Government shutdown closes Grand Canyon

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. - The government shutdown has meant the closure of national parks, including the Grand Canyon. And tourists showing up to visit the Grand Canyon are being told they have to leave.

The park is now down to essential staff, and those staffers are telling visitors to turn around and go home. The closure is expected to cost the park $1.2 million a day in profits.

Many guests have turned to tours by air. Even though the Grand Canyon is closed, visitors can still see the park in a helicopter. A steady stream of tour helicopters took off and landed all day, trying to keep up with the sudden demand.

But for ground-based tour companies, the shutdown is devastating. "All of those tours that came in are completely canceled," says one tour company operator.

The closure of the Canyon has may folks wondering just how long this situation will last. Businesses across Arizona are banding together and collecting donations, hoping to reopen the Grand Canyon, despite the government shutdown.

Trails, campgrounds and hotels will be cleared, but park officials won't be scouring the park looking for people. Visitors already hiking or camping in the back-country or taking rafting trips on the Colorado River will be able to complete their trips.

About 18,000 people visit the Grand Canyon daily in October.

The last time the park shut down was 1995. Former Gov. Fife Symington offered National Guard troops and state park rangers to keep one of Arizona's prime tourist attractions open. But former Grand Canyon Superintendent Rob Arnberger rejected the offer.

Nearly 5 million people visit the iconic park each year, and 1,500 people call it home. The shutdown won't result in closure to residents, and water treatment and sewer facilities would be maintained.