As most people are well aware at this point, the vast majority of the parks within the national park system are closed due to the government shutdown. A few states have worked with the government and they have decided to reopened a few parks with state funds. It’s important to note that just because a state has decided to reopen some parks within their state, that doesn’t mean that all of the national parks sites within their state are open. The number of sites open is still only a small percentage of the 401 sites that make up the national park system. Below is the current list of sites that are currently open, along with the dates that they are scheduled to remain open:
Grand Canyon National Park (currently scheduled to be open from October 12 to 18)
Rocky Mountain National Park (currently scheduled to be open from October 11 to 20)
Statue of Liberty National Monument (currently scheduled to be open from October 12 to 18)
North Carolina / Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (currently scheduled to be open from October 16 to 20)
Mount Rushmore National Memorial (currently scheduled to be open from October 14 to 23)
All Utah parks are currently scheduled to be open from October 11 – 20
Arches National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Canyonlands National Park
Capitol Reef National Park
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Natural Bridges National Monument
Zion National Park
The official beginning for most Grand Canyon rafting trips is at Lees Ferry (also commonly referred to as Lee’s Ferry or Lee Ferry) in Marble Canyon which gives a wonderful preview of what’s to come with the Colorado River surrounded by magnificent canyon scenery:
Since this is where the Grand Canyon rafting trips launch, this is where you get your initiation to what the rafting trip will be like. You meet the crew that will be guiding you down the river, are given supplies to keep all your belongings dry on the trip, given a quick course of raft safety and life jacket use, and load all your belongings onto the rafts. While there are some historical buildings and beautiful scenery all around, unless you make a concerted effort to seek them out, you will likely miss them as your focus will be on all the activity to get you on the raft and on your way down the Colorado.
There is quite a bit of history that goes with the Lees Ferry launch site. The ferry was originally built in 1871–1872 by John D. Lee with financing from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The ferry was located near where the Colorado River and Paria River merge and the crossing was originally called Paria Crossing. For nearly 50 years, Lees Ferry was the only available crossing of the Colorado River by ferry between Moab and Needles. This made Lees Ferry the main Colorado River crossing point for travelers between Utah and Arizona.
The actual ferry at Lees Ferry closed in 1928 with the building of Navajo Bridge (7 miles to the south) across Marble Canyon. The steel wire cable from the ferry still remains and crosses the Colorado River at the old ferry site. This cable marks the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park as you begin the float trip down the Colorado River. Lees Ferry is currently part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and is deemed as a historical site.
Photo courtesy of Li Ru Yue