Thousands of Federal Campgrounds Will Close as Government Shuts Down

Thousands of Federal Campgrounds Will Close as Government Shuts Down

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Photo: Yellowstone National Park, closed during the 2013 shutdown. 

*****Update, 1/23/2018 10:08 AM CST*****

The shutdown has theoretically ended as the bill was passed by both houses of Congress on Monday and signed by the President, however, recreation.gov, the reservation website for most federal campgrounds, is still unavailable. 

*****Update, 1/22/2018 12:31 PM CST*****

The senate has passed a measure to end the shutdown, and the house is expected to pass the legislation this afternoon. Many Corps of Engineers parks were waiting on the senate vote to make a decision on closing. Others had already closed. If the shutdown ends today, most campgrounds will likely return to normal operation on Tuesday.

*****Update, 1/20/2018 12:40 AM CST*****

The department of the interior has released the official shutdown plans. National parks and their campgrounds will not be managed by park rangers except for limited security, but will remain open. Campers will not be asked to leave, but no guarantees will be made for reserved sites, and reservation staff will not be on hand. Trash, electricity, restrooms, and other concessions will not be available. Visitors centers will be closed. 

Quartzsite BLM LTVA camping areas will remain open during the shutdown, according to Quartzsite Town Manager Jim Ferguson. Park attendants will not be available, but security personnel will be working and trash will be handled. There’s still a question on the dump stations and fresh water.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts, which operates the lodges and concessions in Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, Mt. Rushmore, Rocky Mountain, Zion, Glacier (closed during the winter season), The Oasis at Death Valley and Grand Canyon Railway, has said that its facilities will remain open.

has received word from the U.S. National Park Service that the entrances and roads into the national parks managed by Xanterra will remain accessible if there is a partial government shut down.  This means that Xanterra’s lodges, restaurants, retail gift shops, concessions and services will be open for business as usual and welcoming guests and visitors from around the world.

Xanterra operates the lodges and concessions in:  Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, Mt. Rushmore, Rocky Mountain, Zion, Glacier (which is closed during the winter season).  This also includes The Oasis at Death Valley (national park) and Grand Canyon Railway (which runs from Williams, AZ to the South Rim of Grand Canyon).

We still expect that all US Forest Preserve and Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds — the vast majority of federal units — will be entirely closed to access. 

We will continue to monitor any changes and report here.

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The 115th United States Congress has failed to pass a continuing resolution to fund the federal government, which is now operating under a shutdown. Only essential employees are allowed to remain at work, which will result in the closing of thousands of campgrounds operated by the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, and other federal agencies.

A Department of Interior representative confirmed to NPR that campgrounds will close, but said the Trump administration intends to keep access to National Parks and Monuments open. According to the NPS contingency plan, last updated September 2017, those planning to visit campgrounds will be notified in order to make other arrangements and depart the park. The plan does not specify how and when notifications will occur. Contrary to the Interior representative, the plan also emphasizes that park roads leading in and out of the parks will be closed and access will be denied “wherever possible.”

Bureau of Land Management Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVAs) will also likely close as they did in 2013, which could affect thousands of full-time RVers. Other free BLM land will remain available to camp on.

In the 2013 shutdown, which lasted 16 days, some campgrounds were allowed to stay open, such as in Utah, where the state footed the bill for the federal employees to stay at work at the “big 5” national parks, but deals like that could take days to work out.

Many campgrounds in colder climates are closed for the winter, but campers in warmer climates may have a difficult time finding other accommodations as snowbirds (Northerners who camp in the South and Southwest for the winter) are filling state and private parks in one of the busiest winter seasons campgrounds have seen in many years.

Campers and employees aren’t the only ones who will feel the pinch, business associated with National Parks may be hit with a major reduction in customers until the federal government comes up with a bill to fund the government again.

Analysts say Republicans and Democrats were far from any compromise on Friday night. The House and Senate will return to negotiations on Saturday morning.

The longest federal government shutdown happened over the new year in 1995-1996 and lasted for 21 days.

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