It appears that the looming threat of a Government Shutdown is approaching this Friday. As I have written previously, this is not the first time that the National Park Service has faced such political decisions. In 1995 and 1996 there were shutdowns of as many as 27 days.
But how does this affect people planning trips to National Parks during a shutdown period?
Individual Parks vary as to access and facilities available to visitors. Smaller Parks that have gated roads may be closed completely to the public. Most certainly any facilities such as visitor centers, historic buildings, monuments, and most importantly bathrooms will be closed in most areas. Picnic areas, campgrounds, boat launches, and some parking areas may also be closed.
Most employees in the Parks will be sent home. Only those deemed as essential for public health and safety will be on duty. The number of these employees actually in the Parks has also been greatly reduced in the past to keep spending down during these periods.
Another impact to the visitor that is often overlooked is that response times to emergencies such as lost persons, vehicle accidents, twisted ankles, fires, and such many be greatly increased. During the shutdown in 1996 there were at least two days that I was the only Park Ranger on duty for 218 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
So here are some tips to keep in mind if you visit a National Park Service Area during a Government Shutdown:
Be even more cautious of your personal safety than normal. Remember that help in any form may be delayed even beyond the normally lengthy responses in National Parks.
Bring extra food and water since facilities may be closed.
Do not come with your normal expectations of services or information available in the Park. Get maps before your visit.
Be aware that you most likely will not find any open restrooms. That is famously the most frequent first question visitors ask in any park.
Call ahead or check park websites before the shutdown occurs to find out what the affects of such actions will have on the area you are visiting. You can find individual Park web sites by going:
If you unhappy with the circumstances and how a shutdown impacts you or your family, then write to your Congressional Representatives to let them know how you feel.