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Ravell Call, KSL, File

Some national parks in Utah moving to open to day use

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, KSL | Posted - May 4, 2020 at 5:01 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Some of Utah’s five national parks plan to open for day use and some overnight stays amid loosening restrictions in the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Beginning Tuesday, Capitol Reef National Park will open for day use in the south district at Waterpocket Fold and allow overnight stays in the Cedar Mesa campground.

Day use will also be permitted in the park at Cathedral Valley in the north district and overnight stays are permitted in the campground.

“We are pleased to begin reopening the park to our communities and visitors, and hope this helps our local businesses reopen their operations with assurance that the park is moving toward phased reopening access. We appreciate the coordination with county representatives, the Central Utah Public Health Department, and the state of Utah in developing our resumption of operations steps,” said Sue Fritzke, park superintendent.

Due to continuing public health concerns, these facilities and areas remain closed:

  • Scenic Drive, and all trailheads, trails and canyoneering routes accessed from state Route 24 and Scenic Drive.
  • Overnight use other than at Cedar Mesa and Cathedral Valley campgrounds.
  • The visitor center, Gifford House and Fruita campground.

In a tweet sent out over the weekend, Zion National Park officials said they will begin providing day use recreational access to select areas within the park starting May 13. Officials said the action is being taken in accordance with the White House guidelines for Opening Up America Again and the park’s continued cooperation with the state of Utah, elected leaders in southwest Utah, park partners and local businesses.

Park officials said they will provide more information in the coming days and would-be visitors should go to the park’s website for additional details.

Some day use is available for boaters at Lake Powell, with a limited opening of the Wahweap Ramp. Vessels stored in slips or buoy fields throughout the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area may use Lake Powell, including upland boaters in Bullfrog or Halls Crossing.

The park is working with the Arizona Game and Fish Department for implementation of the Arizona Lake Powell Local Program, which provides limited day use to enrolled boaters for the Wahweap ramp Fridays through Sundays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Any boat stored within 20 miles of Page, Arizona, is eligible for enrollment.


Utah has a similar local boater enrollment program to get on the lake. A vessel must be registered in these programs before it can access Wahweap ramp. All other ramps remain closed.

With the mild weather over the weekend, Utah’s state parks received a lot of visitation.

Due to operational restrictions to help ensure safe social distancing, Quail Creek, Sand Hollow and Gunlock state parks all reached capacity and were no longer accepting visitors.

Palisade State Park in Sanpete County was also reporting a full campground Friday night, with some limited overflow parking available.

“We were busy. There were four parks at capacity in which we were limiting visitation for a period of time,” including Goblin Valley, said Eugene Swalberg, spokesman for the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation.

All three of reservoir parks were at capacity Friday, Saturday and Sunday as park officials limited visitation due to public health concerns.

“We want to stress there are 44 state parks and 44 different ways to determine capacity. All individual park managers are determining what capacity looks like based on responsible recreation and social distancing,” Swalberg said.

Some areas of the parks may fill up faster than others, Swalberg said, pointing out that the boat parking may be full but the beaches may be open or picnicking might be allowed.

Over the weekend, some park rangers had to remind visitors about safe social distancing, Swalberg said, but overall, people were mindful of distancing.

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