JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — Thousands of visitors to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national park are grumbling and making alternate plans after being told to leave or denied entry because of the budget impasse in Washington.
The neighboring parks attract visitors from around the world, but both parks — like all other national parks in the United States — were forced to furlough hundreds of employees and close. People already inside the parks were given 48 hours to leave.
Yellowstone averages 54,000 visitors in the first week of October, according to park spokesman Al Nash.
Grand Teton Superintendent Mary Gibson said some visitors resisted leaving while others tried to cross blocked entryways. No one was charged or arrested.
Zach Gertsch, of Las Vegas, was among those who were denied entry to Grand Teton.
“To have my trip wrecked by bureaucratic failure is incredibly disappointing,” Gertsch said Tuesday. “We’re going home early. We would have gone home Sunday. Instead, we’ll leave tomorrow.”
Gertsch said he was drawn to northwest Wyoming by the prospect of photographing the snow-capped Tetons and golden aspens during fall.
“On the bright side, I’ll probably save $500,” he said. “Hotels, restaurants, gas — it all adds up.”
Outside Yellowstone’s north entrance, where a roadside sign with the wording “Closed Yellowstone Park Government Shutdown No Visitor Access” greeted motorists, a tour bus of Chinese and Indian tourists sat idling while its passengers posed for photos in front of the park sign.
Many from the tour didn’t speak fluent English, but when they heard the word “shutdown” they frowned and two men gave the thumbs down sign.
Jock Holland, of Melbourne, Australia, was touring the American West, heading to Grand Teton from Yellowstone when he encountered a closed park entrance.
“Now we’re headed to Jackson to grab a bite and decide what our plan will be,” he said.
At the Irma Hotel in Cody, host Steve Franklin said some visitors from Asia and Europe complained to him in broken English about their interrupted trips.
“They were pretty livid,” Franklin said.
Stephen Price, general manager of the Spring Creek Ranch in Jackson Hole, said he has contacted the parks to help anyone displaced.
“I think it’s terrible for everyone because you have these people making a trip to Teton park and Yellowstone, and it might be a lifetime trip, and they can’t go,” Price said.
Communities just outside the parks are seeing hotel rooms fill with displaced tourists on the one hand and cancellations on the other. They expect to lose money if the parks remain closed much longer.
The Cody Country Chamber of Commerce expects to lose at least $4 million per day if the shutdown lasts for more than a few days, said Scott Balyo, executive director of the chamber.
Jim Waldrop, general manger of the Wort Hotel in Jackson, said while the parks may be closed there are other opportunities for visitors in Jackson Hole.
“We have tens of thousands of acres of national forest to enjoy,” he said. “There’s still plenty of things to do.”