Where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Gulf of Mexico is a coral cay archipelago known for its tropical climate, laid-back atmosphere and dangerous waters. At the very tip of this island chain seven islands remain of the original eleven islands once found here, four disappearing into the sea over the years. Those that remain have entered the cultural imagination both for their exotic setting and the hope of finding mysterious treasure in the seas below. Those called to these islands have included Spanish explorers, sailors and military men, an ornithologist, an assassin's doctor, and a famous writer turned deep-sea fisherman. Today, visitors still come to these islands in the hope of finding something rare and unique. Nearly sixty miles from the mainland, this small group of islands mark the end point of the Florida Keys. This is Dry Tortugas National Park.
While the sunken treasures of shipwrecks around the island may seem the most alluring part of these islands, the Dry Tortugas are actually home to a greater wealth of sea life, tropical birds, coral reefs and history. Home to the largest brick masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere, the park is accessible only by seaplane or boat. Ferries bring visitors to the islands daily, though traversing the waters is much safer than in the heyday of pirates, privateers, naval officers and fishermen. Bordered by two marine sanctuaries and part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with the Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park showcases the uncompromised natural beauty of the Florida Keys.
The park conserves the Biscayne Bay region, stretching from Miami down the southern tip of Florida to Homestead and then out to seat at Elliot Key, the northernmost of the Florida Keys. An ecosystem linked to that of Florida’s famous Everglades, the area preserves both an important south Florida ecosystem as well as a piece of Florida history with human habitation dating back at least 10,000 years ago. This water wonderland has brought together native peoples, presidents, millionaires, pirates, farmers, researchers, exiles and outdoorsmen over the years. Rainbow colored fish and coral lie beneath the crystal blue waters and emerald islands
Before Everglades National Park, the basis for creating national parks was focused on preserving unique geographic feature. The creation of Everglades, however, was to preserve a unique ecosystem that supports tropical wading birds, crocodiles, alligators, manatees and panthers. While the park is thought of as a wetland, there are a variety of ecosystems within it that keep the delicate balance of nature the park is known for. Thought an eyesore by some early Floridians, researchers and scientists are only now starting to see the fruits of efforts to restore this habitat after it was nearly eradicated completely. Of course, issues ranging from non-native species to fires to rising sea levels and urban encroachment still pose a danger to this amazingly diverse national park.
From planned communities to towns torn apart by racism, many of the ghost towns that dot Florida each have their own unique stories. Somes of these cities tied their fates to resources like ore, lumber and citrus fruits only to suffer when the industry went South. Others were intended to be places of sanctuary or utopias only to fall short of the mark their founders aimed for. While these towns may not be found on many maps anymore, they provide unique insight into the history of this sunny state.
Aladdin City - The Planned Community
Throughout the years, developers have tried to cash in on Florida’s sunny atmosphere by creating communities designed to attract those who want a little bit of the Sunshine State for their own. These planned communities can take off in a big way, but not all are successful. Several towns rose out of the Florida land boom of the 1920s like Miami Springs, Coral Gables and Opa-locka. While these towns managed to make it off the ground, other communities, like Aladdin City, were not so fortunate.
Dedicated to all things travel, places I have been and places I want to go.