The Dry Tortugas are a small chain of seven islands located in the Caribbean about 70 miles west of Key West. The island chain is incorporated into Monroe County and has a current population of zero. The Dry Tortugas, and the attractions contained therein are fascinating and can easily consume an entire day of your vacation. From visiting the lighthouses to dropping by Fort Jefferson to visiting lighted shoals that were at one time islands, there is much to do and it is only about 2 hours from Key West.
However, it is always good to know a little history about any place to which you will be traveling, and the Dry Tortugas are no different. This article examines three things you may not know about the Dry Tortugas.
Fort Jefferson - Ghost Town
Fort Jefferson is a massive structure. When it was built, it effectively doubled the size of the island upon which it sits. Fort Jefferson, which is built upon Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas, contains over 16 million bricks. This makes it the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere. Fort Jefferson is currently a ghost town, but in its heyday during the Civil War, it not only housed prisoners of war including four men convicted as co-conspirators in the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln but also soldiers and their families.
You can visit Fort Jefferson -- a once lively military installation that is now quiet and eerie after well over 100 years of decommission. At Best on Key West, we are premiere providers of guided trips through Fort Jefferson. If you have an interest in history, we are here to help.
The Dry Tortugas Light - Second Generation
The lighthouse on Loggerhead Key, 3 miles west of Fort Jefferson is actually the second lighthouse to be built in the Dry Tortugas. The first was the Garden Key Light located atop Fort Jefferson. Thirty years before the Dry Tortugas Light was built and commissioned, and twenty years before construction on Fort Jefferson began, The Garden Key Light sat as the only building on the island chain. The Garden Key Light and the Dry Tortugas Light were the only lighthouses in the gulf to remain open throughout the Civil War.
Of these two historic structures, only the Dry Tortugas Light remains. The tower has survived hurricanes, a war, and the ravages of time. The operations of the Dry Tortugas Light were automated in 1988, but you can still take a tour of the lighthouse and relive a little bit of military history.
The Phantom Lights Of The Dry Tortugas
There are many former and disappearing islands located in and around the area of the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson. Many of these islands disappeared in 1875. However, during a guided tour of the Dry Tortugas, it is quite possible to be shown where some of the former islands rest and upon which the Iowa Rock and Pulaski Shoal, two small lit navigational buoys, once stood.
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