Joshua Tree National Park closes to all visitors over coronavirus

Joshua Tree National Park has closed its almost 800,000 acres to visitors.
(Los Angeles Times)

Joshua Tree National Park closed indefinitely to all visitors Wednesday amid the coronavirus pandemic, the park’s website says. The 800,000-acre desert park east of Los Angeles earlier had closed campgrounds and access roads into the park but allowed walkers and cyclists to enter.

The park took action after consulting “with the local county health office to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the website says. Rangers will continue to patrol the park. Visitor centers, services and roads had closed indefinitely earlier in March to discourage visitors, but media reports say hikers and climbers flooded the park.

Hoping to escape the spread of coronavirus, these Californians are fleeing to the deserts and mountains. Some locals wish they had stayed home.

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National parks across the country are closed or have scaled back services and operations to try to contain the public health pandemic. Yosemite, Yellowstone, Canyonlands and Arches in Utah and much of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area have completely shut.

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Other popular national parks, such as Grand Canyon in Arizona and Zion in Utah, have shut services, campgrounds and some roads but kept natural areas open to hikers. Critics say these parks should be closed also because too many people are continuing to come and not practicing social distancing and other public health safety measures.

The Washington Post on Tuesday reported that at least seven National Park Service employees have tested positive for the coronavirus. The Arizona Republic reported that a person who lives in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim of the canyon also tested positive. A stay-at-home order went into effect in Arizona on Tuesday.

National parks earlier stopped collecting entrance fees earlier because of the pandemic.