Named after Thomas Jefferson, Fort Jefferson was built in the mid 1800s with the intention of dominating the entrance to the southern coast. Located about 70 miles west of Key West, this hike can be accessed via private boat, seaplane, or charters that usually leave the mainland each morning.
The fort is comprised of sixteen million bricks and a limestone base. Climbing several sets of steps are required to access the interior of the fort, which incidentally, has ranger-guided tours. Walking the grounds is just an extension of the trip to the island; sights of fabulous shimmering waters and southern skies accentuated at sunrise and sunset.
For a time the fort served as a prison developing a reputation for relentless punishment. Probably the most notable prisoner was the man who aided President Abraham Lincoln's gunman John Wilkes Booth. It is believe that Dr. Samuel Mudd, the Maryland doctor, who was sentenced to the remote site until death, had his sentence revoked as a result of his heroic efforts in aiding victims of yellow fever. Dr. Samuel Mudd was released in 1869.
Historians, nature lovers, boaters, and campers enjoy touring the fort's interior and its lush green grounds surrounded by fabulous marine life and bird species. Thirteen primitive campsites are offered year-round, however, most visitors find the summer too challenging. Insects and heat are relentless. There is a small fee for the carry-in, carryout campsites.
Good snorkeling off coaling docks and moat walls.
Directions: From Key West, FL, This fabulous group of islands is located 70 miles west of Key West. Private boats and seaplanes are invited to dock at Garden Key. Private charters also provide access.
This easy day hike is oftentimes called the "Walk of Gibraltar."
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