The Government is Back Up and Running, and So Are the National Parks

Grand Canyon National Park, Flickr

Everyone rejoice: now that the shutdown is finally over, government employees can get back to work and the rest of us can go out and explore any National Park that we feel like. No sneaking around with the risk of getting fined, you can now travel as you wish.

While some National Parks found ways to open back up during the shutdown, thanks to a handful of states that opted to pay the federal government to keep their parks functioning, today the 400 some National Parks will open back up as the furlough for the 20,000 park employees ends.Beyond National Parks, monuments and memorials managed by the National Park Service will also open back up.

But you know what all this means? After over two weeks of shutdown, you may expect lines and plenty of tourists in the places you have been wanting to visit. But hey, at least they’re open.

Shutdown Won’t Stop Travel: Tourists Are Sneaking Into Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks

Stuart Seeger, Flickr

Not allowed to go where you want to on account of the government shutdown? That doesn’t pose a problem for some. Because hey, if you’ve traveled far to see a certain landmark, you’re going to do everything in your power to see it. Or at least that is the thought pattern of the people who have been sneaking into Grand Canyon National Park recently. May we remind you that such behavior is in fact illegal.

Nearly two dozen people have been issued citations for entering the park; you see the government and the National Parks can get shut down, but someone will still be employed to get you in trouble when you make an attempt at entering.Some of the people that snuck in were even attempting rim-to-rim hikes, obviously dangerous if there aren’t any rangers to go to if you find yourself in a questionable situation.

The Grand Canyon isn’t the only place people have been trespassing. In Zion National Park in Utah, 16 hikers jumped the fence in protest of the shutdown. And then there are the people that unwillingly break the rules, like the runner who says he was fined $100 for working out on a trail in Valley Forge National Historic Park. He had parked his car in a parking lot where there was no barrier or sign, but was fined anyway.

As for Grand Canyon National Park? Law enforcement officers are patrolling the area on the lookout for more trespassers. Consider yourself warned.

Help The National Park Foundation Fill Its Summer Scrapbook For A Chance To Win A National Park Adventure

Yellow Stone National Park
Kraig Becker

Now that summer is officially here, the National Park Foundation is opening up its Summer Scrapbook and they’re asking us to help them fill it. The NPF is inviting the public to share their favorite photos, videos and travel tips from America’s national parks and in exchange, they’re giving us a chance to win one of two trips to two of the country’s most iconic national parks.

The contest is a simple one. All you need to do is visit the Summer Scrapbook page and share your photos in one of several categories that includes such subjects as sunrise/sunset, wildlife, history and culture and more. There is also a category for short videos and one for posting helpful tips for visiting the parks. You can enter as many as ten items between now and Sept. 8 with each entry increasing your chance to win. On Sept. 10, the Park Foundation will announce ten finalist in each category and the general public will be asked to vote for their favorites. Voting closes on Sept. 30 and everyone who casts a vote will be automatically entered to win a trip through the Grand Canyon by train.

The person who wins the overall popular vote for the best photo, video or travel tip will also win a trip to Yosemite National Park, one of the most spectacular destinations in the entire U.S. park system. Meanwhile, the individual winners of each of the categories will also receive a National Park Explorer Pack that includes outdoor gear from L.L. Bean and Marmot, as well as gifts from the National Park Foundation and several of the parks themselves.

So, if you’ve got some great park photos in your collection, add them to the Scrapbook and see if you can’t win a trip to make even more great national park memories.

2013 Grand Canyon Star Party Begins Today

Grand Canyon Star Party begins today!
Photo Courtesy of Tyler Nordgren

The 23rd annual Grand Canyon Star Party begins today and will run through Saturday, June 15. The annual event, which draws amateur astronomers from across the country, is a celebration of the incredible night skies that can be found above the national park. For each of the next eight evenings, many of those astronomers will be camped out on both the North and South Rims helping other visitors to take notice of amazing display overhead.

Because of its remote location, the Grand Canyon is one of the best places in the U.S. to observe the night sky. The clean air and very dark skies make it possible to see far more stars, planets, galaxies and other celestial bodies than are typically visible in other parts of the country. Each night of the Star Party will feature organized astronomy programs and telescope viewings that will give those in attendance the opportunity to view such sights as Saturn and its iconic rings, enormous star clusters, mysterious nebulae and so much more. Venus and Mercury will also be on display, but visitors who want to catch a glimpse of those planets will need to observe them during the day, or very shortly after sunset.Events on the South Rim are being organized by the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association and include nightly green laser constellation tours, slide shows and at least one telescope. On the North Rim, an array of telescopes will be set up on a porch at the lodge each evening courtesy of the Saguaro Astronomy Club of Phoenix. A bulletin board outside the visitor center will list any additional programs, such as slideshows and lectures, for each of the nights.

The Grand Canyon Star Party is completely free although a $25 park entry fee (good for seven days) is required. Visitors are encouraged to bring a flashlight but organizers of the event request that they be red flashlights in order to cut down on the amount of light pollution.

‘Sesame Street’ Explores The National Parks

Sesame Street Explores The National Parks
National Park Service

The creative minds behind the long-running PBS children’s television series “Sesame Street” have joined forces with the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation to produce a series of videos designed to connect young children with nature. The six videos, which can be found on YouTube, star popular characters Elmo and Murray who are joined by Park Rangers from Grand Canyon National Park and Gateway National Recreation Area. Those rangers help teach viewers about such topics as natural habitats, seasons and animal families.

The videos are obviously aimed at small children but if you’re a fan of the national parks you’ll probably still find them enjoyable as well. They offer a nice glimpse inside the two featured parks while also providing some good information about the natural world around us. So, gather up the kids, crowd around the computer and load up the clips. Who knows, you might even learn something while watching them too!