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Fort Pickens Evacuation – What to do

Anyone who has spent time at Fort Pickens and other locations along the Gulf Island National Seashore can appreciate the beauty and fragility of the Fort and island during inclement weather throughout the year. For any RV travelers or tent campers visiting Fort Pickens Campground, this post will “plant a seed” to always have a backup plan in case inclement weather impacts Fort Pickens and when the Gulf Island National Seashore triggers a Fort Pickens evacuation.

Fort Pickens Campground Closures

Fort Pickens entrance Bob Pudlock

At places like Davis Bayou and Fort Pickens Campground, how can RV campers, tent campers and visitors prepare for the unfortunate times when severe weather conditions threaten the safety of guests, campers, employees and the islands themselves?

A perfect example of the fragile nature of Fort Pickens and campers having to have a backup plan occurred in December of 2022.

A severe cold snap wreaked havoc across the entire US.  On Pensacola Beach, the Gulf Island National Seashore and the greater Panhandle coast experienced high winds and sustained freezing temperatures.

At Fort Pickens Campground, the campgrounds were not evacuated but sewer dumps and some public restroom facilities were closed.

Later the following week, another storm came through, this time with high winds, heavy rain and dangerous surf conditions.

Because of Fort Pickens precarious location between the Pensacola Bay and the Gulf, with a single two-lane road traversing the western part of the island, this leaves the campground, the Fort Pickens site, fishing area and cabins vulnerable.

The National Park Service notified all campground guests as soon as they became aware of the triple threat conditions(high wind, high surf, heavy rain) of a mandatory evacuation within 36-48 hours.

That gave all guests time to make other arrangements.

So what happens to your reservations and what kind of backup plans do you put in place?

What to do when Fort Pickens has a mandatory evacuation

When Fort Pickens campground has a mandatory evacuation, guests with an existing reservation can contact recreation.gov directory to begin the refund request process.

If you have upcoming reservations that fall inside the evacuation time window, then you can modify or cancel your upcoming reservations outright by calling reservation.gov or cancel/modify your reservation.

Fort Pickens and Gulf Island National Seashore staff do not facilitate or administer the refunds directly with guests – they approve or deny any requests that are sent to them by recreation.gov, their reservation partner.

Nearby campgrounds

For those that have to evacuate, there are other local rv campgrounds that you can contact to see if they have openings.

Drifters RV Park

Bear Lake

Blackwater River State Park

Blackwater River State Forest – Bear Lake

Blackwater River State Forest – Hurricane Lake

Blackwater River State Forest – Kuhl Lake North

Blackwater River State Forest – Kuhl Lake South

Pensacola RV Park

Pensacola Beach RV Park

Grayton Beach State Park

Henderson Beach State Park

Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park

Topsail Preserve State Park

Big Lagoon State Park

KOA Pensacola 

Fort Pickens entrance courtesy Getty Images

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