusiasts.

The waters around Dry Tortugas are a mecca for scuba diving.

Scuba diving enthusiasts are drawn to the Dry Tortugas National Park by the opportunity to explore some of the most pristine dive sites in the United States. The visibility underwater is exceptional, and divers can explore captivating coral formations, underwater caves, and even shipwrecks.

Fort Jefferson was used as a prison during the Civil War.

During the American Civil War, Fort Jefferson served as a military prison housing Union deserters and Confederate prisoners. Despite its remote location, the fort played a significant role in the war and witnessed several notable events during its time as a prison.

The Dry Tortugas have a rich pirate history.

The strategic location of the Dry Tortugas made it an attractive target for pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy. Legendary pirates such as Blackbeard and Jean Lafitte were rumored to have frequented these waters, leaving behind stories of buried treasure and adventure.

The park offers camping opportunities for adventurous visitors.

For those seeking a unique overnight experience, the Dry Tortugas National Park provides camping facilities on Garden Key. Camping in this remote and secluded location allows visitors to fully immerse themselves in the natural wonders and peaceful serenity of the park.

Dry Tortugas is home to beautiful and rare bird species.

With its diverse habitats, including sandy beaches, coral reefs, and maritime forests, Dry Tortugas National Park provides a sanctuary for numerous bird species. Rare birds such as the roseate tern and the tropicbird can be spotted within the park’s boundaries.

The park’s coral reefs are protected by a no-take zone.

In an effort to preserve the delicate balance of the coral reef ecosystem, the Dry Tortugas National Park established a no-take zone, where fishing and other extractive activities are strictly prohibited. This conservation measure aims to safeguard the integrity and biodiversity of the reefs.

The submerged lands around Dry Tortugas are home to shipwrecks.

Beneath the sparkling waters of the Dry Tortugas, countless shipwrecks lie silently. These remnants of maritime history attract both divers and historians, offering glimpses into the past and the stories of vessels that met their fate in these treacherous waters.

The Dry Tortugas are an important nesting site for seabirds.

Several species of seabirds, including the magnificent frigatebird and the brown noddy, nest on the islands and reefs of Dry Tortugas National Park. These majestic birds form large breeding colonies, creating breathtaking displays of aerial acrobatics.


The Dry Tortugas is a fascinating destination that offers a unique blend of history, nature, and adventure. From its stunning coral reefs to its historic fort, there are countless surprises waiting to be discovered in this remote national park. Whether you’re a history buff, an avid snorkeler, or simply someone looking for an off-the-beaten-path getaway, the Dry Tortugas has something for everyone. So, pack your bags and prepare to embark on a journey to this hidden gem in the middle of the ocean.


1. How do I get to Dry Tortugas?

To reach Dry Tortugas, you can take a ferry or seaplane from Key West. The ferry ride takes about two hours, while the seaplane trip only takes around 40 minutes. Both options provide scenic views of the ocean and offer convenient transportation to the park.

2. Can I camp on Dry Tortugas?

Yes, camping is allowed on Dry Tortugas. The park offers primitive camping options on Garden Key, where you can spend the night under the starry sky. Keep in mind that advance reservations are required, and there are limited camping spots available, so make sure to plan ahead.

3. Are there any snorkeling opportunities in Dry Tortugas?

Absolutely! Dry Tortugas is known for its amazing snorkeling experiences. The crystal-clear waters surrounding the park are home to vibrant coral reefs and an abundance of marine life. Snorkelers have the chance to explore shipwrecks, swim with tropical fish, and even encounter sea turtles and stingrays.

4. Can I visit the historic Fort Jefferson?

Yes, the main attraction on Dry Tortugas is the historic Fort Jefferson. Visitors can explore the fort, which was once used as a military prison during the Civil War. Guided tours are available, providing insight into the fort’s history and architecture.

5. Is there any wildlife to see on Dry Tortugas?

Absolutely! Dry Tortugas is home to a diverse range of wildlife. In addition to the marine life found in the surrounding waters, you may spot various bird species, such as the magnificent frigatebird and the sooty tern. The park is also a nesting site for sea turtles.