Tourist Season: National Park Style

Most national parks are closed to vehicles in the winter, and their busy season is in the summer. With more visitors in summer, it’s more common to hear about people getting hurt (or worse) at national parks. From an objective stand point it makes sense: more people=more conflict, plus the people who visit in the winter have to know what they are doing, but it seems like in recent years the numbers of incidents has been rising. I try to be a positive person, but I also have to be a realist. Not to sound crass, but accidents happen in national parks because people are stupid.  On the other hand I have to ask myself  how is the media reporting these accidents?

As social media makes sharing news an even faster experience, it is less about reporting the news and more about selling it. What sells lately is news that is persuasive, and often negative news is the most persuasive. Which begs the question, are things as bad as they seem, or is it the way it’s reported? Like I mentioned, I’m not trying to be crass, so I thought I’d write some tips for people planning to visit national parks.

  1. Know all sides to a story. Like I said, their’s pressure for news agencies to get people to buy their news, and that means putting it out there quickly, and persuading people to subscribe to it. The numbers may seem high because it’s all that’s been reported lately. Also keep in mind that it’s the National Parks 100th anniversary, so there’s a lot more promotions and visitors. Most of whom I’m sure know what they’re doing.
  2. Know the rules. When I plan a trip into a park I check out their website. That way I can see the current conditions, as well as existing rules. That way I can plan ahead, and have a better idea of how to be prepared.
  3. Read signs. Sometimes the best trips are the most spontaneous, but that doesn’t excuse poor life choices. Even if people don’t have time to research a places website before going on a trip, signs are there for a reason. Most places also have visitor centers with more in-depth information, so no matter what, there are plenty of opportunities for people to find out the different regulations.
  4. DO NOT APPROACH WILDLIFE!!!!! Sorry for the all caps, but it seems like the majority of issues have to do with people not respecting wildlife. Even the smallest animal is adapted to live in its environment, and if you cross certain lines, there is potential for you or the animal to get hurt. Even the best photo opportunity ever isn’t worth that risk. Even the most inexpensive cameras have the ability to take good pictures, so there’s always the option of taking a far away clear shot, and cropping it latter. Again, let me reiterate, do. not. approach. wildlife. If you only get one thing out of this post, let this be the one.
  5. Use common sense. While I understand not everyone has had a chance to experience nature, it is still important to think through actions. Like I said all the excitement in the world isn’t worth making a rash decision.

Again, I recognize that the majority of people reading this probably know to respect wildlife. Like I mentioned, I don’t want to seem negative, but clearly there is a small population of people visiting national parks making it hard on the people who do know what they’re doing. By ignoring the rules, not only are you potentially harming yourself, but it’s disrespectful to wildlife and visitors.

Since many of the issues seem to be happening in Yellowstone, here's a photo from a few years ago.

Since many of the issues seem to be happening in Yellowstone, here’s a photo from a few years ago.

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