South Florida National Parks Update Status Following Hurricane Ian’s Devastation

by Jon D. B.
Park ranger assesses road flooding near Flamingo. (NPS Photo)

As Hurricane Ian batters the East Coast, south Florida National Park Service (NPS) sites are either partially reopening or remaining closed amidst damage.

In the days Ian swept through Florida, the hurricane would rapidly strengthen from a Category 1 to Category 4 with winds surpassing 150 mph, leaving behind untold damage and taking dozens of lives. Tragically, the state’s death toll is now at least 52, according to Florida officials.

All NPS sites within Ian’s trajectories would close for the safety of visitors and staff. And now that the storm has moved north, some parks are choosing to reopen or partially reopen, while others won’t for some time.

“Following the passing of Hurricane Ian, visitors to the South Florida National Parks and Preserve should continue to exercise caution while in the park due to the possibility of unidentified hazards on land and in park waters,” NPS states in their latest media update.

Despite catastrophic damage in some areas, “Marine waters continue to be open in all locations,” their release cites. As for full reopening, the only national park to fully return to normal operations is Biscayne National Park.

On Thursday, September 30, Biscayne fully reopened for normal operations, which includes:

  • Convoy Point Grounds  
  • Dante Fascell Visitor Center  
  • Park Headquarters 
  • Biscayne National Park Institute tours 
  • Florida National Parks Association bookstore 

Everglades National Park would also reopen on Sept. 30, albeit partially. The following areas are now available to the public:

  • Shark Valley entrance at 8:30 a.m. 
  • Airboat tour operators along Tamiami Trail 
  • Homestead entrance and the Main Park Road for 25 miles to Paurotis Pond from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m
    • Starting Oct. 1, this area will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. until the park is able to reopen the Flamingo area  

However, Damage from Hurricane Ian has these Everglades areas remaining closed:

  • Gulf Coast Visitor Center and Everglades City entrance  
  • Flamingo 
  • Main Park Road south of Paurotis Pond 
  • Wilderness and front-country camping 

For Everglades guided tours and services, visitors will need to call ahead or check individual websites before heading to these parks. Information can be found on the park’s website here.

Dry Tortugas National Park ‘Sustained a Direct Hit’ from Hurricane Ian

Unfortunately, Dry Tortugas National Park “sustained a direct hit and remains closed while staff assess damage,” NPS cites. However, “Vessels may seek safe harbor within the one nautical mile anchoring zone around Garden Key, including Bird Key Harbor,” the park states.

But no park services are available while damage assessment continues. The following areas are closed as a result:

  • Garden and Loggerhead Keys, including:
    • campground
    • main dock
    • visitor courtesy slips on Garden Key
    • main dock at Loggerhead Key

Big Cypress National Preserve also remains closed at this time.

Currently, over two million are without power in Florida as the cleanup from Hurricane Ian continues. For more information about Big Cypress and when you can visit, visit nthe park website here. For more information about Dry Tortugas National Park and when you can visit, visit their website here.