Dry Tortugas National Park

Photo by Eric Barton

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.

Mark Hedden

Cletus the crocodile may be lonely no more.

The American crocodile that showed up at the Dry Tortugas in 2003 was captured and loaded onto a seaplane over the weekend, then released in the Everglades.

Kate Stein / WLRN

Are you a South Floridian who's been meaning to explore the Everglades, ride a boat on Biscayne Bay or trek through Dry Tortugas... but just never gotten around to it?

Well, now you're out of excuses. This weekend (April 22 and 23), you can visit South Florida's three national parks for free. It's part of National Park Week, which goes through Sunday. And the celebration includes abundant activities to highlight these natural, national treasures.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Seagrass in Florida Bay has died off rapidly over the past couple of years. About 40,000 acres have been lost, harming the habitat of animals from manatees to toadfish and imperiling the area's fishing industry.

Imagine: the chance to live on an uninhabited tropical island for a month, off the grid, creating art.

No phone, no television, no Internet.

Instead, spectacular night skies, crystalline turquoise waters and extraordinary marine life on the coral reef just a short swim from your back door.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

  Over the weekend, many people in South Florida and throughout the nation took part in ceremonies marking the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

One group of South Florida military veterans observed the anniversary by providing more service. The Miami platoon of The Mission Continues nonprofit traveled to Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park.

  The group has been working with the Suncoast chapter of the National Parks Conservation Association to help out the parks. The National Park Service is marking its centennial this year.

National Parks Continue To See More Visitors

Apr 27, 2015
Creative Commons via Flickr / Erik Cleves Kristensen (https://flic.kr/p/puLn7s)

In a new report from the National Park Service, almost 3 million people walked, boated, bird-watched or were dragged by a parent to one of the four national parks and reserves in South Florida: Big Cypress, Biscayne National, Dry Tortugas and Everglades.

Mark Hedden

You shouldn’t name a crocodile or ascribe it human emotions. It’s not a pet. It’s a wild and primitive creature with a lot of very sharp teeth and a crazy powerful jaw.

But that didn’t stop anyone from naming the sole crocodile living at Dry Tortugas National Park.

Cletus. That's what most people on the park staff call the croc. A few call him Carlos. No one remembers why.

Dry Tortugas Dispatch: Fortification, Visitation, and Bliss

Feb 21, 2013
Nathaniel Sandler

This is the second dispatch in a two-part exploration of Dry Tortugas National Park. The first post can be found here.

Nathaniel Sandler

In two nights sleeping under the arches at Fort Jefferson, I never saw the ghost. It is legend, or hearsay, but the myth persists. I trawled the halls regularly, even audibly coaxing at times to Dr. Samuel Mudd, the villainous co-conspirator against Lincoln, or any other poor soul who may have lived a life unfulfilled and made a specter amongst the fortified brick. There were plenty of candidates.