Jul 15, 2013

National Parks- Dry Tortugas, In the middle of nowhere!


Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida is a small archipelago which is a remarkable place in the middle of Gulf of Mexico. 70 miles from Key West, comprised of 7 small islands and 100 square miles of ocean is accessible only by boat or seaplanes. These tiny islands are farthest, westernmost and most isolated of Florida Keys. It seems these are closer to Cuba than American mainland! One tiny and remote place rich in history and marine wildlife.

Fort Jefferson Dry Tortugas National Park

Well, why the name Dry Tortugas? Tortugas in Spanish means Turtles. The islands are breeding places for Large Sea Turtles and these islands are driest places in Florida. Though surrounded by infinite ocean there is not a drop of drinking water here. So the name! With the shallow water around the park is heaven for snorkeling. Small patches of coral reef and at times one could sight a turtle or a big fish!

The only island accessible to the tourists is Garden Key which is also home for the historical military coastal fortress Fort Jefferson. It is the largest masonry structure in the western hemisphere. Built of around 16 million bricks, has 2,000 arches and still the fort was never completed! The construction was stopped considering the damage to the island.

Fort Jefferson Dry Tortugas National Park

I started my journey from Key West early in the morning. There were many on the ferry that day to the Dry Tortugas trip. People looked at me with curiosity- I was wearing a fleece jacket and a woolen scarf in the hand in Florida! It was funny, one teenage girl spoke out loud about it! No worries I thought :) Boat ride includes a complementary breakfast- juice, coffee, doughnuts, bagels, and fruits. Lovely! I had my breakfast, took more coffee and secured a seat outside on the dock. I was the only one there outside, rest all were enjoying inside. 

Fort Jefferson Dry Tortugas National Park
Interiors of Fortress
It was cold already, hmm that is why I had taken my fleece jacket! As the ferry rode the huge waves the ocean looked more darker. Now, one by one my trip-mates were coming out because of seasickness! They lined up at the back of the ferry to throw-up. It was cold and unfortunately most of them were not prepared for that cold ocean breeze. It was really cold. Then a lady looks at me and says ... You knew huh? Smart ...

We passed Loggerhead Key, far away in the horizon, a little patch of land and a beautiful lighthouse looked amazing! After reaching Garden Key everyone there forgot about seasickness. The water and the fortress were worth all the trouble. There was some introduction about the fort, island,  followed by leave-no-trcaes-policy and safety tips. Soon after that I registered for overnight camping which is on first-come-first-serve basis. I was happy I got a campsite and asked the NPS staff how many were camping that day. He replied ... you are the first one and only one so far ... OMG! 

Brown Pelican Dry Tortugas National Park
Adult Brown Pelican
It was heaven to get into the ocean water. Water is perfect- the turquoise color and the clarity of water to see the marine life underneath! It is an amazing world underwater! The experience is beyond words! Batches of colorful and not-so-colorful fish swimming along and then I saw a Barracuda, a big one. The shallow water allows sunlight and the silvery barracuda was all shining like a star. Though I could not sight a sea turtle someone claimed they saw one. It is hard to imagine how it is deep inside the ocean!

It was time for all others to pack up and board the ferry while for me it was time to unpack! It was really a funny-weird feeling. Everyone was looking at me raised eyebrows and wishing me luck! I was camping all alone in the open, on a tiny island 70-miles away from the mainland! Well, not so alone! The NPS staff live there inside the fort premises :)

Garden Key Lighthouse Dry Tortugas National Park
Garden Key Lighthouse
As the day faded and the night approached the whole scene transformed into something unimaginable. The whole world around me turned into blue. The starry sky and the ocean whispering with every wave that crashed into the shore, the birds screaming once in a while, the owl hooting from inside the fort and the cold breeze. I was wide awake and with me was the lighthouse. I had mixed feelings of excitement and weird fear. Everything made me eternally happy.

I pulled out my sleeping bag and a sheet from the backpack and spent the whole night watching stars. You remember me saying that I forgot to pack my tent in my earlier post on Key West? That is one of the  craziest things I have done! The most amazing scene I have witnessed was the night fading into the bright morning. I slept until the ferry arrived. I walked around the fort once again on that walkway(pic-3) took few more pictures before boarding the ferry. Again I repeat, all of the beautiful pictures of underwater life as well as my camping glory sunk into the Biscayne Bay along with my Dear P-O-S camera.

On the way back I was thinking ... If at all I were an American citizen I would give up everything and opt to work as NPS staff and live in Dry Tortugas NP for three years! Sigh! It is not going to happen! Whenever I get a chance I will come back here ... to the fortress, to the blue water ...

Note: Ferry trip for camper- $180 (and for non-camping day trips $165), National Park entrance fees- $5, Camping fees per night- $3. Ferry ride provides snorkeling equipment.

Other destinations in this road trip: Everglades National Park, The city of Key West, Biscayne Underwater National Park, Sanibel Island.
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Related articles-
Colorful sunrise at Key West
Key West, Home for the sunset
Everglades National Park- An Alligator Alley
Butterflies of Florida
National Parks of USA.

This post is linked to Our World Tuesday, Nature Notes and Wild Bird Wednesday.
If you want pictures please ask me :)
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Creative Commons License
Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

49 comments:

  1. Hi,Kusum, So glad to be here, lovely great pics with informative notes. Thanks. Keep sharing. Best Regards
    philip

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    1. Thanks Ariel, glad you liked the article.

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  2. Beautiful photos...

    2nd one is amazing blue background...

    thanks kusum...

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  3. Awesome interesting post, Kusum! really, 2nd one is just amazing to visit.

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  4. I loved this review Kusum. Even though we have lived in Florida for five winters, we still haven't made it to Dry Tortugas. It is on my list and we just must go next year; I can't wait.

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    1. Thanks Sallie! You will enjoy this place for sure!

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  5. Interesting place. Nice read.

    http://rajniranjandas.blogspot.com

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  6. Terrific post and captures for the day, Kusum! It is indeed a beautiful and interesting place!! Hope you have a great week!

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    1. Thanks Sylvia, yep it is an interesting place!

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  7. What a beautiful place. That second shot is stunning.

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  8. What an amazing experience, to sleep alone on the island. The sky in your second photo appears so low and suspended above the water. I really enjoyed your post.

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    1. Thanks Cynthia! Glad you enjoyed the article!

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  9. What an adventure. Sleeping alone with just the stars for company.

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  10. Thanks for the nice post on the Dry Tortugas, I was thinking about visiting this place myself. But the timing was off. I enjoyed your photos, have a happy week!

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    1. Thanks Eileen! Good luck next time!

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  11. Great place to be and I understand your urge to work there. Hope it happens for you. :)

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  12. An amazing place. The photo of the ocean is stunning.

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    1. Thanks Pradeepa! I loved your creative blog.

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  13. A lovely adventure packed trip, Kusum and you managed to paint the picture of the big waves:)

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  14. Every time I come to this blog I want to go on holiday in the USA... The third image down is truly amazing

    Mollyxxx

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    1. Thanks Molly for your kind words! You should visit USA!

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  15. Hi Kusum, what an adventure! Who would think of packing a fleece jacket in Florida? And camping alone wihtout a tent? You're such a hardcore! I bet sleeping under star and watching the sky change was an exhilirating experience. Love your images. Too bad about the loss of your camera :(

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    1. Thanks Marisol for your kind words! Yes, it was a craziest thing I have done to sleep under the starry sky!

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  16. Looks like quite an adventure!!! Interesting island!!!

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  17. That sounds like a real adventure and a lot of fun! Beautiful sky!

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  18. What a gorgeous day, I've always wanted to go out there for a visit, looks like a very interesting place and history

    I'm inviting you to join us with your travel images for Travel Photo Mondays next week, please link up with us :)

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    1. Thanks Noel! I checked your blog about Hawaii and the TPM seems to be interesting!

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  19. Beautiful pics! Never been to this place. Adding it to my must-visit places. Came here from Indiblogger. You have a nice travel blog. I will be back for more :)

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    1. Thanks AK! Glad you liked the article. Sure, you are most welcome to my blog.

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  20. Very beautiful waterfront ;-)

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  21. I have heard of it, but didn't know the origin of the name... another lovely nature trip with Kusum... I love it...Michelle

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  22. It seems you had a great adventure in the Tortugas! How wonderful you were able to sleep under the stars. It's truly an amazing place with such clear water and abundant life beneath the surface.

    Very nice post and splendid photographs!

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    1. Thank you Wally for your kind words! Yes, it is an amazing experience under water and under the stars as well :)

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  23. I like lighthouses! Happy to see on in your post.

    Hazel

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    1. Thanks Hazel! Glad you like my post on DTNP :)

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  24. What a wonderful variety of places--I'm so glad you shared with us!

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