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Visitors head into newly opened Arches National Park for sunset views

Some national parks in Utah have a ‘‘soft opening’’ Friday, but full access is planned for Saturday.

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David Fage, of Northampton, England, stopped less than a mile into the park to take pictures of the low clouds rolling down the red rock. Fage and his wife were on a tour of national parks and monuments in the American West, and were on their last day in Zion region.

"It’s smashing country," Fage said as he gazed down into a green valley below.

At a glance

Utah’s nationals parks reopening Friday, Saturday

Zion National Park

Opened early Friday. The park, which was already allowing drive-through traffic on State Road 9, removed cones on pullouts and let people start wandering trails. By early afternoon, the visitor center and first-come, first-serve South Campground were open. The park shuttles, Zion Lodge, Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and Watchman Campground are scheduled to open Saturday.

Arches National Park

Opened at about 5 p.m. Friday. Fully open Saturday.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Opened by 3 p.m. Friday.

Canyonlands National Park

Will open Saturday.

Capitol Reef National Park

Opened at 1 p.m. Friday.

Natural Bridges National Monument

Opened at 10:30 a.m. Friday.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Opened Friday.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, including Rainbow Bridge National Monument

Scheduled to be partially open by 1 p.m. Friday and fully operational by 8 a.m. Saturday.

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Fage seemed relatively unfazed by the shutdown, pointing out that he and his wife were determined to enjoy themselves and had managed to see snow and sand dunes in the same day during their trip.

Fage and his wife were headed to Monument Valley Friday, then on to the Grand Canyon, which Fage had always wanted to see.

At a nearby pullout, Suzie Morales and Carter Holland — both of Orange, Calif. — also were taking pictures. The couple arrived in Springdale on Thursday night for the Red Bull Rampage and headed into the park after hearing it was reopening.

Morales praised Herbert for moving to reopen the park, pointing out that Springdale’s economy is largely dependent on tourism.

"It is a very good thing," she said of the reopening.

The park closures were hitting Utah’s tourism-dependent businesses and towns hard, draining away visitors during a busy October season. The deal will ensure the parks are open during the upcoming Columbus Day weekend, as well as the annual fall recess for Utah schools.

But some hotels in Springdale were still waiting for their business to return. Ben Patel, general manager of Pioneer Lodge, said Friday afternoon that he hadn’t seen any significant increase in bookings after the park’s partial reopening.

According to Patel, his occupancy rate fell during the shutdown from about 90 percent to as low as 20 percent. Patel said officials "opened the park at the right time," though he didn’t expect to recover until 2014.

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"This year is done, gone," he said. "We cannot recover any more."

Across the street, the Zion Park Motel was seeing a modest increase in bookings Friday. The motel experienced at least 44 cancellations during the shutdown. On Friday morning, Kris Young — whose family runs the hotel — said business was "still slow" and they had "probably less than 10" people calling for rooms after the park reopened.

Both Patel and Young said that many people still didn’t know that the park is open again and that it will be a challenge to spread the word.

Joy Stein, who drives park shuttle buses, said she received a phone call and an email from her supervisor Friday morning telling her to show up for work Saturday. Stein anticipates having a lot to do — the buses weren’t cleaned, fueled or maintained during the shutdown — but said she was excited to be going back to a job that she uses to help stay afloat at her Springdale boutique, Joy Craft and Design.

"Bottom line is I’m excited to go back to work," she said.

At Arches, Corinne Loetscher, from the Swiss city of Lucerne, felt lucky to have the park open when it did. She and her companion Michael Muther had planned their vacation to the western United States around parks, but they arrived at Gardiner, Mont. just in time to be shut out of Yellowstone National Park on Oct. 1.

They continued their trip to Salt Lake City, arriving in southern Utah in time to get into a marquee national park the moment it reopened with the state’s help.

"We really like hiking. There are so many nice points here. Utah is the nicest state. Life Elevated, like the sign says," said Loetscher, who pans to visit Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion national parks in the coming days. "We are happy with the governor. When I meet him I will give him some Toblerone."

Colorado joined Utah in funding a national park. The Interior Department announced that it had received $362,700 to reopen Rocky Mountain National Park for 10 days. Arizona reached an agreement late Friday to open the Grand Canyon.

In Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock says the state will not pick up the tab to reopen Glacier National Park during the federal government shutdown. The Democrat told Lee Newspapers of Montana on Thursday that it’s long past time for Congress to end "this reckless and job-killing shutdown."

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead’s office said that state would not pay to reopen Yellowstone or Grand Teton national parks.

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