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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Too Many People Visiting Zion National Park

Above, the mountain peaks near The Watchman (right). Photo by Armand Vaquer.

My first visit to Zion National Park was in August 1969 with my parents. We camped at the Watchman Campground in a canvas umbrella tent with our dog and cat. When not driving around the park and hiking a few trails, we hung out at the campground and I spent a lot of time floating down the Virgin River (the river flowed next to the campground) on my surfrider raft.

It was during that trip that we heard the radio report that the Sharon Tate massacre by the Manson Family took place back in L.A.

Back in those days, Zion was far enough away from L.A. and other cities that the park wasn't overrun with people. Those days are over and there's too many people coming to the park and the National Park Service is looking for ways to manage the crowds.

The Elko Daily Free Press has an article on the problem.

They begin with:
What happens when a national park becomes so popular that the crush of visitors makes each visit less enjoyable? During the one month of June, 2017, Zion National Park saw over half a million visitors, and 70,000 during the 2016 Memorial Day weekend. In 2007, the park received 2,679,181 visitors, that increased to 4,317,028 in 2016. 
On popular days, the line of vehicles approaching the South Entrance Station reaches back through the town of Springdale, snarling traffic for town residents and visitors alike. The parking lot for the Visitor Center and shuttle departures is often full. Cars line the east road so people can walk back to the main canyon road to catch a shuttle. Visitors wait in line to get on the shuttles. Hikers encounter long lines of people using popular trailheads. 
The National Park Service is searching for a way to limit park visitors, putting together a new Visitor Use Management Plan. 
It is unfortunate that steps have to be taken to manage and possibly limit park visitors. But the park has to be protected, so a management plan is necessary. Zion Canyon is not that big, so it has limited space to accommodate visitors.

Besides avoiding hot summer weather, I prefer visiting national parks during the off-season to also avoid the hordes of people.

To read more, go here.

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