In accordance with regulations and the delegated authority provided in Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations, Chapter I, Parts 1 through 7, authorized by Title 16, United States Code, Section 3, the following regulatory provisions are established for the proper management, protection, government and public use of the portion of Dry Tortugas National Park under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. These discretionary regulations are in addition to the other regulations published in Title 36 CFR, Chapter I, Parts 2 through 7. Unless otherwise stated, these regulatory provisions apply in addition to the
requirements contained in 36 CFR, Chapter 1.
Visitors may enter or leave the park 24 hours a day except for areas within the park otherwise designated as closed throughout this document and as indicated below:
The interior of Fort Jefferson on Garden Key is open from sunrise to sunset.
The Garden Key Visitor Center is open from approximately 8:00am to 4:30pm.
Park Headquarters on Garden Key is open from approximately 8:00am to 4:30pm.
- All areas of the park are closed to possession of helium-filled latex or Mylar balloons.
- Release of any type of balloon, including paper “sky lanterns” is prohibited
What restrictions apply to boating?
- Anchored vessels may not be left unattended for more than 4 hours unless the boat operator is within sight of the vessel and capable of responding to it for onboard emergencies.
- Any vessel using the Garden Key dock in any manner is subject to the following restrictions:
- From 10:00AM to 3:00PM, the eastern half of the main dock is reserved for the concession ferry.
- Use of the dock if required is for emergency use, government vessels or vessels operating under permit to use the dock. If not required, other recreational and commercial vessels may use the dock in accordance with this document.
- Total allowable dock use for one day is two hours (cumulative) per vessel.
- No overnight docking is permitted.
- Any vessel using any of the courtesy slips at Garden Key in any manner is subject to the following restrictions:
- Total allowable dock use for one day is two hours (cumulative)per vessel.
- No overnight docking is permitted.
- Campers may use the slips for loading and unloading for a maximum of two hours and then must anchor at a designated dinghy beach areas or in the designated anchorage area as defined in 36 CFR §7.27(a)(3) where designated anchorage means any area of sand (underwater) within one nautical mile of the Fort Jefferson Harbor Light (NAD83 17R 2725068, 310492 UTM).
- Vessels anchoring in Garden Key Harbor must be south, southeast of a line extending from southwest channel red marker #12 to the most westernmost “Off Limits” narrow white cylindrical buoys off Bush Key in order to keep the channel clear.
- Vessels engaging in park-related activities between sunset and sunrise outside one nautical mile from the Garden Key Harbor Light are required to have a permit, which may be obtained at Garden Key. Vessels are not allowed to anchor or moor outside one nautical mile at
night in accordance with 36 CFR §7.27 (e)(3).
- In accordance with USCG regulation 33 CFR 110.190 and NPS regulation 36 CFR 7.27(4), the designated anchorage for commercial fishing vessels is Bird Key Harbor. The National Park Service recognizes Garden Key Harbor as a safe harbor in cases of emergency or inclement weather. When the National Weather Service issues a small craft advisory, the red “small craft advisory” pennant will be flown below the US Flag on the park's flag staff. The red triangular
pennant indicates that Garden Key Harbor is open to all vessels to anchor until the advisory is lifted.
- Vessels may not anchor within 200 feet of the designated seaplane beach which is the section of the southeast facing Garden Key beach extending from the “Dinghies/Seaplanes” sign northeast to the boundary line of Bush Key indicated by “Area Closed” signs.
- Due to submerged hazards to navigation, anchoring in Bird Key Harbor is prohibited within a 100 foot radius in all directions of the hazard buoy located in the vicinity of N 24°37.34’ x W 082°52.94’ (Standard UTM Zone 17, Northern Hemisphere, Easting – 345832.4, Northing – 2696035.6).
White lights are prohibited on the beaches during sea turtle nesting season. Red lights are permissible.
The use of high intensity artificial lights such as spot or flood vessel deck or stern lights is prohibited.
Use of underwater lights of any kind, other than hand held dive lights are prohibited within Park waters. Underwater lights create an unnatural environment and disrupt the natural behavior of marine species.
What restrictions apply to the use of Bush Key?
- Bush Key is open from sunrise to sunset as designated by the park superintendent, from approximately mid-October to mid-January, or when tern nesting season is complete.
- When designated as open, Bush Key is open from sunrise to sunset.
- When a land bridge exists between Garden and Bush Keys, vessels may only access Bush Key from the designated dinghy beaches or designated visitor courtesy docks on Garden Key.
- All visitors must stay below the vegetation line and above the water line, unless on a designated trail or route.
- Entering or exiting the water from the shore to swim, snorkel or dive is prohibited.
What areas are closed to the public?
- Residential and service areas on all keys as designated closed by barricades or signs.
- Areas on all keys as designated closed by barricades or signs.
- Government slips and associated docks on Garden Key.
- Garden Key is open 24 hours with the exception of the interior of Fort Jefferson (all areas beyond the wood bridge entering Fort Jefferson) which is closed from sunset to sunrise. In case of an emergency, visitors may enter the interior of the fort to summon assistance.
- All other Keys, when open, are closed from sunset to sunrise.
- Hospital Key and Long Key are closed year round in accordance with 36 CFR §7.27and persons and boats must remain at least 100 feet from the mean low tide mark, unless otherwise indicated by demarcation buoys or signage.
- Bush Key is closed as designated by the superintendent, from approximately mid-February to mid-October for protection of nesting seabirds. Persons and boats must remain at least 100 feet from the mean low tide line, unless otherwise indicated by demarcation buoys or signage.
- Hospital Key, Middle Key and East Key are closed to protect sea birds and nesting sea turtles. Persons and boats must remain at least 100 feet from the mean low tide mark, unless otherwise indicated by demarcation buoys or signage.
- The area designated as the “Shark Special Protection Zone” is closed to the public June 1 through October 31. (Refer to Appendix G for coordinate description).
- The area designated as the “Coral Special Protection Zone” is closed in accordance with 36 CFR §7.27. (Refer to Appendix G for coordinate description).
- Waters within the boundaries of the Dry Tortugas National Park are closed to the use of subsurface vessel lights at all times. Underwater lights create an unnatural environment and disrupt the natural behavior of marine species. The use of high intensity artificial lights such as
spot or flood vessel deck lights, stern and underwater illumination is prohibited. Use of underwater lights of any kind, other than hand held dive lights are prohibited in Park waters.
- Areas on all keys as designated closed by barricades or signs.
- The ruins of the Loggerhead Key Boathouse are a hazardous area. Visitors are prohibited from approaching closer than 30 feet of the ruin.
- Requiring Face Masks and Social Distancing – Individuals over the age of two years must wear masks (except when actively eating or drinking) in the following locations:
- All common areas and shared workspaces in buildings and vessels owned, rented, or leased by the National Park Service, including, but not limited to, the park visitor center, administrative offices, gift shops and galleys or restaurants.
- All outdoor areas, when others are present, where physical distancing (staying at least six feet apart) cannot reasonably be maintained. Masks must cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face. Masks not
designed to be protective, masks with ventilation valves, and face shields do not meet the requirement.
The following types of filming activities may occur in areas open to the public without a permit and without advance notice to the NPS:
- Outdoor filming activities, outside of areas managed as wilderness, involving five persons or less and equipment that will be carried at all times, except for small tripods used to hold cameras.
The organizer of any other type of filming activity must provide written notice to the Superintendent at least 10 days prior to the start of the proposed activity. Based upon the information provided, the Superintendent may require the organizer to apply for and obtain a permit if necessary to:
- maintain public health and safety;
- protect environmental or scenic values;
- protect natural or cultural resources;
- allow for equitable allocation and use of facilities; or
- avoid conflict among visitor use activities.
If the Superintendent determines that the terms and conditions of a permit could not mitigate the concerns identified above in an acceptable manner, the Superintendent may deny a filming request without issuing a permit. The Superintendent will provide the basis for denial in writing upon request. All
inquires regarding filming, or filming permits, should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any transportation or guide services hired by entities or individuals engaged in filming must be approved and licensed by the NPS. A list of licensed guides and related services will be furnished upon request. If a required business or service is not available or currently licensed by the NPS, a request for the service or business will be submitted to the NPS for review at least 10 days prior to the start of the proposed activity.
The NPS will consider requests and process permit applications in a timely manner. Processing times will vary depending on the complexity of the proposed activity. If the organizer provides the required 10-day advance notice to the NPS and has not received a written response from the NPS that a permit
is required prior to the first day of production, the proposed filming activities may occur without a permit.
The following are prohibited:
- Engaging in a filming activity without providing advance notice to the Superintendent when required;
- Engaging in a filming activity without a permit if the activity takes place in areas managed as wilderness or if the Superintendent has notified the organizer in writing that a permit is required;
- Violating a term and condition of a permit issued under this action. Violating a term or condition of a permit issued under to this action may also result in the suspension and revocation of the permit by the Superintendent.
What restrictions apply to fishing?
- Fishing is prohibited from any finger pier displaying the signage “Government Use Only” or “NPS Use Only” at Garden Key.
- Only legally obtained finfish and shrimp may be caught and reduced to harvest. This includes wildlife reduced to harvest for use as bait.
- Fishing off the visitor courtesy docks at Garden Key is permitted when the slip is unoccupied. In order to ensure the safety and security of privately owned vessels and to avoid conflicting use when the slips are occupied, only the members of the immediate party may fish from the occupied pier.
- Fishing off the Garden Key Dock when the concession ferry is docked is prohibited.
- Fishing off Bush Key is prohibited. Fishing only is permitted from the land bridge between Garden Key and the Bush Key sign on the harbor side. To ensure safety and to avoid conflicting use, pedestrians have right of way over those engaged in fishing activities.
- Fishing in or into any closed area is prohibited. Some of the closed areas include the designated swimming area, the “Coral Special Protection Zone” and “Shark Special Protection Zone” (Refer to Appendix F for coordinate descriptions).
- Fishing regulations are in accordance with Florida state law. Dry Tortugas National Park encompasses fishable waters consisting of Gulf of Mexico (state and federal waters), Atlantic (state and federal waters), Monroe County, FL and multi fish specific management zones.
- With the exception of drinking water in non-disposable containers, possession of food and drink by visitors is prohibited within the interior of Fort Jefferson (all areas beyond the wood bridge).
- Disposal of food scraps, fish remains or entrails and dish washing is prohibited in the waters of the moat and any designated swimming area.
- Disposal of fish remains and washing dishes must occur a minimum of 200 feet away from any designated swimming beach. The “Restricted Docking” sign on the shore above the finger piers marks 200 feet from the Garden Key designated swimming beach.
- Glass containers are prohibited on all islands, except within designated campsites on Garden Key.
What restrictions apply to the use of park mooring balls?
- All visitor use mooring balls in the Research Natural Area are limited to 2 hours per day per mooring, if there is a vessel waiting.
- Mooring balls may only be used from sunrise to sunset.
- Visitors are responsible for all damages to moorings due to negligence or improper use of moorings.
- Vessels over 110 feet (33 m) are prohibited from using the visitor use mooring balls.
- Vessels are prohibited from attaching the mooring ball tag line directly to their vessel. Vessels must use a line from their vessel to connect to the mooring tag line.
- Vessels are prohibited from using the government mooring ball in Garden Key Harbor. In the event of an emergency, exceptions are considered on a case-by-case basis.
What restrictions apply to swimming snorkeling and scuba diving?
- Diving between sunset and sunrise outside 1 nautical mile of the Garden Key Light is prohibited without a Special Use Permit (permit) obtained upon arrival at Garden Key.
- Designated swim/snorkel areas are established at Garden Key and Loggerhead Key. Designated swim/snorkel areas are bounded by narrow white cylindrical buoys. The Loggerhead swimming are is located on the northwest side of Loggerhead Key.
- Swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving anywhere outside the designated swim/snorkel areas, including swimming from a vessel, requires displaying a red and white diver down flag. Title 36 CFR 3.18 as well as Florida Statute 327.331 define diver-down device warning requirements. Swimmers, snorkelers and divers must make reasonable efforts to stay within 300 feet of a divers-down warning device.
- Entering or exiting the water to swim, dive or snorkel off any shore of Garden Key, outside the designated swim area is prohibited. The designated swim area is bounded by narrow white cylindrical buoys.
- Recreational swimming in the Garden Key Harbor and associated channels is prohibited.
- Swimming, diving and snorkeling in the moat surrounding the Fort is prohibited.
- Entering or exiting the water from the moat wall is prohibited, except in emergency situations.
Under the authority of 36 CFR 1.5, the lands and waters within the boundaries of the Dry Tortugas National Park are closed to the use of unmanned aircraft except as provided for in this section. Launching, landing or operating an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from or on the lands or waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Dry Tortugas National Park is prohibited except as approved in writing by the superintendent.
The term “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)” means a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the device, and the associated operational elements and components that are required for the pilot or system operator in command to operate or control the device (such as cameras, sensors, communication links). This term includes all types of devices that meet this definition (e.g. model airplanes, quadcopters, drones, etc.) that are used for any purpose, including for recreation or commerce.
||Visiting Loggerhead Key (Obtained at Garden Key)
||Boaters engaging in night activities outside 1 nautical mile of the
Garden Key Harbor Light (Obtained at Garden Key).
||Non-motorized vessels engaging in night activities within 1 mile of
the Garden Key Harbor Light (Obtained at Garden Key).
||Diving between sunset and sunrise outside 1 nautical mile of the
Garden Key Harbor Light (Obtained at Garden Key).
||Use and or operation of Amateur Radio (AKA Ham Radio)
||Entering closed areas
||Specimen collection (take plant, fish, wildlife, rocks or minerals)
||Aircraft landing in designated areas
||Removal of downed aircraft or parts
||Property left unattended for more than 24 hours
||Special Events: sporting, pageants, regattas, public spectator
attractions, entertainment, ceremonies, or other similar events such
- Educational activities sponsored by educational institutionsand having organized agendas
- Boating or organized clubs.
||Public Assemblies, meeting, gatherings, demonstrations, parades,
and other public expressions of views involving 25 or more people.
||Sale or distribution of printed matter
||Memorialization (scattering ashes from human cremation)
||Use of manned or unmanned submersibles
||Business Operations (Commercial Use Authorizations)
||Still photography and audio recording
||Construction of buildings or other facilities including
||Non-commercial vessels engaged in recreational activities-Boat
Permit (Obtained at Garden Key)
Specific Prohibitions related to Natural, Cultural and Archeological Resources
- §2.1(a)(5) – Standing or sitting on the edges of the fort parapet and fort openings is prohibited to ensure visitor safety from falling off and falling bricks from above and to maintain a historic appearance to the scenery.
- Climbing and/or standing on cannons, artillery pieces, carriages, limbers and monument markers is prohibited.
- Parkour/Free-Running activities are prohibited in all areas of Dry Tortugas National Park, including Fort Jefferson.
- 36 CFR 2.20 – Using roller skates, skateboards, roller skis, roller blades, coasting vehicles or similar devices is prohibited.
Sea Grapes and Coconuts
What park resources on Garden and Loggerhead Key are allowed for collection?
- (c)(2)(i) – Up to one quart of sea grapes (Coccoloba uvifera) per person may be gathered for immediate personal consumption from trees located in public areas. (c)(2)(ii) Coconuts (Cocos nucifera) that have fallen to the ground in public areas may be gathered or removed for personal consumption.
Specific Prohibitions Related to Wildlife
- (a)(2) – The Goliath Grouper (Epinephelus itajara) and other animal species residing within or migrating through the Dry Tortugas National Park are protected from deliberate disturbance, interference or molestation. The feeding, touching, teasing, frightening, or intentionally disturbing of wildlife nesting, breeding or other activities are strictly prohibited. Some animals can become desensitized to human activity and may become dangerous to people. This order is needed to ensure public safety and will be in effect indefinitely.
- (d) – Spearfishing and harvesting lobster are prohibited in accordance with 36 CFR §7.27(4). Legally taken speared fish or lobster obtained outside the park must be reported prior to entering park waters. Once inside the park boundary, the reporting vessel must transit through to its intended final anchoring/mooring location without stopping or allowing its passengers/crew to enter the water until said mooring location is reached.
- (e) – The use of high intensity artificial lights such as spot or flood vessel deck lights, stern and underwater illumination is prohibited. Use of underwater lights of any kind, other than handheld dive lights are prohibited in Park waters. Determining Factor: Underwater lights cause an unnatural environment and disrupt the natural behavior of marine species.
Designated Sites or Areas and Conditions for Camping
- Camping and overnight visitor occupancy is allowed only in the designated campsites of the campground on Garden Key and aboard vessels in the designated anchorage area as defined in 36 CFR §7.27(a)(3).
- Campers in the Garden Key Campground must register and pay the campsite fee within 1 hour on day of arrival.
- Tents must be pitched on provided tent pads or within 10 feet of the site’s designated picnic table if no tent pad is present.
- Once taken, campsites must be occupied. Sites may not be reserved by placing tents/gear or fee stubs for persons who are not yet present. Hanging of hammocks, clothes, trash, towels, etc. on the trees or branches is prohibited.
- Maximum number of persons per site is 6; maximum number of two person tents is 3.
- Groups of 10 or more (with a maximum of 20) campers require a group site reservation in advance.
- The campground maximum capacity is 68 total campers on a first come, first served basis with a maximum group camp capacity of 20 (by reservation).
- Camping/overnight anchoring within the park is limited to 14 consecutive nights and to no more than 30 nights in a 12 month period.
- Extensions of the stay limit for camping/overnight anchoring may be granted by the Superintendent or his/her designee under one of the following circumstances:
- Unsafe weather conditions,
- To facilitate an emergency repair,
- Medical emergencies.
- Checkout time for the Garden Key Campground is 10:00 a.m.
Food Storage and Trash
- Food items and refuse must be stored in a hard sided container or hung on provided posts in a manner where wildlife cannot disturb it.
Specific Prohibitions on Fires
- (a)(1) – Ground fires and wood fires are prohibited throughout the park.
- (a)(1) – Charcoal fires, sterno and gas/propane camp stove fires are permitted only in the Garden Key Campground. Burning of wood, driftwood marine debris and/or any trash is prohibited.
- (a)(2) – Visitors are responsible for the collection and removal of all refuse they bring into or create while in the park. Public refuse receptacles are not available.
What restrictions apply to pets?
- (a)(1) – Pets are allowed on Garden Key, but must remain outside Fort Jefferson (not beyond the wooden bridge) and be on a leash at all times.
- (a)(1) – Pets are allowed on open keys but must remain on established walkways and below the vegetation line on the beach.
- (a)(5) – Visitors must remove pet-generated waste from the park.
What restrictions apply to aircraft and air delivery?
- (a)(3) – Delivery or retrieval of a person or object by parachute, helicopter or other airborne means except in emergencies involving public safety or serious property loss, or pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit. Contact Special Use Permitting Office at Everglades National Park for special use permit.
- (c)(1) – Except as provided in paragraph (c)(3) of 36 CFR §2.17, the owners of a downed aircraft shall remove the aircraft and all component parts thereof in accordance with procedures established by the superintendent.
- (d) – The use of aircraft shall be in accordance with regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). FAA regulations may be found in 14 CFR, Chapter 1.
What restrictions apply to smoking?
- (a) – All federal buildings, the wooden bridge spanning the moat, the interior of Fort Jefferson and any area within 50 feet (15 m) of the main dock on land or on water, including vessels docked on or on waters within 50 feet (15 m) are closed to smoking. This restriction also applies to electronic smoking devices.
- Geo-Caching is prohibited throughout the Dry Tortugas NP. See also 36 CFR § 2.22. Virtual Geo-Caching does not leave any physical property on NPS premises, but instead uses existing on site features. Virtual Geo-Caching is permissible.
- (a)(2) – Personal property may not be left unattended longer than 24 hours in the park without a permit.
What restrictions apply on Loggerhead Key?
- Visitors must maintain a minimum distance of 30 feet away from the Loggerhead Key boathouse. The boathouse, located on the northwest side of Loggerhead Key, collapsed and is a hazardous area. This closure is in effect until further notice.
- Loggerhead Key is open from sunrise to sunset.
- Prior to visitation, visitors must obtain a permit upon arrival at Garden Key.
- A maximum of 25 visitors per day is allowed.
- To access Loggerhead Key, visitors are allowed to land or beach their vessels on the designated dinghy beach which includes the beach area between the “Dinghies” signs.
- Private vessels are prohibited from using the Loggerhead dock. The dock is reserved for government vessels or vessels operating under park permit to use the dock.
- Visitors must stay on established walkways on the interior and below the vegetation line on the beach.
- All buildings and structures are closed to the public.
- Dinghy tethers are available for dinghies, kayaks and canoes at 24°37.984’ N X 082° 55.349’ W near the southern edge of the designated swimming area on the northwest side of Loggerhead Key. These tethers will accommodate a maximum of three dinghies of 16 feet or less. Vessels greater than 16 feet are prohibited from using these tethers.
- Swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving from shore requires a red and white diver-down warning device be displayed except within the designate swim/snorkel area.
Corals and Other Underwater Natural Features
- (i) – How are corals and other underwater natural features protected in the
- (1) – Taking, possessing, removing, damaging, touching, handling, harvesting, disturbing, standing on, or otherwise injuring coral, coral formation, seagrass or other living or dead organisms, including marine invertebrates, live rock, and shells is prohibited.
- (2) – Vessel operators are prohibited from allowing their vessel to strike, injure, or damage coral, seagrass, or any other immobile organism attached to the seabed.
- (3) – Vessel operators are prohibited from allowing an anchor, chain, rope or other mooring device to be cast, dragged, or placed so as to strike, break, abrade, or otherwise cause damage to coral formations, sea grass, or submerged cultural resources.
A buffer zone exists around Bush Key and Long Key. During the seabird nesting season, Bush Key is closed to protect those nesting seabirds. Bush Key is closed to visitation from about mid-January when the birds arrive, until mid-October, when the hatchlings have fledged and all the seabirds have left.
The Long Key buffer zone is in effect year-around due to a nesting rookery of the Magnificent Frigate Bird.
Persons/vessels must maintain 100 feet from the shoreline during times when closures are in effect. The 100 foot buffer zone is marked by narrow white cylindrical buoys.
In compliance with 36 CFR 2.51 and 2.52, the following areas are designated as inappropriate for these uses based on the criteria set forth in the Code of Federal Regulations.
All undeveloped areas of the park are closed to these activities, as these activities would unreasonably impair the atmosphere of peace and tranquility maintained in wilderness, natural, historic or commemorative zones. 36 CFR 2.51(e)(2) and 2.52(e)(3).
All offices, exhibit rooms, maintenance areas, natural trails, boat docks, campgrounds, and historic structures are closed as these activities would unreasonably interfere with interpretive, visitor service, or other program activities, or with the administrative activities of the National Park Service. 36 CFR 2.51(e)(2) and 2.52(e)(3).
Public use areas not specifically mentioned above are open as follows: Garden Key: The land area of Garden Key bounded on the east by the walkway to the public docks, the north by the moat wall, the west by the campground, and the south by the shoreline (refer to Appendix G for coordinate description).
Background: Amateur radio (also called ham radio) describes the use of radio frequency spectrum for purposes of non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, private recreation, radio-sport, contesting, and emergency communication. The term "amateur" is used to specify "a duly authorized person interested in radio-electric practice with a purely personal aim and without pecuniary interest.
Amateur radio operators must possess a valid FCC or reciprocal international Amateur Radio Operator license issued by a competent authority. Amateur radio operators wishing to operate from Dry Tortugas NP must obtain a special use permit from the Everglades NP permitting office prior to arrival at Dry Tortugas.
Operators are limited to the area immediately south of the north coal dock ruins in the vicinity of NAD83 17R 2725221, 310583 UTM. Operators may set up necessary equipment within a 30 foot diameter of the designated point.
Safety: Guy wires used to support an antenna, small temporary sun shelters or any other device or equipment necessary for the radio operation will be marked with high visibility flagging tape. Small red lights will mark the guy wires at night. 36 CFR §2.12(1) – Operating a motorized electrical generator is prohibited. Solar panels are encouraged for extended power needs.
Vessels must maintain a clearance of 200 feet from the designated seaplane beach. Vessels may not anchor within 200 feet of the seaplane beach. Seaplanes require a minimum safe distance to enter and exit the area. The designated seaplane beach is the section of the southeast facing Garden Key beach extending from the “Dinghies/Seaplanes” sign northeast to the boundary line of Bush Key indicated by “Area Closed” signs.
Regulations Regarding Flights over Charted National Park Service Areas, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Areas, and U.S. Forest Service Areas
CAUTION: Before landing fixed-wing aircraft on the lands or waters within the boundaries of lands administered by the National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), pilots should check with the respective agencies for any closures that may be in effect. The landing of helicopters is prohibited on the lands and waters within the boundaries of lands administered by the NPS, FWS, and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Wilderness areas. Contact information for any portions of these areas contained on Sectional Charts can be found in the chart margin. Exceptions include:
When forced to land due to an emergency beyond the control of the operator; or,
At officially designated landing sites; or,
An approved official business of the Federal Government.
All aircraft are requested to maintain a minimum altitude of 2,000 feet above the surface of lands and waters administered by the NPS, FWS, or USFS Wilderness areas. FAA Advisory Circular (AC 91-36C), "Visual Flight Rules (VFR) Flight near Noise Sensitive Areas," defines the surface as: the highest terrain within 2,000 feet laterally of the route of flight, or the uppermost rim of a canyon or valley.
Pilots are warned that it is unlawful at any altitude to use an aircraft to harass any wildlife (16 USC 742j-1; 50 CFR Part 19). Harass is defined to mean disturb, worry, molest, rally, concentrate, harry, chase, drive, herd or torment. FAA Advisory Circular (AC 91-36C) (PDF, 136 KB)
Statements of Finding in Support of Closures for the Dry Tortugas National Park Superintendent’s Compendium 2021
On January 19, 2007, special regulations for Dry Tortugas National Park (DRTO) went into effect. They are codified in 36 CFR §7.27. These regulations replaced the special regulations for the abolished Fort Jefferson National Monument. They also implemented provisions for visitor use and resource protection identified in the 2001 General Management Plan Amendment (GMPA).
Many of the regulations previously in effect at DRTO via the Superintendent’s Compendium are now found in the special regulations. The compendium identifies specific restrictions, conditions, public use limits and closures using the discretionary authority of the superintendent granted by Chapter 1, Part 1 of 36 CFR §1.5(a). They are actions deemed necessary for the administration of the park in concert with its enabling legislation and NPS management policies for the benefit of the resource and the visitor. Articulations of the reasons for closures are set forth in this justification as required by 36 CFR §1.5(c).
§1.5(a)(1) Public Use Limits
Possession of food and drink by visitors is prohibited inside the Fort, except water. This restriction will prevent clutter of the historic scene by litter, and attraction of insects, birds and Norway rats.
Food and drink in glass containers are not permitted on any of the islands. The purpose of this regulation is to prevent visitor injuries by keeping glass off the beaches and other areas where people walk barefooted. An exception to this restriction is made to allow employees, their guests, and VIP’s to possess glass containers in the designated residence area of the park and campers using the Garden Key Campground.
The use of bright lights must be minimized to maintain a night sky that meets the expectations of park visitors so as to not create excessive or unnecessary light.
Balloons are prohibited because they present a threat to scenic and environmental values, are non-biodegradable and when entering the water are a threat to endangered sea turtles as they resemble jellyfish which are a primary dietary item for sea turtles.
What restrictions apply to swimming and diving?
Diving from sunrise to sunset outside 1 nautical mile of the Garden Key Light requires a permit to enable monitoring of activities and enhance safety in a remote ocean location.
There are several areas where frequent vessel traffic makes swimming hazardous. Areas such as an active harbor or channel, seaplane beach and dinghy beaches are closed to recreational swimming. As a safety measure,entering and exiting the water is permitted only at the designated swim beaches. Swimming, snorkeling and diving outside those areas requires a dive flag to increase visibility and safety. The moat is closed to swimming, snorkeling and diving due to poor water quality and to protect resources in shallow water. Accessing the Garden Key swim area from the moat wall is prohibited for safety reasons and to protect cultural and natural marine resources which are abundant along the wall.
What restrictions apply to boating?
Vessel operators are responsible for assuring the vessel’s anchor is holding and no emergencies occur. It is prudent to require operators to check on their vessels at least every 4 hours.
Due to space limitations on the Garden Key dock and visitor slips, restrictions have been identified to assure availability by the commercial ferry boats, the park’s service vessel and the public.
Vessels are not permitted to anchor in any active channel; doing so is illegal and creates a dangerous hazard to navigation.
What restrictions apply to the use of park mooring balls?
All visitor use mooring balls in the Research Natural Area are limited to 2 hours per day to allow others use of the mooring. Visitor use mooring balls may only be used from sunrise to sunset as anchoring outside 1 nautical mile of the Garden Key Light between sunset and sunrise is prohibited and the moorings replace the act of anchoring. Vessels over 110 feet (33m) are prohibited from using the visitor use mooring balls as the moorings are not designed to hold larger vessels. Vessels must follow procedures for attaching to balls to not damage the system and cause failure. Vessels are prohibited from using the government mooring ball in Garden Key Harbor to assure access for park vessels and emergencies.
What restrictions apply to the use of Bush Key?
Bush Key is open as designated by the park superintendent when tern nesting season is complete. For safety reasons Bush Key is open from sunrise to sunset. To reduce damage to shallow marine areas and island vegetation, vessels may only access Bush key at the designated Garden Key dinghy beaches, visitors must stay below the vegetation line. Entering or exiting the water off the shore to swim, dive or snorkel is prohibited.
Determining Factor: Due the threat posed by lost fishing tackle (i.e. monofilament line, hooks, lead weights, etc.) in proximity to ecologically sensitive and protected areas, fishing from Bush Key is prohibited.
What restrictions apply to fishing?
Fishing off Government slips at Garden Key is prohibited to provide security and quick access to park vessels for emergencies and safety to visitors in an area where lines and equipment may be on the dock.
Fishing from the land bridge between Garden Key and the Bush Key sign on the harbor side only is permitted. To ensure safety and to avoid conflicting use, pedestrians have right of way over those engaged in fishing activities.
Fishing is permitted from the two easternmost visitor courtesy piers, provided that they are not occupied by a private vessel. In that case, fishing by the occupants of the boat is permissible.
Fishing from the main dock is allowed when the Yankee Freedom Ferry is not present.
Fishing from the dinghy beach immediately adjacent to and east of the main dock is allowed.
Fishing from the seaplane beach is allowed when the seaplane is not present.
What areas are closed to the public?
To protect government and personal property, all residential and administrative areas, as well as areas marked by barricades or signs are off-limits to the public.
Government slips and associated docks on Garden Key are closed to public access to provide security and quick access to park vessels for emergencies and safety to visitors in an area where lines and equipment may be on the dock.
The interior of the Fort is closed sunset to sunrise to protect residential quarters, government equipment, and historical resources. It also prohibits visitors from climbing on the walls and damaging resources or injuring themselves in the dark. The interior of the Fort, including stairwells, is unlit and the top of the Fort wall and the interior edges of the casemates have no safety rails.
Long Key is closed to public visitation at all times. Long Key is a year-round nesting rookery for the Magnificent Frigate Bird. Frigate Birds are sensitive to human activity and may leave the area if disturbed.
Bush Key is closed as designated for protection of the Sooty and Brown Noddy Terns during nesting season. This island is the site of the largest nesting colonies of these two species in the continental United States.
Hospital Key, Middle Key and East Key are closed to protect nesting birds and nesting sea turtles. The Masked Booby colony can change nesting locations yearly and is facilitated by closing these keys. East and Middle Keys have been identified as critical nesting beaches for sea turtles. All sea turtles are listed on the Endangered Species List.
The area designated as the “Shark Special Protection Zone” is closed to the public from June 1 through October 31. The area has been designated a “special protection zone” critical to nurse sharks during mating season.
Requiring Face Masks and Social Distancing:
In addition to physical distancing and hand washing, masks are a critical step to help prevent people from getting and spreading COVID-19. When you wear a mask, you protect others as well as yourself. COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets. Masks are a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from reaching others. Masks can prevent the spread of the disease even when the wearer is not sick. This is because several studies have found that people with COVID-19 who never develop symptoms (asymptomatic) and those who are not yet showing symptoms (presymptomatic) can still spread the virus to other people. Masks may not be necessary when you are outside by yourself away from others, or with other people who live in your household. It is especially important to wear a mask indoors with people you do not live with and when you are unable to stay at least 6 feet apart because COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another. Recommended masks include non-medical disposable masks, masks that fit properly (cover nose and mouth and fit snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face), masks made with breathable fabric (such as cotton), masks made with tightly woven fabric (i.e., fabrics that do not let light pass through when held up to a light source), masks with two or three layers, and masks with inner filter pockets. Novelty/non-protective masks, masks with ventilation valves, or face shields are not a substitute for the recommended masks
Coral Special Protection Zone
– The Coral Special Protection Zone (CSPZ) consists of a polygon for by narrow white cylindrical buoys at the following approximate coordinates:
Shark Special Protection Zone
||NAD83 17R 2724272, 310575 UTM
||NAD83 17R 2724347, 310194 UTM
||NAD83 17R 2724390, 310822 UTM
||NAD83 17R 2724450, 310927 UTM
||NAD83 17R 2724529, 311012 UTM
||NAD83 17R 2724960, 310486 UTM
||NAD83 17R 2724133, 311138 UTM
||NAD83 17R 2724134, 311067 UTM
||NAD83 17R 2724051, 310954 UTM
||NAD83 17R 2723996, 310883 UTM
– The Shark Special Protection Zone (SSPZ) consists of a polygon formed by the exposed portion of Long Key Reef to the southeast and the narrow white cylindrical buoys to the northwest at the approximate coordinates below. The Shark Special Protection Zone shares a contiguous boundary with the Coral Special Protection Zone (CSPZ).
Designated Area for Public Assemblies and Sale/Distribution of Printed Matter –
||NAD83 17R 2724695, 311191 UTM
||NAD83 17R 2724598, 311155 UTM
The area designated for public assemblies and the sale or distribution of printed matter is permitted in land area of Garden Key bounded on the east by the walkway to the public docks, the north by the moat wall, the west by the campground, and the south by the shoreline, which forms a polygon with the following coordinate points:
||NAD83 17R 2724971, 310395 UTM
||NAD83 17R 2724917, 310425 UTM
||NAD83 17R 2725012, 310459 UTM
||NAD83 17R 2724979, 310480 UTM