As in past years, Memorial Day weekend proved to be the busiest weekend at Arches National Park for the year to date. “Although National Park Service staff were proactive in communicating tips for when to best visit Arches and Canyonlands, we still had to implement traffic congestion measures during peak visitation hours,” said Kate Cannon, superintendent of the Southeast Utah Group of parks.
As Arches reached the threshold where more vehicles and people tried to enter than facilities could accommodate, staff temporarily delayed vehicles from entering the park. Those delays occurred on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and lasted two to three hours and were similar to what has occurred in years past. “Our goal is to keep these entry delays as short as possible while at the same time allowing the visitors already in the park a safe and enjoyable experience,” said Cannon.
Visitors arriving at Arches during the delays were encouraged to enjoy other nearby attractions and return later in the day. “Based on observations, many did return to enjoy a late afternoon visit to the park,” said Cannon. Park managers have concluded that once the park becomes full, temporary entrance delays help to ensure a quality visitor experience, provide for visitor safety, and help protect sensitive resources, according to a press release.
The Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands also experienced heavy visitation during the holiday weekend peak hours. This resulted in long wait times to enter the park and 10-minute entry delays throughout the peak hours.
Overall park managers were pleased with how smooth operations worked over the weekend. “I was very humbled by just how many visitors stopped to express their gratitude for the work NPS rangers were doing in the parks over the weekend and their thankfulness for being able to visit,” said Chief of Interpretation Angie Richman.
Added Chief Ranger Scott Brown, “Visitors showed great patience, and in the end were happy to have the opportunity to visit regardless of long wait times. He said that by spreading visitation throughout the day, park rangers were able to keep on top of visitor needs and did not experience an increase in emergency response requirements.
“The National Park Service thanks all visitors who came to Arches and Canyonlands national parks this weekend for showing flexibility and patience,” said Cannon.