What do the 3rd largest barrier reef, John Wilkes Booth, and our National Parks Service have in common? Fort Jefferson! Fort Jefferson is located on Garden Key, out in the Gulf of Mexico.
Now, why in the world, would the US build a fort 70 miles from anywhere? Turns out, Garden Key is perfectly suited to protect the southern portion of the United States and a vital shipping lane. Fort Jefferson is 70 miles from the US, 90 miles from Cuba, & 120 miles to Mexico. When you're out there it becomes an "oh, I get it" moment. Up on the fort walls it felt like you could see forever in all directions. It is at the end of the barrier reef that extends all the way to Key West; so too shallow for big war ships to cut across. They had to come around Fort Jefferson to get to the Gulf of Mexico. So it became an important line of defense for a young country.
The wind was blowing Entrance to Fort Jefferson
about 20 mph
There is SO MUCH information on this park! I'll try to hit the high points and you can research more on your own. Better yet, go see it!
Dry Tortugas National Park is about 100 square miles with 1% of that being dry land. The snorkeling and diving are supposed to be really terrific, but the recent storms had stirred the water up too much and visibility was poor. I was able to walk the entire perimeter of Fort Jefferson, the moat wall, Garden Key and Bush Key, thus getting a little over 5k logged.
Fort Jefferson was a thriving town with around 400 residents. I really can't imagine how they all lived and worked in such a small space. But they did, and they built one impressive fort.
The fort was eventually named a National Monument in 1935, and then became a National Park in 1992.
The wind seemed to be running her fingers through the grass on top of the fort wall...it was mesmerizing. Or was that you Anna?
So "what's the John Wilkes Booth connection" you ask? When President Lincoln was shot by JWB, Dr. Samuel Mudd set his broken leg. Evidently, the Hippocratic Oath wasn't as big of deal then as it is now, because Dr. Mudd was convicted of helping a murderer and sent to Fort Jefferson to serve out his sentence. And now you know where the phrase "his name is mud" comes from.
To me it seemed a dichotomy; this man made fort on such a small spit of sand and the fabulous nature all around the fort. The hermit crabs, sea birds of every kind, shells, lobsters and water. I have never seen water so beautiful!
BTW, I didn't enhance the pictures; that's what it looks like.
If you are prone to sea sickness, please check the weather before boarding. We had pretty severe waves the last hour out and the first hour back. It was so rough they wouldn't allow people to get up, so they handed out barf bags and they puked where they were seated. I'm lucky, I don't get seasick. Sorry if that sounded like "too much information"; it's not like that all the time, but if it is choppy, you could be quite miserable.