More shutdown fallout: Investigation of Yosemite death delayed, while Death Valley closes campgrounds

Park Ranger Dylan Moe closes the access road to a campground at Joshua Tree National Park on Jan. 2. All of the park's campgrounds have been closed because of the partial government shutdown.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Several sites in Death Valley National Park are closing Friday because of health and safety concerns over human waste, trash, vandalism and damage to park resources, officials said.

Meanwhile, an investigation into the Christmas Day death of a man at Yosemite National Park is being delayed by the partial government shutdown, a park spokesman said.

Yosemite officials received a 911 call reporting a man with a head injury in the Silver Apron area on the Merced River above Nevada Fall and rangers arrived in less than an hour, National Park Service spokesman Andrew Munoz said Friday. The man was removed from the water and received medical treatment, but he died from his injuries.


“We aren’t releasing more detail because the incident remains under investigation, which is taking longer than usual because of the shutdown,” Munoz said in an email. “A news release wasn’t issued because of the shutdown.”

The man was not in a restricted area, Munoz said.

Outside magazine first reported the death Friday morning.

In Death Valley, the Furnace Creek and Texas Springs campgrounds will close Friday, along with access roads to Natural Bridge, Dante’s View and Keane Wonder Mine. The road to Salt Creek is also closed.

At national parks in California and beyond, the two-week shutdown has taken a toll. Reports of vandalism and illegal camping and off-road driving have led access restrictions.

Campgrounds at Joshua Tree closed at noon Wednesday, officials said, citing health and safety concerns over vault toilets that are near capacity. The waterless bathrooms in which visitors can relieve themselves into a sealed container buried underground had remained open. But with no workers on duty to pump out the waste, those are being closed now as well.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks went a step further, closing entirely to visitors.


Reports continue to trickle in from volunteers about Champagne bottles being left strewn about in Joshua Tree and human waste piling up on roads leading into Yosemite. In Texas’ Big Bend National Park, a hiker reportedly broke his leg and was carried out by fellow visitors.

Diane Regas, chief executive of the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit park advocacy organization, wrote a letter to President Trump on Thursday calling for an immediate closure of all of the country’s national parks for the duration of the shutdown, to protect visitors and park resources.

“Allowing access to national parks without taking care to steward those resources is irresponsible and could result in irreversible damage and loss,” she wrote.