Mooring Balls in Place For Dry Tortugas National Park Boaters

Snorkeling and scuba diving are great in the waters of Dry Tortugas National Park. Just remember, though, that you need a permit to bring your boat into the park's Research Natural Area for those activities and must moor it at one of the six balls the park has set out. NPS photo.

Boaters heading to Dry Tortugas National Park for snorkeling, scuba diving, or fishing will be able to tie-up at mooring balls park crews have placed within the Research Natural Area of the park.

The natural area covers 46 square miles and complements the Tortugas Ecological Reserve, which covers 151 square nautical miles. While the ecological reserve is in deeper water, the natural reserve is more shallow and valuable as a nursery grounds for many fish species. It is hoped that if these nurseries prove to be more productive, the benefits could one day be felt as far away as the Florida Keys.

All visitors wanting to take vessels into the Research Natural Area (RNA) must have a permit and use one of the six mooring balls located in this area. Vessels are limited to 2 hours at a time on a mooring buoy. Vessels are no longer allowed to anchor within the area marked as the Research Natural Area, park officails say.

Those officials also remind boaters that permits are required for all vessels in the park, including the RNA. Boating permits apply to all recreational vessels, including kayaks and dinghies, vessels operating under a Commercial Use Authorization (CUA), and commercial fishing vessels. The only vessels exempt from this rule are those transiting the area without interruption.

Vessels hoping to spend the night are only allowed to anchor on sandy bottom within one nautical mile of the Garden Key Harbor Light. Within the RNA, vessels may use one of the six recreational mooring buoys for day use only.

Mooring Buoy Locations and Approved Activities:

RNAMB1/Windjammer: N24° 37.461 W82° 56.564

Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, Swimming, Research, and Educational Diving, Snorkeling, Swimming, Research, Education

RNAMB3:/Davis Rock N24° 41.208 W82° 54.450

Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, Swimming, Research, Education

RNAMB4/Texas Rock: N24° 40.814 W82° 53.120

Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, Swimming, Research, Education

RNAB5 (Off Ramp) N24°40.166 W082°54.510

Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, Swimming, Research, Education

LMBSE (Loggerhead SE) N24°37.832 W082°55.188

Use for access to Loggerhead Key, Visit Historic Structures, Swimming, Research, Education

MBSW (Loggerhead SW) N24°37.802 W082°55.542

Use for access to Loggerhead Key. Visit Historic Structures, Snorkeling, Swimming, Research, Education

Boating Permits are free and can be obtained: in person or on the water.

In Person: A visitor can obtain a permit in person at the Garden Key Visitor Center or Park Headquarters Office. Visitors will also receive information regarding the Research Natural Area as well as park rules and regulations

On the Water: Patrol rangers, while contacting vessels in the park, will check for the Boating Permit. If a vessel does not have a permit, a ranger will fill one out and issue it on the spot. The ranger will direct the visitor to the sources available to obtain future permits. To contact a park ranger in person on Garden Key, use Marine VHF 16 or call 305-224-4255.