Phew, we got through what feels like the hottest and busiest weekend of the year.
Now onto hopefully a merciful wildfire season and smooth summer tourist crowds.
A girl can hope, right?
Regardless, remember to drink plenty of water and mind your fire igniters. An increasing amount of wildfires are human-caused — don’t contribute to the destruction.
With that healthy dose of anxious advice, here’s what’s happening in Utah’s national parks this week.
In the news:
First: Zion, fire officials ask people to ‘double down’ on fire prevention in extreme drought
Zion National Park and Color Country Fire officials held a media day to ask for the public’s help in mitigating wildfires during this historic drought. Remember — no campfires!
Second: Zion National Park cancels shuttle ticket system, now first-come-first-serve with masks
In a surprise move only two weeks after the park increased their shuttle ticket price, the timed ticket system was thrown away altogether right before Memorial Day weekend. Here are the new rules.
Third: 34-year-old drowns after going down boat slide in Lake Powell on Memorial Day weekend
Tragically, a Phoenix man died on Lake Powell on Saturday and was discovered on Sunday.
Fourth: Utah’s national parks see traffic, congestion and gate closures over Memorial Day weekend
Now that the dust has settled from one of the busiest tourism weekends of the year, the parks are reviewing what happened and putting themselves back together. Here’s the result of Memorial Day 2021.
President Joe Biden announced the fiscal year 2022 budget, with $3.5 billion headed to the National Park Service on top of the $1.1 billion mandatory funding. The Bureau of Indian Affairs will receive $2.7 billion, with $16.5 million headed to the new Missing and Murdered Unit.
Also, the NPS kicked off a new initiative called #PlanLikeAParkRanger, where rangers will share their “insider tips” on how to visit their park. Look out for the hashtag on Utah national park’s social media!
The Grand Canyon is holding a virtual star party this weekend, with nightly videos on the park’s Facebook.
Dixie National Forest posted piles of litter that accumulated over the weekend on social media, asking the public to help leave no trace.
Arches National Park highlighted the Old Spanish Trail, explaining the history of the iconic route.
Canyonlands National Park celebrated Great Outdoors Month by compiling its #PlanLikeAParkRanger tips for you.
Capitol Reef National Park explained desert varnish — the dark substance you see on rock formations all over southern Utah.
Many sandstone cliffs in Capitol Reef are streaked with desert varnish. How does it form? Rain and windblown dust on the cliffs leave trace amounts of clay particles. Bacteria growing on the cliff face oxidize manganese (black) and iron (red-brown), cementing it on rock surfaces. pic.twitter.com/FotX1MY6cb
— Capitol Reef NPS (@CapitolReefNPS) May 29, 2021
Bryce Canyon National Park announced the passing of a pregnant pronghorn after being fatally struck by a vehicle on the main road. The park asked all visitors to slow down.
The fastest land animal in North America needs us all to slow down. Pronghorns, mule deer, prairie dogs, snakes, birds, people, and other lives are put at risk when we drive vehicles excessively fast through the park. ⬇️
NPS Photo pic.twitter.com/8WlzBoIvJa
— Bryce Canyon NP (@BryceCanyonNPS) May 30, 2021
And as the temperature climbs, Zion reminded visitors to be mindful of the signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Behind the scenes:
Like many others, I headed out to Zion this weekend with my family.
I couldn’t believe how bad the parking situation was. Cars lined SR-9 through to the mouth of Springdale, and the poor restaurant staff was completely overwhelmed.
Once we got into the park after waiting in the admittedly fast-moving line (they didn’t stop cars for fees, which helped,) there were but a few parking spots.
On the east side, park law enforcement was not allowing cars past the gate, asking them to turn around instead.
Did you go out to the parks this Memorial Day weekend? What was it like? Email or tweet me.
Now that Memorial Day is over, now we get to plan for Labor Day!
Kidding — I hope we get a respite from extreme crowds for just a little while.
Next week, Bryce Canyon National Park will be hosting their 20th annual Astronomy Festival from June 9 to 12.
Although telescope viewing, model rockets, and a keynote speaker at Ebenezer’s Barn and Grill will not be offered this year, the park will still be holding evening programs and constellation tours.
According to the National Weather Service, Arches and Moab will stay right around 100 degrees for the weekend. Capitol Reef will be in the 80’s and 90’s, with a chance of a thunderstorm on Friday and Saturday morning. Bryce Canyon will stay in the low 80’s, with a chance of showers on Friday. And Zion will reach 103 degrees and remain hot throughout the weekend.
K. Sophie Will is the National Parks Reporter for The Spectrum & Daily News through the Report for America initiative by The GroundTruth Project. Follow her on Twitter at @ksophiewill or email her at [email protected] Donate to Report for America here.