Construction of Fort Jefferson was begun in 1846 but never completed. President Franklin Roosevelt declared it and the waters surrounding it a National Monument in 1935.
Flora and fauna
The Dry Tortugas exist in a subtropical climate. Temperatures range from the mid-50s to mid-80s (°F). April and May are often idyllic. There are essentially two seasons: The winter season (December-March), which can be windy with rough seas, and the tropical storm season (June-November) during which Dry Tortugas experiences both hot, humid weather and calm seas or severe weather events. Due to the ever-changing weather patterns, an accurate weather forecast is recommended before your visit.
The park is open year round during daylight hours, and is only accessible by boat or seaplane.
- Key West Seaplane Adventures, 3471 South Roosevelt Blvd, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. The only seaplane service to Dry Tortugas. Travel time from Key West is forty minutes. $361 per person for a half-day trip, $634 per person for a full-day trip.
- Yankee Freedom III (ferry), toll-free: . Day trips include two meals, complimentary snorkeling equipment, and 45-minute tour of the historic fort. Boarding is at the Ferry Terminal at the foot of Grinnell Street in Key West, FL. Reservations recommended. $180 adults, $125 (children (age 4-16); prices include park fee.
Fees and permits
The $10 (as of 2020) entrance fee for individuals is valid for seven days.
There are several passes for groups traveling together in a private vehicle or individuals on foot/bike that provide free entry to Dry Tortugas National Park and all national parks, as well as some national monuments, national wildlife refuges, and national forests:
- The $80 Annual Pass (valid for twelve months from date of issue) can be purchased by anyone. Military personnel can obtain a free pass by showing a Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID.
- The $80 Senior Pass (valid for the life of the holder) is available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over. Applicants must provide documentation of citizenship and age. This pass also provides a fifty percent discount on some park amenities. Seniors can also obtain a $20 annual pass.
- The free Access Pass (valid for the life of the holder) is available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities. Applicants must provide documentation of citizenship and permanent disability. This pass also provides a fifty percent discount on some park amenities.
- The free Volunteer Pass is available to individuals who have volunteered 250 or more hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program.
- The free Annual 4th Grade Pass (valid for September-August of the 4th grade school year) allows entry to the bearer and any accompanying passengers in a private non-commercial vehicle. Registration at the Every Kid Outdoors website is required.
The National Park Service offers free admission to all national parks on five days every year:
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day (third Monday in January); next observance is January 17, 2022
- The first day of National Park Week (third Saturday in April); next observance is April 16, 2022
- The National Park Service Birthday (August 25)
- National Public Lands Day (fourth Saturday in September); next observance is September 25, 2021
- Veterans Day (November 11)
This is a cluster of 7 small islands not connected by causeway to the rest of the Florida Keys. As such the only way to reach them (and travel between them) is by boat or seaplane.
The largest of the islands, Garden Key, hosts Fort Jefferson. Walking tours are provided and snorkeling is a must. All traffic is on foot.
- 1 Fort Jefferson. 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. During the Civil War, it was used as a Federal prison primarily for Union deserters, though in 1865 three of the Lincoln conspirators were imprisoned within its walls.
Popular activities include snorkeling, scuba diving, guided fishing trips, guided wildlife viewing trips, and sailing charters.
- Gift Shop. A small National Park Service Gift Shop is available inside Fort Jefferson on Garden Key. It offers a very limited selection of items.
There's a small campground on the island, with overflow space when the official campsites are full. You must bring all your own drinking water. Camping is not allowed outside the official campground.
- 1 Garden Key Campground. 8 sites, 1 group site. All sites are first-come, first-served. A primitive campground is located on Garden Key, the same island as Fort Jefferson, and is a short walk from the public dock. Individual sites can each accommodate up to 3 2-person tents (total of 6 people). Should a regular campsite not be available, an overflow area is provided. All campers, once they arrive will be guaranteed a place to camp. $15 per night (2020 rates).
The invasive lionfish has been spotted around Fort Jefferson. They can be identified by their red and cream colour and long spines. Stings are excruciatingly painful and can be fatal. Any sighting of the fish should be reported to National Park Staff immediately.