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Old 06-01-2016, 08:40 PM   #29
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It is the end of May and today the line to get in the South Entrance of Yellowstone National Park stretched a mile and took about an hour to get through. In my 8 summers here, I've never seen anything like it. Last year we had over four million visitors and July was rugged -- lines for everything, short tempers, power outages...

We have more programs this year with the same staff so I am not looking forward to the heart of the season.

If you have Yellowstone on your bucket list this year, try to get here before mid-June or after mid-August.

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Old 06-01-2016, 09:16 PM   #30
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...and it's clear we're not going to agree on the topic of needed budget dollars for the Dept of Interior in general and the National Park Service in particular.

Regardless, the heavily visited areas of our national parks are in tough shape and aren't getting better. (There are plenty of articles saying the NPS maintenance backlog is roughly $12 billion.)

So, I'm hoping the NPS doesn't find it necessary to cap daily visitor counts and/or shut down public areas altogether to keep people safe from collapsing roads, bridges and/or buildings. We'd like to visit a few this year.

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Old 06-01-2016, 09:26 PM   #31
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With all due respect to Ray, the situation regarding Wilderness areas is almost as bad. You need an act of Congress to send in a chopper to airlift the trash out of wilderness areas that are over run with people that are clueless.
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Old 06-01-2016, 10:24 PM   #32
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Everyone has some great comments - and some that are based on some things that can't begin to discuss the issue in a few short paragraphs, much less a half-dozen sentences in a post. Crowding is often subjective. Old Faithful doesn't have the same numbers around the boardwalk at sunrise or sunset as at 2pm in the afternoon. An early morning hike in the Valley (Yosemite) at dawn is magical - and mostly all you'll see are those who are walking to their jobs; most visitors are still in bed.

But the crowding issue is, of course, real. But for contrast, the crowds in the 1-mile wide by 7-mile long Yosemite Valley are not the same in the rest of that half-million acre park.

One challenge is to get people to understand there is a lot of park out there (in them all) but the crowds are around Old Faithful, Clingman Dome, Logan Pass or Yosemite Valley, the South Rim and similar key points in other parks.

Yosemite for instance: rather than focus more on the Valley there could be more pull-outs and short hikes on any of the four entrances into the park that would "dampen" the traffic coming into Yosemite from all directions. That's one way many parks do it. Great Smokies for example with it's waysides and turn-outs with short, 5-minute hikes to some feature give people an opportunity to do more than head straight for Cades Cove. But - "development" of more visitor facilities, even a simple parking area, is fraught with controversy and conflict as well.

Yellowstone is a nightmare on the roads at times - but for those of us who have been there are ways make a difference there as well. There are great campgrounds in different areas of the park but the only place where there are hook-ups and reservations is smack-dab in the Park's center - Lake (Fishing Bridge). So, the biggest rigs who need to have umbilical cords to camp have to drive the park roads into the center of the park - both coming in and leaving. If there were opportunities to only camp with hook-ups on the Park's periphery, it could make a huge difference in the big-rigs that now are simply trying to get to their campsite. What if your entrance fee was by the foot (as in length)? What if you got a 10% discount before 8am? That might work better than a "cap." After all, it will cost money and people to "meter" visitors in and out and then, what about the visitor who is next in line as the gate drops. "Sorry, try again tomorrow" will just turn Rangers into villains. Reservations? Maybe in some manner but just as there are campgrounds that can be reserved, there have to be others for the people who arrive, clue-less.

And, many people who advocate a cap, or lotteries or restrictions would think twice if that means that because they'd been there in the past (fill-in-the-blank) years they couldn't get in until some future date. And, I'm sure someone will post that they'd be willing to do that... But, the point is that a lottery ("chance") could chose on the first selection someone who had been many times and the person who has never been there could get aced out again, and again.

While the issue is a big one, it is complex. And I would submit there are no magic or silver bullet answers. One size won't fit all and the Parks are too special to price them away from the people or lock them out... and besides, the NPS mission (as stated in an earlier post) is "...conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life 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." NPS employees discuss and ruminate on the meaning of this two-pronged mandate by Congress all the time. Every decision is measured against it because the mission is to "conserve" those values on the one hand while at the same time "providing" for their enjoyment... but not providing present enjoyment in a manner that aces out future generations to experience them.

Considering the first national expression of the idea of setting aside vast amounts of spectacular public land for the public was in 1864 in Yosemite, and then 8 years later in Yellowstone as a "public park" the ideas for management have evolved. And, when 100 years ago Congress established the National Park Service to "care for" these special places that are so special to so many, we shouldn't be surprised that everyone has an idea of how best to keep them going for the next hundred years. (That's a good thing!)

This year is the focus (the 100th anniversary of the NPS) and that gives an opportunity to learn. There are parks in all the states and each park has challenges. One of the biggest is to insure a park's issues and proposed solutions gets real and deep public comment and input.

People love the parks - as reflected by members of Airforums and the comments in this (and others) thread. Some will say we love the parks to death, but what I truly love, I don't "love" to death - quite the contrary. What we really need to do is learn to "love the parks to life" - and the more we all learn about them the more we appreciate them and that will help care for them for us and those "future" generations. Because those "future" visitors are coming tomorrow as well as next year, or a decade - or more - from now.

We can't just bottle them up like a lightning bug, thinking we will save them for the future. We know those lightning bugs don't live long in jars, even if you do poke holes in the lid!

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Old 06-01-2016, 10:51 PM   #33
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Very Well said OilnH20!!!

Okay so much for the caps, but I really like round brown one.

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Old 06-02-2016, 12:02 AM   #34
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It's not just the people: it's the vehicles. Congestion on roads and parking lots can be pretty bad. at the popular parks

Several of the parks have moved to a shuttle bus system. In Zion NP, you can't drive up Zion Canyon in your car anymore, unless you have a reservation at the lodge, or visit during the limited off-season. But even so, sometimes the parking lot at the visitor center is full, and then you'd have to park in Springdale. Glacier , Grand Canyon,and Bryce also have summer shuttles. At Bryce and Zion, the shuttles go into the nearby gateway communities.

I'd sure recommend the shuttle bus at Glacier for the Going-to-the-Sun road. Or one of the concession red touring cards. The shuttle is optional, but when we were at Logan Pass and the Avalanche Lake trailhead several years ago, there was no parking to be had. Parking lots at Yellowstone's thermal features can also fill up.

The shuttles run continuously during daylight hours, so they're fairly convenient.

The best way to avoid crowds if you go during the high season, is to get up very early. Or drop your AS at your campsite, and explore some of the lesser-known areas, such as Bowman & Kintla Lakes at Glacier, or the Kolob Terrace road in Zion.
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Old 06-02-2016, 01:40 AM   #35
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Said it before and I'll say it again- we seniors traveling around in our pricey rigs ought to be able to come up with $20/year for our passes to help support these national treasures. Or, as has been stayed, I'd willingly check off a box on my tax form to do the same.
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Old 06-02-2016, 06:59 AM   #36
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In response to MomcatA's suggestion about financially contributing I urge anyone who is interested to look into the charitable organizations that have been created to support the parks.

Here's a good example of an organization well managed. Go to At the top of the page click on "About Us" then click on 2016 Park Support. Right there is a list and descriptions of specific projects that Friends has chosen to sponsor this year, along with the actual dollar amount that it is projected to take for each project. When you give to an organization like this (the other one is The Great Smoky Mountains Association) you are giving money that will be directed to that particular park, used by local people who are not politicians and who have some common sense, and who choose volunteers and contractors who have been selected for the accountability of their work and not for political reasons.

You are always going to have people who are trash because they trash the parks. You are always going to have idiots who get too close to bears and elks and get attacked. You are always going to have idiots who try to climb waterfalls. But, the funds and volunteers that arise out of these organizations are crucial to managing the aftermath of idiots.

The Appalachian Trail runs through the GSMNP. Because we are on the southern end of the trail most people make it at least partway into the park before they realize the hike is not easy and they quit. But, the trash many of them leave behind and the wear and tear on the shelters is unbelievable. I'm convinced that if it were not for the efforts of the volunteer trail managers the AT would have to be periodically shut down just to deal with the problems.
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Old 06-02-2016, 08:01 AM   #37
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Park Service Considers Visitor Caps

Originally Posted by Len n Jeanne View Post
It's not just the people: it's the vehicles. Congestion on roads and parking lots can be pretty bad. at the popular parks
Several of the parks have moved to a shuttle bus system.

We've ridden shuttles in Glacier and Bryce in particular, and they contribute to the value and enjoyment of the park in many ways. Less traffic and fewer "bear jams," less pollution than all those cars would bring, visitors who are more relaxed, and fewer accidents because the professional drivers are so familiar with the roads. For the most heavily visited parts of any park they are a nice feature, even though there are often lines waiting to get on the shuttles.
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Old 06-02-2016, 09:47 AM   #38
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It's probably time for Glacier to go the way of Zion and close down GTTS to only shuttles and Red Buses during the peak times. That would mean bigger parking lots would be needed at each end and more shuttles. The shuttles at Glacier only carry about 20-30 people each due to the narrow road. Waiting at The Loop for a shuttle with few empty seats to take you to Apgar can be a long wait.

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Old 06-02-2016, 10:26 AM   #39
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Old 06-02-2016, 10:35 AM   #40
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WE are all responsible by planning at High Season

Originally Posted by Denis4x4 View Post
With all due respect to Ray, the situation regarding Wilderness areas is almost as bad. You need an act of Congress to send in a chopper to airlift the trash out of wilderness areas that are over run with people that are clueless.
This does make me sad about how people have changed.

The Rainbow Family is a bit extreme, but I have heard few complaints by locals after the group has left. They clean up afterwards. We ran into a gathering that was leaving an area near Pinedale, Wyoming and the site was very clean.

I gather enough hunter's trash at hunter's campsites that are more accessible, already. The hunting guides should pay more attention to cleaning up when they depart.

All of us are responsible for the congestion at the popular National Parks. Most vacation plans are to attend during the 'Summer Months'. People want to go to the high elevation Parks to cool off and escape their Summer 'heat and humidity'. This concentrates the majority of visitors during 'high season months'. The reverse is true in the Winter months...

During Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming and living within blocks of it... we would leave town for our camping trips.

Boulder City, Nevada has festivals in the middle of town at the manicured grass park with trees for shade. Even here, people leave trash under trees and debris where they sat. The park staff lets trash cans overflow, as there obviously is little planning to police the trash cans... a job always for someone else. A person in charge that does not want to offend those who are paid staff or a volunteer position is to police the trash are out looking at the nice automobiles parked for display... Too many in charge and nobody to do the work.

The Tetons of Wyoming... go to the west and see the Tetons from Idaho's perspective.

Vacation planning is predictable for any Park. Families plan vacations that include possibly Holidays to stretch their vacation days. Retired individuals should think about traveling popular sites before and after school summer vacations.

The previous year's attendance at any Park is already known by week to week. It is no secret to those who think out their vacations. Staff positions are filled according to these high attendance months.

Communities near major National Parks would resist restrictions of attendance as daily quotas. Their income is within a concentrated period and much of their season is not close to making ends meet, otherwise.

Quotas are the only solution. Expand facilities to disperse the crowds and open other remote sites for visitors. Raise entrance fees.

It will not happen. Short sighted politicians. Poor Park management responsible to the Department of Interior whims. Lack of crowd control at popular sites.

We visited the National Parks of interest decades ago and they were crowded. Once visited, we specializing in discovering our own... Boondocking Parks.
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Old 06-02-2016, 10:38 AM   #41
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The Zion shuttles are actually working pretty well. I only wish they had some without roofs! They run from April to October, and the noise in the canyon has been significantly reduced. The waits aren't too bad. I've no problem waiting for the next one, or the next . . . . By the way, most parks have a relationship with a "cooperating association" such as mentioned by kfrere. In some areas there are large umbrella organizations which cover many parks, such as the Western National Parks Association ( and the Eastern National Parks Association ( . These two cover many units of the Park Service in their geographic areas, and, importantly, smaller units which don't have the resources to field this sort of non-profit operation on their own. Larger parks, such as Yellowstone, Zion, and Grand Canyon, have their own coop associations. Joining one of these is a great way to get involved in helping a park or parks. You regularly receive a lot of good information about park issues, learn about ways to contribute time and money (if so desired), and you receive a discount on bookstore items (this discount is honored by many of the sister associations, too). It's another way to take some ownership in the parks.
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Old 06-02-2016, 10:42 AM   #42
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I had some Yellowstone Park rules and regulations for automobiles and horse buggies. The automobiles were required to carry a number of spare tires or would be turned away from entering.

People are curious. You promote an area over and over... they will come.

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