Tag Archives: history

Dry Tortugas National Park

Overview

Only accessible by boat or floatplane, Dry Tortugas National Park is a remote paradise 70 miles west of Key West and home to a diverse array of birds and sea life.  Fort Jefferson was built on Garden Key starting in 1846 and was never completed before it was abandoned in 1874.  Today birders come from all over to see the rookery of 100,000 sooty terns on Bush Key, and also get the joy of watching the acrobatic dives of brown pelicans, double-crested cormorants, and magnificent frigatebirds with their seven-foot wingspan.

Echo was bringing the CHAOS to Dry Tortugas National Park.

Highlights

Fort Jefferson, snorkeling, birding, overnight camping

Must-Do Activity

Turquoise blue water is home to amazing coral reefs right offshore from Garden Key, with some coral and sea fans growing on Fort Jefferson’s brick moat wall and old dock pylons.  Snorkeling among the historic debris feels like exploring an ancient shipwreck.  The daily ferry ship provides free snorkeling gear for day-trippers.

Best Trail

Walk the sea wall that circles Fort Jefferson for great views and a chance to see the endangered American crocodile that sometimes resides in the moat.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Walking the archways of Fort Jefferson in the rays of the rising sun or watching a sunset from atop its ramparts is a great reason to spend the night here.

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Peak Season

Weather permitting, the Yankee Freedom ferry boat runs daily all year, but you may want to be cautious during hurricane season.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/drto/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

A park entrance fee is collected by the Yankee Freedom ferry service when you purchase your tickets, but is refundable at check-in if you have an America The Beautiful Pass.  A nominal camping fee is charged to stay on Garden Key.

Road Conditions

A parking deck (fee) is located right near the docks and check-in for the Yankee Freedom ferry boat.

Camping

Primitive camping is allowed on Garden Key for a small fee.  Campers must bring all of their own water and the only way to cook is with charcoal since fires and stoves are prohibited.

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Scott walking on the moat

The lighthouse with Majestic Frigatebirds

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A view of the ferry boat from atop Fort Jefferson.
Yankee Freedom ferry boat docked outside Fort Jefferson.
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When snorkeling only ten feet from shore, this stingray swam right past us.
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Explore More – Why were the islands of the Tortugas labeled “Dry” on early maps?

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WONDON WAS HERE

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First State National Historical Park

Overview

Delaware was the last of the 50 states to gain a National Park Service (NPS) site.  Finally in 2013, this park was created from a group of buildings associated with Delaware being the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on December 7, 1787 inside The Golden Fleece Tavern in Dover.  The NPS does not yet have a visitor center at any of the multiple sites across the state and relies on its partners to provide tours and information.

First

Highlights

New Castle Court House, Dover Green

Must-Do Activity

We recommend you take a tour inside the historic New Castle Court House that dates back to 1732; it is less than an hour’s drive north of Dover.  You can learn a lot in an hour from a passionate tour guide, anything from its association with the Underground Railroad to why Delaware has that strange rounded border on its north end.  The New Castle Court House is occasionally still used to hold minor court proceedings.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Golden Fleece Tavern in Dover is long gone, but you can still read the marker on the corner of State Street when you visit the lovely Dover Green, which is surrounded by photogenic red-brick buildings.

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Peak Season

Mostly open year round, but some sites may only be open during the summer months.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/frst/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None, but donations accepted.

Road Conditions

All roads are paved, but street parking is limited around New Castle Court House and the Dover Green.

Camping

None

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Inside this tavern Delaware ratified the U.S. Constitution on December 7, 1787
Elizabeth Battell’s Golden Fleece Tavern is where Delaware became the First State in 1787.

William Penn, founder of Delaware (formerly part of Pennsylvania)
Scott hanging out with William Penn (of Pennsylvania fame), since Delaware was part of that state until 1776.

View of 1731 foundation in Old New Castle Courthouse

View of English-style courtroom inside Old New Castle Courthouse
Inside the historic New Castle Court House, which is still used to hold court on rare occasions.

Explore More – Why does Delaware have that strange rounded border on its north end?

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WONDON WAS HERE

Weir Farm National Historic Site

Overview

Weir Farm National Historic Site is the only National Park Service site in the state of Connecticut.  It is built around the art studios of Julian Alden Weir, an American impressionist painter that were later utilized by the Mormon sculptor Mahonri Young who made the This Is the Place monument in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Highlights

Free guided tour, free use of colored pencils/pastels, Artist in Residence program

Must-Do Activity

A unique opportunity the park provides is the use of colored pencils and pastels for each visitor to create their own artwork when they visit.  In this way they continue to allow the farm to inspire artists to capture the landscape in their own way, regardless of age or ability.

Best Trail

Pick up a self-guided walking tour pamphlet at the visitor center then walk (1.5 miles roundtrip) to Weir Pond, where the family loved to spend time in the summer fishing, swimming, and, of course, painting.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Get into the artistic spirit by posing with your face to the window like Weir’s wife did for a portrait in the family’s living room that you can see hanging inside the house.

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Peak Season

Open year round, but this was Weir’s summer home because that is the nicest time of year here.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/wefa/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved, but Nod Hill Road is steep and narrow which may be difficult for RVs and other large vehicles.  The small parking lot cannot accommodate large RVs.

Camping

None

Sketching at Weir Farm

These bison cutouts were painted and posted around the farm

A outside view of the sculpture studio

One of the other artists that lived here was a sculptor

On the porch of the Weir Farm House
Scott waiting on the front porch for our ranger guided tour inside the painter’s house.

Explore More – Julian Alden Weir studied impressionism in the country it was founded in, where is that?

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WONDON WAS HERE