Las Vegas Sun

April 19, 2019

Currently: 72° — Complete forecast

What to expect at Southern Nevada parks during the federal shutdown

Color in Red Rock Canyon

L.E. Baskow

Color abounds within the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area on Tuesday, March 28, 2017.

A chilly January morning is the perfect time to hike Red Rock National Conservation Area. Enjoy fresh air, expansive views and … a trail littered with dog feces? This was the scene recently at Kraft Mountain Loop, a normally pristine spot.

Because of the federal shutdown, all non-essential Bureau of Land Management and National Park staff have been furloughed.

“With a skeleton crew, it’s difficult to manage all of that [trail maintenance],” said Red Rock Field Manager Catrina Williams.

Unlike in previous shutdowns, the parks haven’t locked their gates. According to a new release dated December 22 (the first day of the shutdown), Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument are both “accessible to public.” But they’re not open in the traditional sense. Emergency and rescue services are limited. There’s no trash collection, public information, janitorial services or maintenance during the shutdown. Campgrounds will not be maintained, but campers can remain unless things get too apocalyptic. “Please pack out what you pack in,” the new release requests, which is always a good idea.

Red Rock Canyon is faring better thanks to a mix of volunteers and outside partners. The Scenic Drive, visitors’ center and gift shop remain open. Fees are being collected at the gate, and there’s public safety patrols and law enforcement. Trash is collected, and toilets are cleaned.

“The whole community loves Red Rock,” Williams says of the volunteers. “Everybody makes sure to keep it the way it should be—in good condition.”

Williams asks that visitors “respect your public lands, clean up after yourself and be responsible.” She suggests arriving early to avoid crowds and to remember that cell service is spotty, so plan ahead for rideshare.

One entity that hasn’t been affected by the shutdown: Nevada State Parks. Check out Spring Mountain Ranch and Valley of Fire for some non-furloughed fun.