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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Dry Tortugas National Park

This U.S. National Park off the coast of the Key West, Florida coast is small, just 100 square miles, and it’s only accessible by boat or seaplane. Dry Tortugas National Park is an underwater wonderland that offers amazing opportunities to observe marine life. Though you may not get any crazy elevation gains when you’re in the park, it’s still definitely worth the visit. Here are five things you may not know about this unique national park.

5. There Are Over 275 Shipwrecks

Image by Stuart Westmorland

Within the 100-mile radius of the national park, there are nearly 300 shipwrecks, many of which can be explored when diving or snorkeling. The water around the islands is shallow, leading to a fair number of maritime accidents. If you are looking to dive into one of these wrecks, including the Norwegian Windjammer, you’ll need to secure your technical scuba diving certification before heading out into the water.

4. There Are No Restaurants, Shops, Food, or Water on the Islands

Image by Stephen Frink

If you’re looking for a primitive camping experience, Dry Tortugas National Park is the place to go. When you visit Dry Tortugas, you need to be completely self-sufficient, bringing your own food and water, as well as any other items that you would need for personal comfort. There is no cell phone service or Wi-Fi, and there aren’t even any trash cans. If you are planning on camping there, there are compostable toilets. The ferry boats to and from the park provide breakfast and lunch on the boat and have bathrooms that allow you to “fresh water rinse” aboard (no soap allowed). 

3. It’s A Sea Turtle Haven

Image by Gerard Soury

When Ponce De Leon discovered the small string of islands that make up the Dry Tortugas National Park in 1513, he called them “Las Tortugas,” because of the abundance of sea turtles that could be seen off the coast of the islands. There are five sea turtle species that nest on the islands annually: the loggerhead, green turtle, leatherback, Kemp’s Ridley, and hawksbill. 

2. Pirates Loved This Place

Image by Greg Pease

Dry Tortugas became an attractive destination for pirates due to the turtles that live in the area. Pirates began to steal turtle eggs and used the meat of mature turtles not only for food but also as a form of currency. The waters surrounding the seven islands of Dry Tortugas became prime treasure-hunting locations for pirates and “wreckers” alike, though they no longer plague the area today. 

1. Treasure of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha

Image by Emanuel David/500 px

In 1715, the Nuestra Senora de Atocha’s Plate Fleet (named after the large amount of silver they had onboard) sunk near the Dry Tortugas while sailing through a hurricane. Though much of the treasure was recovered before returning to Spain, there were a number of items that were lost off the coast of the Florida Keys . . . until 1985. On July 20th of that year, Mel Fisher and his family found roughly $58 million worth of treasure in the Dry Tortugas after searching for it for over a decade and a half.

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