Daily Archives: 17 April 2016

Fort Zachary Taylor

Ft Zachary Taylor

At the southern tip of Key West, lies Fort Zachary Taylor. Construction started in 1845, and the fort was officially named after President Taylor, a few months after the former war hero died in office. Fort Taylor was one of three forts in Confederate territory but under Union control during the American Civil War. Fort Taylor was the base of operations for the Union’s Navy’s East Gulf Coast Blockade Squadron. The fort never saw hostile action during the war, due to its formidable defenses.
Fort Taylor saw considerable use during the Spanish-American War, as well.

Ft Taylor today

The fort lost its two upper tiers during modifications for more modern weapons in 1889. The original cannons were used as fill.

Fort Taylor saw use during WWI and WWII, mainly as a training ground during the latter. The U.S. Army turned over the fort to the Navy in 1947, although Fort Taylor was once again useful during the Cuban Missile Crisis, with Naval Station Key West next door. Antennas were installed on the old fort, where cannons used to sit.

Looking out to sea from Ft Taylor

Originally, the fort was completely surrounded by water, with only a causeway leading to the island. There were 40 cisterns under the fort to collect water.

Cannons of Ft Taylor

Fort Taylor has three types of cannon in its casements:
8 inch Columbiad. Fired heavy spherical shells with a heavy powder charge.
10 inch Rodman Gun. Fired spherical shot and shell.
10 inch Army Parrott Rifle. Fired 300 pound, solid, bullet shaped projectile. 15 groove, right hand twist rifling.

10 Hole Privy

The fort volunteers made sure I made it to the back to see the 10 hole privy. “Beats an outhouse in Fairbanks,” I told them.

Exterior of Ft Taylor

Three sides of Fort Taylor still has a moat, although the fort has been landlocked since 1965. Dredging the Key West Channel led to the fill being used around the fort.

Fort Zachary Taylor was named a National Historic Landmark in 1973.

Key Largo


I camped at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park as I started my trek across the Florida Keys. My main goal was going to remain elusive, as Dry Tortugas is booked out months in advance. Months! This isn’t even the peak season. I just don’t plan trips that way, but if I want to camp out beside Fort Jefferson, I’m going to have to compromise. I have two weekends booked already in the month of October, and I feel claustrophobic over it.

Camping in the east is a bit different than I am used to in the west, and camping on the Florida Keys is an art form all its own. There isn’t a whole lot of land out here on these tiny juttings of coral, so I get why every campsite is “thinner” than I am used to. Pennekamp is a very busy park, some great swimming and from what I hear some very good fishing happens near here, and those things do bring in the people.

'99 International

Two sites from mine was a converted International school bus, which I thought was cool, and my enthusiasm led to a tour of the bus, much to the annoyance of the teen age daughter, but that didn’t stop me once the invite was extended. I didn’t want to appear rude, after all. They were some very nice people down from Maine, and I appreciated the info and tour, since I have a ’67 Dodge that could see something similar down the trail.

Sadly, my view of the bus was limited. Around dusk, the Moby Dick of recreational vehicles, squeezed its way between my tent and the bus.

New neighbor

I was sitting in my camp chair at the picnic table when the sun light went out. I felt like I was down at the base of a canyon. Suddenly, my view, was the Great Wall of Winnebago. All I could think of was, thank the blocked out stars that I would only be here the one night.

Still, this was the Florida Keys, and the Pennekamp park is very nice, if insanely busy.