Dry Tortugas National Park protects almost 65,000 acres in the Gulf of Mexico seventy miles west of Key West, Florida. The National Park is surrounded by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the Tortugas Ecological Reserve. While the surface area of the Park is mostly water, a handful of tiny islands rise above the waves for a total of 104 acres of land. Chief among these are Loggerhead Key, which boasts the 157-foot tall Dry Tortugas Lighthouse, and Garden Key, site of Fort Jefferson and the primary hub of visitation in the Park. Only one other island, Bush Key, of the remaining five is open to the public. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the Dry Tortugas island group a National Monument in 1935. The boundaries were expanded in 1983, and Congress upgraded the Monument to a National Park in 1992.
[Note: It feels strange to be writing about our trip to Dry Tortugas National Park and Biscayne National Park while those Parks are closed and damaged and while Florida is just beginning to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Irma. But these places will reopen and recover, and any part this website plays in encouraging more people to visit these Parks and spend money this winter and in years to come in the Florida Keys will, I hope, help in some small way.
Additionally, at Out in the Parks, where I sell prints of a selection of my photographs of the National Parks, I’m doing a fundraiser: while the four National Parks impacted by Hurricane Irma—Biscayne, Dry Tortugas, Everglades, and Virgin Islands—remain closed, 100% of proceeds from photographs featuring these Parks will benefit their respective affiliated non-profit organizations: Florida National Parks Association, Everglades Association, and Friends of Virgin Islands National Park.]
As 2016 aged, Sean and I reached the conclusion of our aim to calibrate the National Parks that we had visited so that by the end of the National Park Service Centennial year we would have been to the same National Parks. After our descent of the Grand Staircase, Sean had been to twenty-one Parks to my twenty Parks since he had been to Dry Tortugas National Park during a spring break trip to Key West while he was at Michigan State University in the 1990s. He had caught up to Yosemite, Shenandoah, and Grand Canyon, and now it was my turn. We would, logically, add Biscayne National Park to our trip, thereby ending 2016 with our visited-Parks number at a not-too-shabby twenty-two.