Dry Tortugas National Park took a direct hit from Hurricane Ian on Sept. 27 as it passed about 70 miles of Key West, where the park includes the historic Civil War-era Fort Jefferson, a lighthouse, parade grounds around the fort, beaches and usually pristine water for offshore fishing and snorkeling from the beach. 

Calling the damage significant, but not catastrophic, park officials on Oct. 10 reopened parts of the park to visitors and the ferry that brings them.

An aerial view of the missing dock at Loggerhead Key. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

“The park welcomed visitors arriving via the ferry this morning for the first time since Sept. 25,” National Park Service posted on its Facebook page on Oct. 10. “Park staff and the incident management team are working hard to reopen the interior of Fort Jefferson and campground as soon as possible.”

Engineers inspected the storm-damaged dock on Garden Key and deemed it safe to partially reopen, states a report from the National Park Service.

Aerial photo of main dock on Garden Key, post-Hurricane Ian. (Photo courtesy of National Park Service.)

“Fort Jefferson remains closed beyond the fort entrance and visitor center while emergency stabilization continues, but the beaches are open, and the waters around the fort are accessible for snorkeling,” states a news release from the park service. “The docks remain closed to private vessels and the park is closed to camping.

“While marine waters in the park continue to be open, boaters are advised that both Garden and Loggerhead keys remain closed indefinitely to private vessels due to damage to the visitor courtesy slips and docks.

“Dry Tortugas National Park closed on Sept. 26 in advance of Hurricane Ian, which passed directly over the park on the night of Sept. 27-28 with sustained winds of 120 mph. Garden Key and Fort Jefferson were the first areas in the United States impacted by the storm. The National Park Service’s Eastern Incident Management team is assisting Dry Tortugas National Park staff with storm cleanup and emergency assessments of the fort’s damaged infrastructure,” states the park service report.

For more information about Dry Tortugas National Park, visit nps.gov/drto or follow the park on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.