RV vacations ruined as National Parks shut down

The budgeting mess and political wrangling in Congress over Obamacare has ruined the vacation plans of tens of thousands of RVers who had planned to camp in a national park this week.

The National Parks shut down is also hitting hard the bordering communities whose economic livelihood is closely tied to a steady stream of national park visitors.

us-national-park-service-closedAt midnight, all activities at the parks, except for necessary emergency services, were immediately suspended and the parks closed indefinitely. In addition camping on all Bureau of Land Management land has been halted and the National Parks Service had furloughed 21,000 employees of its nearly 24,675-strong workforce.

Essential services such as law enforcement will continue, but all public recreational use has been shut down.

Visitors currently camping or staying in a national park have been ordered to leave by Friday and all roads leading to the parks are being closed to public access. New visitors showing up will be turned away.

On Monday, the Department of Interior, which runs the parks service, released details on the closures, which effects all 401 national park areas including such popular destinations as Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Yosemite, Glacier, Acadia, the Great Smoky Mountains and the Rocky Mountain National Park.

RVers, who tend to be older without young children, find the parks particularly attractive to visit at this time of year because, with school in session across the country, the summer crowds are diminished and its easier to move about the parks.

This isn’t the first time there have been shutdowns because of Congressional funding disputes.  In the Clinton administration, the parks shut down for 28 days in late 1995  According to the Congressional Research Service, the the shutdowns cost the country $1.4 billion.

And there was massive public outrage.

“Once the shutdowns began, the reaction from people who wanted access to the parks was absolutely incredible,” Bruce Babbitt, who was U.S. Interior Secretary at the time, said in an interview Monday with environmental reporter Paul Rogers of the San Jose Mercury News.

Here are some excerpts from Rogers's story:

“The first call I got was from the governor of Wyoming, who was having a fit. He was saying ‘You have to open Yellowstone. This is an outrage. Do something!'”

The then-governor of Arizona, Fife Symington, sent National Guard troops to the Grand Canyon in an attempt to keep the park open, rather than risk losing tourism. Eventually, Arizona officials paid the National Park Service through state funds and donations to keep famous sites along the South Rim open.

“It's especially hard to turn away families who have planned vacations, and people have nonrefundable plane tickets,” said B.J. Griffin, who was Yosemite National Park superintendent in 1995. “For some people, this is their once-in-a-lifetime visit. Back in 1995, the anger and the anxiety was properly placed. Visitors knew it was Congress and not our rangers.”

How long this shutdown will last is unsure. Hopefully, this one will be shorter than the one n 1995.

Here is the official statement from the Department of the Interior:

“Effective immediately upon a lapse in appropriations, the National Park Service will take all necessary steps to close and secure national park facilities and grounds in order to suspend all activities except for those that are essential to respond to emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property. Day use visitors will be instructed to leave the park immediately as part of Phase 1 closures. Visitors utilizing overnight concession accommodations and campgrounds will be notified to make alternate arrangements and depart the park as part of Phase 2. Wherever possible, park roads will be closed and access will be denied. National and regional offices and support centers will be closed and secured, except where they are needed to support excepted personnel. These steps will be enacted as quickly as possible while still ensuring visitor and employee safety as well as the integrity of park resources.”

So that's the latest.

Again, let's hope this doesn't last long and those who were planing national park vacations can find suitable alternative places to camp.

I don't want to get political here on Roadtreking. The country is already polarized beyond anything I have ever seen in my 30 plus years as a journalist. Ad we have Roadtreking.com readers who hold very different views on the issues surrounding the shutdown.

So if you comment below, please don't bash anyone or engage in political wrangling. Let's stick to what we all agree on: It's a shame our national parks are closed.

And if you have suggestions for those out there looking for places to stay, by all means share it here.





  • Sandra

    With that said. A new adventure is in the making. Seeing the beauty and fun things to do outside our wonderful national parks. I for one, am anxious to hear of them from everyone out there. The “funny”, the “strange”, the “heartwarming” and the list goes on.
    We live in a wonderful country filled with amazing things.
    Thank you all for sharing.

  • Bob Swihart

    The state parks are still open and there are a lot of really nice ones. I hope that this will help out the state parks a little. Island Park outside of West Yellowstone is one I spend a bunch of time in. Hope everyone that is in the National Parks find a great alternative. Sure not a good way to celebrate the anniversary of Yosemite Park though. Best of luck to all that are traveling right now.

  • I agree that state parks/forests can be a great alternative. And sometimes they have better bath/shower facilities.

  • Campskunk

    i have solar panels and usually camp in dispersed camping, so having the national parks closed isn’t a big disadvantage. usually i do dispersed camping in national forests or on BLM land. they’re just dirt roads off the main highways going through the forest – pull off the highway, pick a spot, and settle in. no federal employees needed. of course, most national park visitors aren’t fulltime campers and require more infrastructure than i do, so the shut-down will be a major inconvenience for them.

  • Jim Pickett

    We just tried to get into the Yellowstone from West Yellowstone and it was closed. I can tell you the people here are very upset. The guy who ran the place where we had lunch said the next two weeks are usually very good and this shutdown will really hurt him. We’re going to backtrack and look for a state forest somewhere. There’s a huge RV park here but it’s for Class As and is not the kind of camping we enjoy. This is such a shame. We looked forward to visiting Yellowstone for months, only to get here and find the entry blocked off.

  • Judy

    I’m on a bus tour to Maine and Acadia was on our list to visit. Hope the shutdown gets settled FAST! Don’t know when/if I’ll ever make it back there again.

  • Rob

    Canada, here we come!

  • Ellie

    Today we planned to visit Eisenhower’s Library in Abilene, KS. Even though it’s not a National Park it is government run. So it was closed. Since we had time we discovered the delightful Swedish town of Lindsborg. We had lemonade.

  • Jeff

    I’m Canadian and am travelling home and thought I’d stop at Yellowstone. Arrived here and it is as a previous poster mentioned quite quiet. What struck me was the traffic yesterday at the gate with people getting out and taking pictures of the closed sign. The one thing that is not being mentioned by any source is the foreign tourists. I saw a number of buses yesterday of Asian tourists. I expect they paid big $ and planned a long time for the trip and now they are turned away – sympathize with them, and with others that have come a long way.

    Supposedly a early snow storm tonight and tomorrow, but no where else to go so staying put and enjoying the surroundings (sans Yellowstone park).

  • Davydd

    We left Bryce Canyon NP the day before the shutdown. We later discovered the national forests were shutdown as well in that they were gated closed or facilities weren’t maintained. So we stayed in state parks on our way home to Minnesota until we got to the Blackhills area. There we discovered Custer State Park also closed their campgrounds and just about every private campground was closed as well. We ended up in a Rapid City KOA that was scheduled to close October 15. We figured our leisurely trip home from Utah was cut short nearly a week because of the shutdown. Then again, it might have been a blessing. The day after we left the Blackhills they got 3-1/2 feet of snow. Had we lingered as planned we probably would have got caught in that.