LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Hundreds of tourists staying in landmark US national parks like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon face a deadline on Thursday to leave due to the government shutdown.
The National Park Service closed its gates on its 401 sites as soon as the shutdown went into effect on Tuesday morning, leaving visitors - including many from overseas - frustrated at park entrances across the country. Tourists who were already staying in hotels, cabins and campgrounds inside national parks like California's world-famous Yosemite were allowed to stay - but only for 48 hours, after which they were told to leave.
"Guests .. who are already checked-in can continue with their vacation plans, but they are required to leave by Oct 3 at 3 pm," said Lisa Cesaro of the company that operates over 1,000 rooms in the park, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite.
"The majority of daily activities operated by DNC will not be available during the shutdown including horseback riding and bike rentals," she told AFP, adding: "We are continuing to provide retail, dining and limited transportation services for overnight guests in the park through Thursday."
"If the shutdown continues, we will try to reschedule those who have upcoming reservations or cancel their booking and provide a refund." Some 715,000 visitors flock daily to National Park Service sites across the country, on average in October, according to CNN.
Other world-famous tourist attractions shuttered until further notice include the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park, the Alcatraz prison island in San Francisco Bay. In the Grand Canyon, visited by 18,000 people a day on average at this time of year, spokesman Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski said the gates were closed from 6:00 am Tuesday.
"All recreational opportunities in the park, including hiking, biking, mule rides, visitor centers, they're all closed," she told AFP, adding that people who were in accommodations in the park on Monday night had been "given 48 hours to make additional arrangements, and then they have to leave the park."
"We're just trying to maintain an orderly shutdown and closure of the park," she said, adding: "Having to turn anyone away is hard."