Recent comments

  • Visitation to National Parks Is On the Upswing, Entrance-Fee-Free Weekends Partly to Blame   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Also providing fee-free weekends is not an implicit admission that some parks are unaffordable (note that some are free all the time), just like coupons are not an admission by a store that their products are unaffordable. Rather, the idea is that they give you a discount on one thing to get you in the store and spend more money while you're there. Now this analogy is not perfect. For one thing, I'm not exactly sure what the purpose is behind fee-free weekends. Maybe it's supposed to boost visitation, but if that's the case the question (as raised by this article) is if or why you would want to boost visitation. Is it just the federal government is feeling generous and wants to give people something to do? I doubt it. There may have been the thought that while fees are free people will spend money at the parks and they will make up losses that way. I don't know what it is, but I bet there was some thought behind this. Another thing it may be is a way to boost the local economies near the parks, get people traveling and spending $, etc... If so this may accomplish this but of course NPS bears the burden.

  • Visitation to National Parks Is On the Upswing, Entrance-Fee-Free Weekends Partly to Blame   5 years 38 weeks ago


    To find stats AND a document for each park describing how each park records visitation (they very a lot), you can go here: although it is down right now as I type this.

    Every park has its own method of recording stats. Doing so of course is very easy for some parks but much more challenging for others, not to mention the question of what constitutes a visit. For my own state's park, Apostle Islands (which you mention), I noticed some monitoring is done with electronic counters, but if you read the logs, you'll often see something like "On [DATE], it was discovered that the batteries in the counter at [X Location] were dead, so we went back and estimated visitation based on..." So it can be a very inexact science, to say the least.

    In any case, I've previously theorized that higher visitation was either by locals, or attributable to misapprehending how cheap it normally is to visit these places. Either way, I do wonder if after a surge like this there would be a sort of "been there, done that" drop off effect after which visitation may level off. I'm not sure. Will people keep coming back again and again? If the upswing continues, will it continue even with fees? So would an upswing in visitation be good if it means more fees are collected? Some people of course breeze through, while others "use" the parks more heavily. All pay the same fee. Would it be better to have a per-day fee instead of a weekly fee I wonder?

  • Jon Jarvis Nomination As Next Director of National Park Service Imminent   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Great News - I hope Jon will keep the Boston Office open to serve the National Parks of the Northeast.

  • Errant Boater Hits Bridge, Forcing Closure of a Section of the Colonial Parkway   5 years 38 weeks ago

    It would be very appropriate if a drunken motorist crashes into that guy's house.

  • Ancient Mammal Footprints Excite Paleontologists at Dinosaur National Monument   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Thanks, Dan. This is fascinating stuff. Sounds like you'll need several lifetimes to get the Glen Canyon Group facts sorted out. Will you at some point be seeking volunteer workers for this project?

  • Possible Wolf Spotted in Rocky Mountain National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago

    This time of year wolves tend to be pretty ragged looking. Wolves are very opportunistic animals able to adapt to a wide range of prey, which can be their downfall when it includes domestic stock. Based on personal experience, an encounter with a wolf is more likely during the summer months. It may be the relative abundance of life and natural sounds that mask the presence of humans or the fact that they are simply more relaxed during the warm season. A close up with a wolf is memory that stays with you.

  • Ancient Mammal Footprints Excite Paleontologists at Dinosaur National Monument   5 years 38 weeks ago

    The Glen Canyon Group, also known as the Navajo Sandstone or Nugget Sandstone, has traditionally been considered a poor place to look for fossils. Well it is, but just not as poor as some have thought. Over the last 5 years Spencer Lucas and George Ogier have documented in the Moab area extensive horizons with vertebrate and invertebrate burrows that extend for kilometers. Judy Parrish and her students have published on tree trunks up to 2 feet in diameter preserved upright in the Navajo, indicating that permanent bodies of water must have been present at least locally for long periods of time. In our work in Dinosaur and its environs we have found colonial insect nests and vertebrate burrows, abundant dinosaur footprints, and spring mounds where carbonate rich waters came out of the ground. At the mounds we have several different kinds of freshwater snails, the first reported from these desert deposits. What their biology was remains to be figured out. We even have some very interesting dinosaur skeletal remains. Still, doing paleontological work in the Glen Canyon requires a dedication to walk out all the outcrop and check every nook and cranny, because some of these sites are fairly small and can easily be overlooked. The Glen Canyon was a nasty place to live in overall, but oasis-like deposits were more common than previously thought. One just has to find them. Now that we know that primitive mammals were at least locally common in our study area, we only have to find the horizon where all those little furballs are fossilized inside their burrows.

    And I am the one on the right in the NPS green and gray.

  • Body, Presumed To Be That Of Missing Backpacker, Found in Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Considering where he was hiking, the Deer Creek drainage, I am certain this individual knew the risks and was an experienced canyon hiker even to attempt it - just getting to the trail head is an adventure - it is not one of the corridor trails. Having hiked the area several times, I am sure he was experienced and familiar and was an unfortunate victim of some accident - not like the out of shape yahoos that try to hike a corridor trail to the river and back in August with a pair Vans and a bottle of Evian. It is the part of the park services job to recover bodies. The staff involved in the search would have been doing something else if they were not looking for this hiker, so to say that it cost a million dollars is not accurate - they didn't hire on 200 search and rescue workers just to look for this unfortunate sole. Probably the only additional cost was likely the helicopter transport and a body bag. My intent was not to be callous, I am sure Bryce died doing what he loved most in one of the most amazing and remote wildernesses on the planet. In some respects, we should all be so lucky when our time comes.

  • Comment Now: Yosemite National Park, Merced WSR Draft Outstandingly Remarkable Values Report   5 years 38 weeks ago

    There seems to be a never-ending dispute re for whom our National Parks exist, visitors or flora and fauna. I think they are there to preserve in as pristine a condition ancient sites for viewing by as many visitors as possible within guidelines. I'd like to see these paying guests required to undergo a formal introduction to each park and sign a form stating that they understood the orientation's safety, courtesy, and environmental protocols and the reasons for them.

    If that seems extreme... In 1950, when I was still seven years old, I was fortunate to visit the wonder that was Yosemite. We stayed in large, square wood-framed tents, much like those in MASH, except that they were white--anyway, they seemed spacious to me at that age. We returned in 1960 to find cabins for rent occupying the landscape, together with parking lots, and people swarming all around. I never want to go back.

    When my girls were young, our favorite spring break destination was the Fort Pickens National Park on Santa Rosa Island, off Pensacola, FL. It was quiet, safe, clean, and blessed with spacious campsite. We returned in 1999, for nostalgia's sake, for an overnight visit on the way to Miami to catch a flight to Panama so they could see where I'm from. That's another place I won't be revisiting. It was littered, as can only happen when too many insensitive "guests" are cramped together so that you are virtually sharing your meals and conversations with your neighbors. The feeling of being IN nature and history, as with Yosemite, was gone, as was that of being safe as the clientelle seemed to have devolved as much as the park itself.

    When I finally got to Mesa Verde and revisited the Grand Canyon a few years ago, I was horrified how masses of visitors had impacted these sites. I think the park service does a disservice by allowing commercial intrusions AT ALL and by not limiting access to these parks, although they do off special permits for experienced backpackers and scientists to traverse particularly pristine and sensitive areas. Wanna go to a national park???? Plan ahead...years ahead. Everybody could get to their park(s) of choice and experience them as they have been (or were) for centuries, and learn a thing or two about the value of conservation and what human "progress" has spawned.

  • Ancient Mammal Footprints Excite Paleontologists at Dinosaur National Monument   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Thank you very kindly, Dr. Chure. (Man, when you invite somebody "in the know" to chime in, you never know what you're going to get!) Since you are one of the scientists who found this amazing site, is there any other personal observation that you'd like to make? And BTW, which one of the guys in the top photo is you?

  • Ancient Mammal Footprints Excite Paleontologists at Dinosaur National Monument   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Good question about the claw marks. The mammal tracks we found were made in dune sand which does not often preserve such fine features as toes, much less claw marks. While claws were undoubtedly present in the trackmaker the dry sand of the dune would have collapsed and filled them in. Other kinds of sediments, such as wet mud along a lake, pond, or stream margin would be a much better medium for preserving claw marks.

    If you hike in the morning in an area where there are sand dunes or flats, look at the sand and you will see the tracks of rodents about the same size as the ones we found in Dinosaur. The fine details are usually vague or missing. Compare that to tracks along a river shoreline and notice the difference.

  • Possible Wolf Spotted in Rocky Mountain National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago

    My husband I saw 2 wolves behind one of the visitor's centers in the alphine area a few days ago. One was white and the other was very light colored. We watched them through binoculars as they went up the side of the mountain.

  • Body, Presumed To Be That Of Missing Backpacker, Found in Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago

    As a former hiking guide in GCNP, I would guess that he died of dehydration and/or heat exhaustion (purely conjecture on my part). All too often people head off into the canyon on solo hikes and lose their way. In the summer it's only a matter of hours before the situation becomes life-threatening as water is scarce in the park and canyon temperatures soar into triple digits. And no, there's really no way for the park service to monitor all of the trailheads to ensure preparedness.

    On a personal note, I graduated from NAU in 2007 and worked at the Learning Assistance Centers where Mr. Gillies was employed. I also grew up about 5 miles from McLean, VA, where he resided. As one who has hiked off into the canyon by himself several times, I can't help but think that it easily could have been me. While I don't still do that (not in AZ, anyway), I hope that others can learn from his mistake(s). If you absolutely must go hiking by yourself, plan your route well and let someone know your itinerary.

  • National Park Quiz 59: Only   5 years 38 weeks ago

    You are quite right, Moi. Nice catch. The clarification didn't change the question's answer (which is still William Howard Taft), but I edited the answer explanation to remove the erroneous statement that you caught.

  • National Park Quiz 59: Only   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Re #8: as I recall, Lyndon Johnson was Speaker of the House before becoming President. I think that constitutes the "highest position" in the Legislative branch, no?

  • “Uncle Bob,” Said Brian, “I Would Really, Really Like to See Fort Sumter”   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Yes, Kirby, quite a downer. But hey, it was a long time ago. To clarify the boat tour information: Fort Sumter Tours, an authorized National Park Service concessioner, provides the only commercial boat transportation to Fort Sumter. There are two ticket offices – that is, two places where you can buy tickets and get on the boat. One is Liberty Square at Aquarium Wharf (behind the big American flag) at 340 Concord Street on the Charleston waterfront. The other is the Patriots Point Maritime Museum, which is across the harbor on Sullivans Island (in Mt. Pleasant, not Charleston). For more information, can call 843-722-2628 or 1-800-789-3678, or visit the Fort Sumter Tours website.

  • Update: Search Under Way For One Overdue Hiker at Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago

    They found his body about a half mile from the Colorado River near Bonita Creek.

  • “Uncle Bob,” Said Brian, “I Would Really, Really Like to See Fort Sumter”   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Well, that was a downer.

    On a happier note, anyone with even a shred of interest in the Civil War or American history should visit the museum in Charleston that serves as the ticket station for the boat trips. As I recall, it was free admission. Very well done displays, including the famous flag, I believe. And the back porch of the museum overlooks the harbor

  • Are Our National Parks No Longer for the People?   5 years 38 weeks ago

    John Lison--

    Thanks for your insightful comments. I will be returning to Yellowstone next week to serve as a volunteer in the Ranger Museum at Norris Jct.. I too find the vast majority of visitors to be inquisitive and respectful of their parks. And, the ranger staff--both protection and interpretation--that I have come in contact with as a volunteer are corteous, friendly, and helpful. I felt the same way during my career as an NPS employee. There are boneheads as visitors and as employees. But they are a miniscule minority.

    Rick Smith

  • Body, Presumed To Be That Of Missing Backpacker, Found in Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago

    I have a hard time finding anything in your comment that has anything to do with what i said. i DO NOT want to take away anybodys freedoms. i just don't want to pay for foolish actions of others. if you don't agree with that,fine. write nps a check. you are talking about taking away my freedom to keep my money and not have it wasted.

  • Body, Presumed To Be That Of Missing Backpacker, Found in Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago

    My condolances to his family. This is the very reason that back country permits are required. It also is a reason that you should never hike in the back country alone. One of the problems with this country is that no one seems to be responsible for their own actions. If you disobey the rules and no not use common sense, then you are responsible- no one else, period. We cannot expect NPS to be responsible for everything. They make reasonable rules, many that I personally disagree with, for the safety of citizens and long term benefit of our national lands. The bottom line is that you are still responsible to obey the rules and use common sense.

  • Body, Presumed To Be That Of Missing Backpacker, Found in Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago


    If you smoke in bed and set fire to your house do the firemen have the right to not put out the fire because you were careless? Should we have groups of firemen knocking on doors whenever they want to see if you’re smoking in bed? The tax dollars collected from me and not used to put out any fires at my house should be returned?

    You’re talking about taking away freedoms in an era of government intervention into everything, doesn’t work, neither does the pay for rescue idea, those costs have already been paid for by tax dollars.

    Just imagine going to a park and being told you look to stupid to hike and it would be too expensive to rescue you if you do.

  • Are Our National Parks No Longer for the People?   5 years 38 weeks ago

    John Lison

    I'm an NPS volunteer, working my third summer tour of duty in my third year since retiring from active employment. I have always loved the National Parks and visited whenever I could over the past 50+ years. Now , I generally spend 21 weeks a year as a VIP ( a volunteer in the Parks). I've worked a different Park for each of my three years as a volunteer and hope to work many more until old age renders me unable to continue to do so.

    Many of the above posters either are unaware or have ignored the DUAL mission under which the NPS administers the National Treasures known as the National Park System. The Organic Service Act of the NPS requires the NPS " to promote and regulate the use of the .....national parks... which purpose is to conserve the scenery and natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein AND to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

    Thus a difficult and often controversial balance is required of the NPS. Certainly there are many different views as people generally see the world differently but my opinion from the front line, is that the NPS does an excellent job of walking what is very difficult line to determine. The Interpretive side of the NPS ( the part of the Service which deals with visitors and of which I am a part) works very hard to assure that the public enjoys every opportunity to experience and enjoy the Parks. The Law Enforcement side works very hard to assure that our visitors , while enjoying the Parks, follow the rules to assure that our Grandchildren's grandchildren are also able to enjoy the Parks as we are able to do.

    It may interest those who bemoan staffing levels within the Parks to note that there are 139,000 of us volunteers who go out and actually work along side the 20,000 paid employees of the NPS. I have no idea how many visitors I've interacted with over the past several years but firmly believe that 99% of the visitors to the Parks are wonderful but the other 1% occupies most of the discussion. Just as there are some less than enthusiatic NPS personnel , there are some real bonehead visitors. However, I don't find those to be among our foreign visitors but rather among some folks that wouldn't be happy about what the NPS did whatever it decided to do. As some may know , the NPS polls the public each year, unit by unit, and uses the results to improve upon direction and execution of its mission. Those poll results indicate a very high level of customer satisfaction.

  • State of Wyoming Heads Back to Court To Argue Higher Snowmobile Numbers in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Bearguy, Thank you for your insightful statement. Parks are special.

  • Body, Presumed To Be That Of Missing Backpacker, Found in Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 38 weeks ago

    Common sense would be a good thing for anybody to take, in short supply these days. i understand some people might not agree with me, but at some point you need to be responsible for your own actions. after thinking this over i would post signs at all trailheads saying if you do not have a permit or have not notified nps of your plans, we will not look for you.