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UPDATE 6: Dry Tortugas Re-opens to Visitors After Hurricane Ian

Dry Tortugas National Park takes direct hit from Hurricane Ian

On Tuesday evening, September 27th, major Hurricane Ian made it’s first US landfall, marking a direct hit to the Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida.

The storm had been strengthening steadily after crossing western Cuba, with sustained winds of 120 mph as the eyewall passed directly over Garden Key and Loggerhead Key. Heavy rains and storm surge also directly affected all areas of the 100 square mile park.

Current status of Dry Tortugas Hurricane Ian storm damage assessment and re-opening

On Thursday, September 29th, National Park Service (NPS) staff began to assess storm damage with a flyover of the the main Dry Tortugas attractions, including Garden Key. It was noted that there was significant damage to the ferry docks and visitor boat slips at Fort Jefferson..

The NPS deployed the M/V Fort Jefferson on Friday, September 30th, with a team to further assess damage and commence clean up efforts.

Dry Tortugas National Park Re-opening Updates

  • Ferry service resumes on Monday, October 10th, as announced by the NPS
  • Limited camping spaces are now available
  • Park waters are currently open to private vessels, but the boat slips remain closed
  • As of Sunday, October 2nd, sea plane tours have resumed for visitors
  • The interior of Fort Jefferson is now open to visitors
  • If you plan to visit park waters by private vessel, keep in mind that many buoys and boundary markers might have been damaged by Hurricane Ian – they have not yet been inspected
Fort Jefferson damage from Hurricane Ian
Trees damaged by Hurricane Ian on Garden Key 📸 NPS
Clean up efforts underway at the boat slips 📸 NPS
Fort Jefferson days after taking a direct hit from Hurricane Ian in the Dry Tortugas
View of Fort Jefferson, looking south, taken from the flyover on Thursday, September 29th | NPS
Hurricane Ian damage to Fort Jefferson
Trees of the Fort Jefferson interior parade grounds sustained notable damage, stripped of their vegetation | NPS
Dry Tortugas National Park takes a direct hit from Hurricane Ian
Close up view of Hurricane Ian's eye, passing directly over the Dry Tortugas | Source: RadarScope

With a direct hit from the eyewall of Hurricane Ian, the NPS will make sure that key park features such as Fort Jefferson are deemed safe again for visitors before the Dry Tortugas National Park completely reopens.

Subscribe to the Yacht Warriors for updates on storm damage and Dry Tortugas re-opening dates.

Hurricane Ian Dry Tortugas before and after photos

Thanks to a tip from a Yacht Warriors follower, we can begin to identify some of the damage that may have occurred to the Dry Tortugas from Hurricane Ian. NOAA released some imagery taken several days after Hurricane Ian passed.

I compared some of the before and after imagery. Check it out below. My overall assessment? It doesn’t look like there was any major structural damage visible from satellite photos. Shifting of sand, damage to docks, and vegetation damage look like the biggest culprits.

Of course, a birds eye view is nothing compared to what the NPS will learn in the coming days with their crew on the ground.

Dry Tortugas and garden key before and after photos from Hurricane Ian
Notable changes are visible to Bush and Long Keys from Hurricane Ian storm surge | NOAA & Google Maps
Garden Key before and after photos from Hurricane Ian including Fort Jefferson
A zoomed in view shows some damage to the camping area and boat slips at Garden Key | NOAA & Google Maps
Dry Tortugas Garden Key ferry dock damage from Hurricane Ian
Some damage from storm swell to the Garden Key dock is visible, but many decking boards are still in place | NPS
Hurricane Ian before and after photos from Loggerhead Key in the Dry Tortugas
There are some visible changes to the shape of the sand bars at Loggerhead Key | NOAA & Google Maps
Close up before and after Hurricane Ian photos of Loggerhead Key
The only visible damage I could identify to Loggerhead Key is the dock on the east side | NOAA & Google Maps
Hurricane Ian damage to Loggerhead Key in the Dry Tortugas
Close up view of the damage to the Loggerhead Key docks from Hurricane Ian | NPS

History of Dry Tortugas and hurricanes

This is by no means the first hurricane to affect the park since construction of Fort Jefferson commenced on Garden Key in 1846.

Most recently in 2017, Hurricane Irma damaged a ~50 foot section of the moat wall and deposited large amounts of sand within the moat and piers. It’s worth noting that Hurricane Irma was not a direct hit – it passed ~90 miles to the east, at Cudjoe Key.

Damage to the moat wall from Hurricane Irma in 2017 | Source: NPS

Hurricane Ian continued to strengthen to a very dangerous category 4 storm with sustained winds of over 155mph. It made a second Florida landfall in the afternoon of Wednesday, September 28th, near Cape Coral, Florida.

If you want to learn more about the Dry Tortugas, read my post about sailing from Key West to the Dry Tortugas or my yacht charter trip report from August 2021.

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  1. We have camping and kayak reservations on the Yankee Freedom October 12-14. I realize that this trip could be altered or cancelled. If the Yankee Freedom is in dock at Dry Tortugas there is a bathroom.

    Scenario 1 is that the entire trip is cancelled.

    Scenario 2 is that the trip is modified as a one day trip allowing time to sea kayak to Loggerhead Key and snorkle the waters of Fort Jefferson. My biggest concern is the steep exit at Loggerhead Key without a dock.

    Scenario 3 is that the trip is offered as is and we camp two nights on the island.

    What is your take on the situation? I’ve been there twice camping both times but the four guests I am bringing have never been there.

    Our trip dates are October 12-14.

    • Avatar photo

      Looks promising that the Ferry might be running by then. NPS said today they have engineers coming out to inspect the dock on Sunday, the 9th. I don’t have any information about whether they will allow overnight camping yet. Would optimistically plan for Scenario 2. Good luck!

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