Updated: National Parks Just Hours Away From Closing

Editor's note: This updates with decision from the National Park Service headquarters in Washington that the Blue Ridge Parkway would remain open, though facilities and campgrounds along it would be closed in the event of a government shutdown, adds comments from the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

With Congress at odds over whether to pass a Continuing Resolution to keep the federal government in business, National Park Service and concessions staff were preparing Monday for the possible closure of the National Park System.

Exactly what "closure" means, though, differs across the park system.

In general, under guidelines released last week by the Interior Department, day users in the parks would be told to immediately leave the parks, while those staying in campgrounds or lodges would have 48 hours to leave.

However, the Natchez Trace Parkway will remain open along its 444 miles between Natchez, Mississippi, and Nashville, Tennessee. But park visitor centers, campgrounds, and interpretive pullouts would be closed.

Additionally, the Blue Ridge Parkway between Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina would be remain open to traffic, though Parkway facilities, campgrounds and overlooks would be closed to traffic.

At Death Valley National Park in California and Nevada, California 190 would remain open across the park, as would the road to Scotty's Castle, as it's a through-road in the park. But most other roads and park facilities would be closed, said Abby Wines, the park's acting public information officer.

The Furnace Creek Ranch and Furnace Creek Inn both would remain open, as they sit on private property, as does the Panamint Springs Resort, she said. The facilities at Stovepipe Wells are owned by the Park Service, and so would be closed in the event of a government shutdown, said Ms. Wines.

At Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, while the main highway through the park -- U.S. 89/26/191 -- would remain open between the south entrance 4 miles north of Jackson and the east entrance 2 miles east of Moran Junction, all other park roads would be closed.

What was uncertain Monday, though, was the fate of any backcountry travelers in the parks.

"At this point in the season, we have limited backcountry use, so that's not expected to be a significant challenge," said Grand Teton spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles. She didn't know, however, whether rangers would head into the backcountry to escort out any permitted backcountry travelers.

Officials with the Appalachian National Scenic Trail could not immediately be reached to explain what they might do with thru-hikers on the trail. In Alaska, the farflung nature of the parks in that state made it impossible to shutter all the Park Service landscape, agency officials said.

"There’s a recognition, with millions of acres up there and more access points than we could count, that it’s not a hard closure," Park Service spokesman Mike Litterest said from the agency's Washington, D.C., headquarters.

On the National Mall in Washington, the various national memorials would be closed to visitors, he said, though access to the sprawling greenway would remain open.

National seashores, said Mr. Litterest, also would lower their gates across entry points.

Across the park system, law enforcement rangers were expected to remain on duty and patrol the roads. However, even that could be a challenge in parks such as Death Valley, where there are just nine law enforcement rangers for the park's 3.3 million acres.

Lodging concessionaires were watching the situation, but not ready to say how they would handle a shutdown that could require thousands of guests and concessions employees to leave the parks.

"We are still hopeful the situation will be resolved, and we are monitoring it closely. The national parks at which Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts operates remain fully open today," company spokesman Glen White told the Traveler in an email. "In the event of closures, we will provide more information regarding our plans."

Officials with the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees decried the possible government shutdown, condemning the "partisan politics currently risking a government shutdown, and jeopardizing the livelihood of nearly one million public servants, including thouands of National Park Service employees."

“The term 'non-essential' has been connected to National Park Service employees in many national news stories lately in the run-up to the government shutdown," said Coalition spokeswoman Joan Anzelmo. "Therefore, we want to take this opportunity to remind every American that if the potential shutdown occurs, it will require furloughing people who fight explosive wildfires, save lives in outdoor accidents, rescue injured climbers on mountain peaks, search for lost children, respond to terrorist threats, protect U.S. borders, and rush into places devastated by hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and floods to help their fellow man. NPS does this vital work and so much more day in and day out, year-round."

The closure of the park system would throw more than 21,000 employees out of work, and cost gateway communities as much as $30 million a day in lost revenues, according to estimates from the National Parks Conservation Association.

Across the country, a government shutdown would interrupt, if not cancel, vacations, and halt hunting in national preserves, while agencies like the Park Service would spend millions of dollars, collectively, to wind down and shutter operations.

"The exercise federal agencies must go through, first to gear up for a shutdown – and the costs to actually shut agencies and facilities down is estimated at more than one billion dollars," the retirees coalition said. "Then there is the gearing back up to restore the services and facilities to operational levels. This is a huge waste of taxpayer money and staff time."


Let's all remember this next time we vote.

I am still planning on vacation next week and hope congress gets their act together. I may have to do more in the area outside the park and change many of the activities( hikes, visitor centers,etc..). Dollywood just wasn't what I had in mind.

Yes Lee, it certainly is more important to have the Parks open 24/7 than it is to get the $2.5 trillon healthcare industry right.

Any tips on Smokey Mountains with out a National Park?

And don't say go to Canada where they have good parks and Universal healthcare.

According to several national polls out in the past day or so, the shutdown isn't the solution to this argument. Here's just one: "About seven in 10 Americans say that a government shutdown would be a bad thing for the country — and that number rises to about 80% who say so about a shutdown that lasts for more than a few weeks."

This story says, "In a CBS/New York Times poll last week, eight in 10 people said it would be unacceptable for Obama or lawmakers to threaten shutdowns during budget negotiations to achieve their goals. A Pew Research Center poll, also released last week, said the majority of people in the United States want lawmakers to be more willing to compromise.

And one more posted just an hour ago: "On the eve of a government shutdown, Americans disapprove of all players in Washington’s latest budget standoff in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, although they save particular ire for Republicans’ handling of the fight to fund the government beyond midnight. Barely one in four (26 percent) approve of congressional Republicans’ handling of budget negotiations, while 34 percent approve of their Democratic counterparts and 41 percent approve of Obama’s approach."

I was going to suggest the national forests - Pisgah and Nantahala are close and beautiful - but I am not sure of their status. No news on the FS website. Roan Mountain State Park in Tn is not too far. Maybe Grayson Highlands in VA if you are coming from that direction.

I'm supposed to be camping at Assateague this weekend. I am remaining hopeful...

Jim, those number don't surprise me a bit. The fact that 60% + of the population will have someone else paying for part or all of their healthcare is sure to produce numbers like that. Its bad for the country but those folks getting the feebies sure feel it is good.

Thanks Dahkota! I am hopeful it will be days and not weeks also.

Well, I hear the entire state of Maine is a beautiful place, so at least I'll have other photo ops if Acadia National Park is closed when I get there this Friday; I'll make sure to get a sad-faced self-portrait of me in front of the park sign.

And that brings to mind the conversation I had with my hairstylist just this past weekend. I told her where I would be traveling and that I was afraid the park there might be closed. Having *never ever* visited a national park in her entire life, she couldn't understand why the parks would close if all the rangers went away and what the big deal was about it all in the first place. I had to explain to her that parks require alot of care to keep on running, including maintaining trails, roads, outhouses, educational venues, and keeping people out of harms way from nature (and vice versa). I'm afraid that her attitude is not an isolated attitude, and many people (around me in my part of southeast Texas, anyway) will wonder why on earth it's such a big deal that our national parks would close up and the park employees furloughed. Aside from even trying to explain the difficult financial burden park employees will have to shoulder because of park closures, how does one explain the frustration about all of this to someone who has never visited the amazing natural wonders protected by our national park system and its stewards?

Rebecca Latson, I could not agree more. It is unfortunate that some have never been exposed to the wonders of the parks. I am sure that they will always hold a special place for me to visit. I am also planning the same picture in front of the Smokey Mountain Sign if the park is closed. Maybe I will send it to my Congressman with a note of disappointment.


Just to add to dahkota's fine list: Cherokee National Forest. Pretty spectacular and adjacent to SMNP.


Forest Service Plan doesn't mention public access, but it does use terms shutdown and close down several times throughout the document.


Cherokee looks like a great alternative for hiking. Thanks for the link

As a parent of three kids who were all forced into bankruptcy (one went through it twice) because it was impossible to find healthcare they could afford (even with the rest of the family trying to help) I do think it's very important to try to get healthcare done right. But petty political petulance isn't going to do it.

How many years were wasted by members of a party that fought tooth and nail against any attempts to change things? Why were they flatly opposed to even trying to find solutions that would help us?

As for others paying ----- right ---- that's exactly what our present (hopefully recently passed) system has forced upon us. Here is a plan that will bring your "personal responsibility" ideal into action if our Congressional idiots don't succeed in its destruction.

It's absolutely pathetic that our parks, monuments, and many other parts of American life are being held hostage by a greedy group of people who place greater value on profits for insurance companies than the health and financial security of our fellow citizens.

Congressional approval is said to be sitting at about 10% right now. That must be just about only their close family members.

But hey, most of us are just members of that hated 47%, aren't we?

As a parent of three kids who were all forced into bankruptcy (one went through it twice) because it was impossible to find healthcare they could afford

Gee, I have three kids none of which have gone through bankruptcy and none of which have had trouble getting insurance. I would say your kids problems had nothing to do with healthcare.

Here is a plan that will bring your "personal responsibility" ideal into action

How does Obamacare possibly do that. Having someone else pay for your unlimited healthcare is "personal responsibility"?

I assume that USFS land will remain open.

Actually, Indegent care at a hospital for someone without healthcare costs us all money when they go. Thus charging those of us with insurance more to cover those that do not. The new ACA forces those that do not have insurance to buy insurance or take the risk away from my policy. Subsidizing some will help those that need it to get at least a basic policy. Medical bankrupcy can affect us as well. Many bankrupcies are not concidered medical because they shifted it to credit card debt. This can lead to forclosures that can also affect my property value.

This wouldn't even be a topic on a NPS forum if the domestic terrorists of the right wing actually tried to help people and follow their oaths. Shutting down the government in a petulant way to appeal the very clear last election is not only nihilistic and childish, but downright malignant.

Now, if y'all will forgive me for my 'selfishness', I'm going to go pick up my NPS wife from work, where she is working late to get done as much as possible before she is forbidden to do her job.

She and thousands of others chose public service as a career path. Not to suck at the public trough, as is said, but because they believe in the mission of the NPS.

Selfish? How about the domestic terrorists in the right wing of Congress who will not only send the public employees like my wife home without a paycheck, but who will continue to collect their own unearned paychecks in the meantime!

It does seem funny that the highway will remain open in Smoky Mtn but the overlook would be closed. Seems like I ought to be able to pull over and take a picture.

Actually, Indegent care at a hospital for someone without healthcare costs us all money when they go.

Yes, but the "indegent" won't be paying under the new system. 60+% will be getting subsidized. Are 60% indegent or are most of them looking for a handout?

Selfish? How about the domestic terrorists in the right wing of Congress who will not only send the public employees like my wife home without a paycheck, but who will continue to collect their own unearned paychecks in the meantime!

Sorry Rick but your democratic friends are collecting the same paychecks.

Oh - and am still waiting for that "racist" documentation.

Do your own damn research, not that you really care. Start by doing a Google Image Search with the argument 'tea party racist' and read the signs at the rallys.

BTW, if we want to talk about big numbers. The total cost of the F35 project is expected to be $1.5 T over its life. There's plenty waste in Washington to go around. Shutting down the government because you lost at the polls sure doesn't seem like the way to go about fixing things though.

Well said, Zeb.

read the signs at the rallys.

Read the sign at the rallys???? Who is carrying that sign? You don't have a clue. Identify a single recognized leader of the "tea party" and show me where they are racist. The racist card is what you progressives pull out when ever you run out of legitimate arguments. Which is always.

Currently, 55% of those with health insurance get that insurance through their jobs. That insurance is subsidized by the government for both the insured and the companies that provide it, through tax credits.

The government is now trying to subsidize health insurance for people who don't have health insurance through their jobs, whose pay is not enough to provide health insurance, and/or who are unemployeed.

It seems some people have no problem with entitlements when it benefits them, but huge problems with entitlements that benefit others. Those same people also have no problem with subsidized housing (in the form of mortgage deductions) but have a problem with subsidized housing for poor people. They have no problem with subsidizing farmers not to farm but have problems paying for unemployment. As they see it, people are trying to take "their" money; they don't think they are taking money from others.

There is no way to fix that disconnect. They do not, nor will they ever admit that they receive entitlements. They believe entitlements are evil and are for poor and lazy people.


There are no "tax credits" for employer provided insurance. For the company it is a legitimate cost of business and is a deductions. For the employee the value is not taxed. You want to tax the value of the employer contributions - no problem. Similarly, even though I am a Realtor - I have no problem eliminating the mortage interest deduction as part of comprehensive tax reform. In my opinion taxes should be levied for the purposes of raising funds NOT for the purpose of influencing behavior.

The House has shown the willingness to fund the entire government and all it has asked for at the end is for the Congress to live under the same rules and for the personal mandate to be delayed in line with the Corporate mandate that has already been pushed out. The Democratically controlled Senate decided that Congress and Corporation are above the people. And the folks here want to blame the Republicans for the shut down.

The Republican-controlled Congress doesn't like a law that was passed, so instead of governing it has decided to shut down the government.

Justin, the Republican controlled Congress wanted to make two changes to the law. How many has Obama made unilaterrally?

Don't you think Congress should play by the same rules as the public?

Don't you think if the corporate mandate is delayed (by Obama) that the individual mandate should be delayed as well?

How many has Obama made unilaterrally?

How many?

Well lets see, there is the delay of the Corporate mandate , the Congressional exemption, hundreds of Corporate and union exemptions .....

Here is list of 19 changes from the Congressional Research Service


This President unconstitutionally picks and chooses what laws he wants to enforce and you have a hissy fit because the House wants to use the legislative process to put Congress and Corporations on par with the people? Laughable.

hissy fit

I'm off to have an adult conversation now. Maybe one that actually adresses your question about the number of laws Obama has unilaterally made.

The question was changes he has made not laws he made. He just ignores the laws.

BTW Justin - you haven't answered.

1) Do you think Congress should play by the same rules as the public on healthcare?

2) Do you not think if the Corporate mandate is delayed it is only fair that the individual mandate should be as well?

Ok, another thread that's met its demise.