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National Parks Are Open During Shutdown — But Facilities Like Bathrooms May Be Closed

Photo by Eric Barton
Dry Tortugas National Park is only accessible by boat or seaplane - and the ferry and seaplane service are still running during the shutdown.

The Department of the Interior is one of the parts of the federal government affected by the current shutdown. But you can still visit South Florida's national parks.

Tom Brandner and his family were hoping to visit Dry Tortugas National Park during their Key West vacation.

That was not to be — but not because of the shutdown. The ferry to the national park was full.

"We wanted to book it about a month ago, but they were sold out," said Brandner, who is from Columbia, SC.

What's open and closed at South Florida National Parks? Get more information here.

He and his wife stopped by the Yankee Freedom ferry ticket booth on Monday, just in case.

"They said maybe you want to come down and check, see if there's any cancellations that we could squeeze in," he said. "But it's a very popular place and we couldn't get on."

The Tortugas, 70 miles west of Key West, are home to Civil War-era Fort Jefferson. The area is also popular for snorkeling, diving and fishing. It's only accessible by boat or seaplane.

"We wanted to just take a little boat ride for one, and visit a little bit of history, visit the fort, spend the day on the beach," Brandner said.

The time around Christmas and the New Year is one of the busiest times of the year in the Keys.

During the federal government shutdown, ferry and seaplane service to the Tortugas are still running, and the marine areas of the park are open.

But the park service advises "extreme caution" on the water. There’s minimal staffing during the shutdown. The same cautions apply to Biscayne National Park and Florida Bay, part of Everglades National Park.

Everglades is open and entrances are unstaffed, which means you can get in for free. Many concessions inside the park are open but most park-run facilities — including bathrooms — are closed.

Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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