National Park Closures Sadden & Irritate Visitors

As regular readers are already aware (see related article here), I have just completed a rather major road trip covering more than 5,000 of the Northwestern, Western, and Southwestern United States.  Traveling in my trusty RoadTrek my travel plans included many stops for photography and hiking in some of the most awesome National Parks in the country.  I got off to a pretty good start and saw some great park country. But in mid-trip the good old political folks in D.C. did there thing (or should I say – didn’t do their thing?) and decided to not decide things they should be able to decide – things they were elected to decide and are paid to decide.   One of the unfortunate results of this Washington fiasco was the closing of of all the national parks in the United States.  This was, of course, upsetting to me and my plans.  But I was not alone.  There were lots of other travelers with plans to visit our glorious National Parks – and they were none to pleased either.


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Yosemite National Park Glacier Point View

My first National Park stop was Yosemite.  I was there when it was still open.  And fortunately the fires from earlier in the year were not really evident.  Skies were clear, no smoke – and sites were open and doing a brisk business of inspiring visitors.  A wonderful area to explore.


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Sunset On The North Rim – Grand Canyon

My second National Park stop was at the Grand Canyon.  I had previously visited the South Rim.  On this visit I explored the North Rim.  Not as congested, more laid back, and totally awe inspiring!


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Bryce Canyon National Park

For my third National Park visit I headed to Bryce Canyon.  As I entered the park, the  park ranger politely informed me that I could certainly stay for one night, but that if the government financial situation didn’t change the park would be closed effective the following day and I, as well as all other visitors would have to leave.  Well, as we all know – the government “shut down” and the parks closed.  I did get to spend two days at Bryce because everyone had to leave by sundown the day of closure.

From that point on plans changed – no other national parks were open.  I encountered signs that looked like this one at the entrance to Canyonlands National Park.

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I also encountered lots and lots of other travelers who had planned to visit the national parks.  They came from all over the world – I met visitors from countries around the world including Japan, Germany, Switzerland, France, and Sweden to name a few.  Of course they had planned their travels well in advance and had spent considerable money to make the trip.  And when they arrive they are greeted with – “So sorry – we are closed.”  They were sad – they were upset – they were confused. They didn’t understand.  They asked me.  I didn’t understand either.

I have had various disappointments in my travels.  In some ways that’s part of the adventure of travel.  I’ve learned to be flexible when I bump into problems.  I’ve encountered the hassles of baggage handler and transportation workers strikes.  I’ve been limited in where I might safely go due to political demonstrations. Sometimes armed guards said I couldn’t enter for various reasons.   But honestly, I’ve always viewed those hassles as being something of a “third world” type of experience.  But now, right here in the good old U. S. of A.  the government is “shut down” and all these wonderful foreign visitors are scratching their heads trying to figure out what happened and what they are going to do.  This is not the way to make a good impression on the world.

Perhaps one of the saddest facets to the National Park closures is the fact that it really makes no sense.  Closing the parks can’t be saving anyone any money.  It just eliminates a major source of income for the parks during peak season.  And not just for the parks themselves but for the surrounding communities. The parks loose money, the people who work in the parks loose money, the people who provide services in the nearby communities loose money.  And why?  Well – just so that some political types can make a point is how it seems to me.  One political party even offered to at least keep the parks open and operating while they worked on other issues but of course the “other” party said no to that (I’m trying to not take sides here – but you can look that up.)  Some states offered to pay the tab to keep their parks open.  The government said no to that.  (Apparently this is now being reconsidered – but no final word yet.)  So it’s a mess – and of course it is only a part of an even bigger mess.

I got home from my road trip a bit earlier than expected.  I had planned to spend considerable time, energy, and perhaps a bit of money at Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. They were closed and I didn’t visit.  Fortunately for me, I will likely be able to return at some later date without too much difficulty.  But for those visitors from around the world – well, they missed the opportunity to witness some of truly beautiful parts of the American Landscape. Instead, they got to experience some of the more unfortunate aspects of the American Political System.

I will be writing more in the future about my road trip.  It was great – in spite of the “shut down.”  So be sure to return.  But I just felt a need to rant a bit and share the impact of this shut down on visitors to our National Parks. I’d love to hear from you and how this shut down has impacted you – so feel free share your comments.

Unpredictability of Travel …….. Enjoy The Adventure!

Dr.B, The PhotoTrekker

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© 2013, Bruce W Bean, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

Photographing and wandering the world - close to home and far away. Enjoying life's adventure.
Bruce W Bean, Ph.D