Why your national park camping reservation may not be any good during the government shutdown

Thanks to the partial shutdown of the federal government, campers with reservations at many national parks shouldn't count on getting their campsite, online booking site is telling travelers.
(Jeremy Brigden / Getty Images / iStockphoto), the website that books campsites for many national parks, forests and other public lands, is telling travelers there’s no guarantee their reservations will be honored during the partial shutdown of the federal government.

“Be aware that if you have an existing reservation during this lapse of funding period, and the location is not staffed, your reservation may not be honored,” a message on the campground reservation website says.

The shutdown started at midnight Dec. 22 and remains in effect as President Trump and congressional Democrats are at an impasse over Trump’s demand for funding of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Welcome to Joshua Tree. Sorry about the shutdown. Now, about the toilets … »

For campers, that may mean forfeiting a winter camping trip to, say, the popular Indian Cove Campground at Joshua Tree National Park, or forgoing a last-minute New Year’s Eve outing, even if campsites are available online.


“The scenario is that you show up, and somebody could be occupying your site,” said Rick DeLappe, program manager and National Park Service employee.

Until the shutdown is lifted, has no control over how the campgrounds in their reservation system are being managed. The program can’t advise travelers which parks and forests are open or closed because it has no way of knowing, DeLappe said.

If you have a reservation and don’t go, you can file for a refund and won’t be charged the usual $10 cancellation fee.

California’s nine national parks, such as Joshua Tree, Death Valley and Yosemite, are open. But park rangers and other workers have been furloughed, meaning there’s no one to process and enforce camping reservations.

Campground reservations operated by concessionaires are being honored. For example, private campgrounds at the Oasis at Furnace Creek Ranch and Panamint Springs Resort in Death Valley are open and honoring reservations.

Also, federal lands and campgrounds operated by the Army Corps of Engineers are open.

Twitter: @latimestravel