History & Culture
History of Dry Tortugas becoming a National Park
Fort Jefferson National Monument was designated by president Franklin D. Roosevelt under the Antiquities Act on January 4, 1935. (Comprising 47,125 acres (19,071 ha) The monument was expanded in 1983 and redesignated as Dry Tortugas National Park on October 26, 1992 by an act of Congress.
The rich cultural heritage of the Dry Tortugas all begins with its location 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. The seven keys (Garden, Loggerhead, Bush, Long, East, Hospital, and Middle) collectively known as the Dry Tortugas, are situated on the edge of the main shipping channel between the Gulf of Mexico, the western Caribbean, and the Atlantic Ocean. The strategic location of the Dry Tortugas brought a large number of vessels through its surrounding waters as they connect the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Early on, the shipping channel was used among Spanish explorers and merchants traveling along the Gulf Coast.
Linda Friar, National Park Service
Fort Jefferson on Garden Key
Fort Jefferson, the largest all-masonry fort in the United States, was built between 1846 and 1875 to protect the nation's gateway to the Gulf of Mexico. Supply and subsidence problems and the Civil War delayed construction. The fort was never completed because of fears that additional bricks and cannon would cause further settling and place more stress on the structure and the cistern system. Distinguishing features include decorative brickwork and 2,000 arches. Time, weather, and water continue to take their toll, necessitating ongoing stabilization and restoration projects.
Fort Jefferson and a Harbor Light
Did You Know?
The Dry Tortugas derived their name from the abundance of turtles that could be found in the area. Even today, lucky visitors may be able to spot loggerhead, green, hawksbill, and leatherback sea turtles plying the waters.