You are here

No Details On Fate Of National Parks In The Caribbean


A sailboat languished on the beach at Dry Tortugas National Park following Hurricane Maria/NPS

While work continued to progress Saturday on clearing away the mess that Hurricane Irma made of National Park System units in Florida and Georgia, there were no details on the fate of National Park Service employees and facilities in the Caribbean that were pummeled by Irma and then Hurricane Maria.

"We're in communications with the parks but we are not releasing any additional information at this time," Park Service spokeswoman Katie Lawhon said in an email. "The safety and security of our employees in the Caribbean is the overriding concern right now.  As soon as this critical period has passed, the Incident Management Team will provide more information."

While the island of St. John, home of Virgin Islands National Park, received the brunt of Hurricane Irma on September 6, Puerto Rico, the site of San Juan National Historic Site, was hammered by Maria and left without electricity. While Puerto Rico was reeling Saturday, on St. John a degree of normaly was returning.

"Communications improving with more community WiFi and hotspots being activated," reported the St. John Community Foundation. "The trees are beginning to bloom. People are falling into a routine and continue to help others clean and prepare for kids to get back to school on Monday."

St. John's seaports still were not open for public or private use, the group reported, and "(M)ud/rockslides continuously being cleared but continue to be an issue. Centerline is being cleared as we post this, but Coral Bay is accessible down Bordeaux Mtn Rd. Stay off the roads unless necessary. (St. Croix) airport is open only for medical evacuations, search/rescue and military responders."

While 500 crates were en route to St. John to help evacuate animals, the National Park Service had agreed to "help take care of the horses."

A 40-foot section of the moat surrounding Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park was damaged by the hurricanes/NPS

As for Puerto Rico, the foundation reported that "(C)rews from the NY and Long Island Power Authorities will be arriving soon via military aircraft to help establish power. There is an aircraft carrier that was in the area that will move closer and provide logistical support (helicopters and such) of relief efforts. A barge will arrive tonight with a million liters of water, food, cots, and 31 high capacity generators. They will be set up to continue to provide relief for their residents and be a hub and transition point for USVI relief efforts."

Officials at See Puerto Rico reported Saturday afternoon that the "Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport has reopened to a limited number of commercial flights. Most airlines are expecting to resume their operations tomorrow."

On the mainland, the Park Service offered the following update:

South Florida National Parks

Big Cypress National Preserve – CLOSED

  • The preserve remains closed to all visitor use and access is limited to land owners only.
  • Electrical power has been restored to some preserve facilities.
  • Tarps are in place on the damaged roofs of a maintenance building and the ranger station.
  • The paved section of the Loop Road (approximately 6 miles) is clear.
  • Water treatment plant is online.
  • The preserve lifted its “boil water” advisory.

Biscayne National Park – PARTIALLY CLOSED 

  • Boca Chita Key at Biscayne National Park reopened today; all other Biscayne National Park facilities are closed, including the Dante Fascell Visitor Center, and Elliott and Adams Keys.
  • Park waters are open for navigation, although boaters are advised to use extreme caution.  A marine advisory has been posted to notify mariners of hazards in the waters surrounding the park.
  • A saw crew is removing hazard trees and clearing debris.
  • Repairs in progress at University Dock.

Dry Tortugas National Park – PARTIALLY CLOSED

  • Terrestrial areas of the park, including all areas at Garden Key and Loggerhead Key, remain closed to the public. 
  • The dock at Dry Tortugas is closed to public use.
  • Marine waters of the park, including Garden Key Harbor and Bird Key Harbor, are open for access. A marine advisory has been issued advising mariners of hazards in the waters. Users of mooring buoys assume all risk.
  • The Dry Tortugas vessel, Fort Jefferson, will be used to transport supplies and resources to national parks in the Caribbean.
  • The campground has been cleared. 
  • The parade ground is being cleared. 
  • Saw crews are continuing to remove downed and damaged trees.
  • Staff are placing barricades at the damaged sections of the moat wall.

Everglades National Park – PARTIALLY CLOSED

  • Terrestrial areas of the park remain closed while park waters are open for access, to include commercial permit holders of Everglades National Park.  
  • Boaters should be advised that the Flamingo Marina is closed and no services are available there.
  • Areas east of the L-67 Canal and south to Buzzards Roost/Grossman's Ridge (commonly known as East Everglades) have opened for private airboating.  Boaters should be advised that the only public launch site available is located east of Coopertown.  The park cannot be accessed via SW 168th Street until power lines and other hazards have been addressed.
  • Staff continues to locate derelict vessels (currently 25) along the Gulf Coast and in Florida Bay. Staff are inspecting the vessels and posting them with the National Crime Information Center.
  • Saw crews and an Arborist Incident Response team are working on damaged and downed trees along the main park road, from the entrance to Flamingo. 
  • Natural Resource Advisors are working with the park’s Air Operations staff to inspect remote areas to determine accessibility to monitoring stations.

Atlantic Coast National Parks

Cumberland Island National Seashore (Ga.) - CLOSED

  • Camping reservations have been cancelled through October 11.
  • A scheduled hunt on the island on October 16-18 has been cancelled.
  • There are 37 derelict and 10 sunken vessels along the St. Marys waterfront. The U.S. Coast Guard is taking the lead on clearing the area, with boat salvage underway.
  • Saw crews and an Arborist Incident Response team are working to open the main road for the entire length of the island. 
  • Clean up at the visitor center, museum and warehouse on mainland is ongoing.
  • Water in the elevator shaft was pumped out.
  • Staff are drying wooden floors and removing sheet rock.

Fort Matanzas National Monument (Fla.) - CLOSED

  • The park remains closed due to pending hazard tree removal.

Fort Pulaski National Monument (Ga.) - CLOSED

  • Emergency metal conservation treatment on cannons is underway. 
  • Staff are cleaning the entrance station, and clearing mud from the fort and visitor center area.
  • Work to remove fallen and damaged trees on the Dike Trail continues.
  • Staff will be installing new doors on the pump house today.
  • Plans are being developed for repairs to the damaged roof.
  • The pump house/water system needs major repairs.

Please Support Independent National Park Journalism

Use the links below to make your donation to National Parks Traveler via PayPal, or send your check to National Parks Traveler, P.O. Box 980452, Park City, Utah, 84098. The Traveler is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit media organization. For U.S. residents, 100 percent of your contributions may be eligible for a tax deduction in accordance with applicable law. 

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide