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(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) A sign tells visitors to Zion National Park that the park is closed due to the federal government shutdown Tuesday October 1, 2013. Gov. Gary Herbert is asking President Obama to let the state operate Utah's national parks during the shutdown, saying their closure is hurting the economy.
Utah’s national parks, refuges and public lands close to disappointed visitors

Government shutdown leads to furloughs, upset tourists and worries about outdoor recreation.

First Published Oct 01 2013 10:41 am • Last Updated Mar 03 2014 10:35 am

Zion National Park » Safety chains on the final section of trail to Angels Landing are not being used.

Telescopes for the popular star parties at Bryce Canyon National Park have been put away.

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Apples still on the trees in the fruit orchards at Capitol Reef National Park will fall and become deer food.

Impacts of the federal government shutdown on public lands and parks are hitting people in a variety of ways in Utah and across the country, including furloughs for thousands of employees.

Anglers excited to compete in the Bullfrog Open fishing tournament, one of the state’s largest and scheduled this weekend, may have to experience tight lines another day.

Families on drives to experience the fall colors will find their favorite picnic tables on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands closed.

Hunters expecting to climb into the marshes of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in the predawn of Saturday’s waterfowl opener may have to find another place to set up their decoys and blinds.

As Zion National Park cleared visitors out Tuesday morning, chief ranger of law enforcement Cindy Purcell approached a foreign tourist who had driven her rental car around traffic cones blocking the pullout on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway.

"You mean I can’t even take a picture?" the tourist asked.

"I’m sorry. The park is closed," Purcell told her. "Only the road is open for through traffic."


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Rangers spent the day shooing people back onto the road, but expressed understanding for visitors’ anger and frustration.

"I get it," Purcell said. "They have planned this trip and something out of their control has ruined it. They drive the road and want to stop and at least be able to take home pictures."

‘It is a shame’ » Doug and Margie Leib of Kalispell, Mont., had hoped to make the drive through Zion in their 38-foot motor home on their way to Page, Ariz. But they were turned around because rangers usually close each end of the tight Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel for oversize vehicles and then escort them through.

"They told me to turn around and gave me a map showing how I can get there," Doug Leib said. "Our day just got a lot longer."

"Road closed" signs and barricades were placed alongside roads venturing off of State Road 9 to places such as the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, the museum and the visitor center.

Visitors with reservations at the Zion Lodge or the Watchman Campground will be allowed to stay until 6 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time Thursday. This is the case at most National Park Service unit campgrounds. By 11 a.m., the entire first-come, first-serve South Campground at Zion was empty.

Mark Akins of Littleton, Colo., had pulled over to do some plein air painting as the famous Zion cliffs bathed in morning sunlight.

"It is a shame they are using the parks as a tool, but I’m not sure I think it is a bad thing," he said. "The spending is irresponsible and they need do something to get it under control."

Akins planned on painting until he was done or rangers asked him to leave.

"If they tell me to go," Akins said, "I will just find something else to paint outside of the park."

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